It is late August. Everyone is on vacation. The NBA is quiet as a churchmouse. If you want to watch live basketball, you have to settle for Eurobasket qualifying and familiarize yourself with the likes of Iceland, Belgium, Belarus and Ukraine.
Not much to do except look back over the past six weeks and cast judgment on all 30 NBA teams for their offseason moves.
And lordy, lordy, there have been a ton of them.
But there comes a time when you have to wrap it all up in one nice, tidy package, and now is that time. So without further ado, here are our Summer of 2012 report cards for every NBA team:
ATLANTA HAWKS – When you have gotten rid of the worst contract in the NBA, as Danny Ferry did by trading Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, you have to be somewhat lauded. Of all the players acquired in that deal, only Anthony Morrow figures to contribute. The moves we liked most were the signings of Lou Williams and the trade for Kyle Korver, and it should be noted that Al Horford may be the best center in the East now that Dwight Howard is gone. (Andrew Bynum might disagree). Ferry could have as much as $30 million in cap space next summer, and he’ll probably get a meeting (at the very least) with Howard after D-12’s contract expires. Al Jefferson would not be a bad fallback. Probably still a middle-of-the-pack team, but possibly better than that with more depth (don’t forget Devin Harris) and more shot opportunities now that Johnson’s 15-20 per night are gone. More analysis here.
BOSTON CELTICS – All of the hand-wringing over the loss of Ray Allen seems a little disingenuous. This is a guy who was moved to the bench in favor of Avery Bradley after the All-Star break, a guy who went AWOL in more playoff games than he went ballistic, and a guy they were ready to trade to Memphis at mid-season. (Allen actually got a call from Doc Rivers telling him the deal was done, then another call from Rivers saying “never mind.”) Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will easily replace his offensive production, the draft was a home run (Feb Melo and Jared Sullinger), Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will both likely retire as Celtics, and Jeff Green is back (the jury is still out on him, but perhaps Ainge wanted to justify the Kendrick Perkins trade by giving Brandon Bass’ backup $36 million over four years). Unless Melo is ready to be an instant contributor, they could still use a center other than Jason Collins — although Garnett proved mighty adept at manning that position in the playoffs. More analysis here.
Grade: A –
BROOKLYN NETS – It wasn’t for a lack of effort that they missed out on Dwight Howard, but the fact remains that they did – and they have to live with Brook Lopez as their max-contract center for the next four years. The big question will be what they get out of Joe Johnson, whose scoring and field goal percentage both have dropped since he signed his max contract during the mad summer of 2010. We are not all that convinced that they are going to get major contributions from new bench players Keith Bogans, Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Evans and are more of the school of thought that Mirza Teletovic, MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson will end up being more important contributors. Our man Mitnick in Tel Aviv is very high on Teletovic, not so much so on big man Tornike Shengelia. All in all, they will be better than last year’s train wreck. But we’re not drinking the black-and-white Kool-Aid just yet. This looks to me like a 45-48 win team. More analysis here.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – The worst team in NBA history takes a 23-game losing streak into the new season, just three shy of the record of 26 set by the post-LeBron Cavs of two years ago. (They open with the Pacers, Mavs and Suns before setting the record Friday, Nov. 6 at New Orleans). We wish rookie coach Mike Dunlap all the best, but he is in for a looooong season. Newcomers include Brendan Haywood (yes, they actually claimed him off amnesty waivers, pairing him with DeSagana Diop as the two most useless centers anywhere in the NBA), Ramon Sessions (not a better player than the guy he is replacing, D.J. Augustin), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Ben Gordon (their one nice pickup as they dumped Corey Maggette for him). This team will be lucky to win 15 games. More analysis here.
CHICAGO BULLS – Derrick Rose is not expected back until midseason, and C.J. Watson is no longer around to carry the load. Omer Asik, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer are gone from the bench, too, and we shall soon learn whether Kirk Hinrich is still an NBA-caliber starting point guard or whether he went over the hill during his exile following his previous stint with Chicago. Marco Belinelli is probably an upgrade over Korver, who never lived up to his contract after the Bulls signed him away from Utah. But that offseason acquisition is the only one we like. Nazr Mohammed is no more than an insurance policy in case Joakim Noah gets hurt, Nate Robinson is a knucklehead, and Vladimir Radmanovic has no business being in the NBA anymore. That being said, if they tread water until Rose returns, they are going to be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs. They did, after all, lead the NBA last season with 50 wins (tied with Spurs) despite missing Rose and Richard Hamilton for long stretches. If Danny Ferry could move Joe Johnson, perhaps Gar Forman can move Carlos Boozer to make room for Taj Gibson. More analysis here.
Grade: C –
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – It’ll be good to see Kyrie Iving and Anderson Varejao playing together again. Few outside of Cleveland noticed, but the Cavs were a very entertaining team to watch last season when those two were healthy together. GM Chris Grant pulled out of the multi-team Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum trade talks when it became clear that Bynum would not be interested in signing long-term, meaning that Grant’s biggest offseason move (aside from drafting the brash Dion Waiters) were signing C.J. Miles to chuck 3-pointers and claiming Jon Leuer off waivers to serve as Varajeo’s replacement if (when?) the Brazilian gets hurt. Gonna have a tough time competing in a loaded conference, but DO NOT underestimate Irving. In case you have forgotten, he was the best point guard in Team USA camp. Also, the Cavs still have money to spend on the free agency scrapheap, and they could use a veteran or two. More analysis here.