By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Aug 9 2009 11:20AM
So, what was this offseason about in the NBA?
The rich getting richer, that's what. The defending champions lost nothing and gained Ron Artest, getting younger, deeper and more talented. The runners-up lost Hedo Turkoglu, but more than made up for it.
All over the league, the elites fortified themselves while their lessers fought for scraps. The Eastern Conference gained more traction in its tug-of-war with the West. The sour economy and the lack of much salary cap room this summer conspired to make movement slow for most, with players like Allen Iverson and David Lee waiting for the dam to burst and someone to come up with some cash. Money has now, unfortunately, created a class system in the NBA. It's clear that those with means can stay strong, while those without have to wait their turn. That cleaves the league nicely into five categories:
The Haves (Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Trail Blazers)
The Middle Class (Raptors, Wizards, Pistons, Hawks, Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets, 76ers)
The Holders (Bulls, Knicks, Heat)
The Folders (Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Bucks, Kings, Bobcats, Nets)
The Dreamers (Clippers, Hornets, Pacers, Warriors, Thunder, Suns)
In grading each team's offseason, the financial divide has to be taken into account. The Lakers simply have more money than a lot of teams, which makes their offseason that much easier. If Miami had offered Lamar Odom the same amount of money that Los Angeles did, he might be on South Beach right now. But Miami couldn't, and Los Angeles knew it, so L.A. could afford to wait for L.O. to come to its number. That's an advantage. But it doesn't mean the teams with less can't be productive, as you'll see below with teams like Indiana.
I grade teams on their entire offseason -- the Draft, free agency, trades, coaching changes, new ownership, new arenas, anything that has impacted or will impact rosters. But it's kind of graded on a curve because of the money disparities. Once again: This is not a predicted order of finish for next season, only one guy's evaluation of what's transpired between the end of each team's season and now.
Here are The Holders. For the others, click on the links above.
These teams are normally among the league's biggest spenders, but they're keeping their powder relatively dry this summer so that they'll have a crack at the Class of 2010. Depending on how soon the economy bounces back, and the level of drop of league revenues, they'll either be sitting pretty next summer or have a lot less room to sign the game's superstars than they'd planned.
DA's Offseason Rank: No. 19
Last season: 41-41, second place, Central; Lost in first round of Playoffs.
Added: F James Johnson (first-round pick); F Taj Gibson (first-round pick), G Jannero Pargo (free agent, Russia; one year, $2 million)
Lost: G Ben Gordon (signed with Detroit), F Tim Thomas (signed with Dallas)
The key man: F Luol Deng. He's talented and well-paid. Now he has to stay on the court for a full season and into the Playoffs if Chicago is to improve on last season's surprising turnaround.
The skinny: A solid Draft produced two solid rookies. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose, should get nothing but better. A deep and versatile group after the trade deadline deal that brought John Salmons and Brad Miller is back. Third-year center Joakim Noah is a comer. But the Bulls are still in need of a low-post presence, and replacing a guy that can get you 30 on any given night is going to be hard. Losing Gordon is why they aren't ranked higher.
DA's Offseason Rank: No. 28
Last season: 32-50, fifth place, Atlantic; Did not make Playoffs.
Added: C Darko Milicic (trade with Memphis), F Jordan Hill (first-round pick), G Toney Douglas (first-round pick)
Lost: G Quentin Richardson (traded to Memphis)
The key man: F Danilo Galinari. The second-year forward says he's back after missing most of his rookie season to back surgery, and he has to be -- the Knicks won't have a first-round pick next year (it goes, unprotected, to Utah) so their improvement has to come from within.
The skinny: It was hard to stick to The Plan when so many other teams in the east got better this summer, but team president Donnie Walsh didn't have any choice, even if it ultimately costs him David Lee and/or Nate Robinson. In the interim, Mike D'Antoni will have to make do with the occasional bursts of improvement from Wilson Chandler and rookies Hill and Douglas -- though Ramon Sessions, not yet signed as of this writing, would have a significant impact and raise the ranking a few spots.
DA's Offseaon Rank: No. 27
Last season: 43-39, third place, Atlantic; Lost in first round of Playoffs.
Added: G Patrick Beverley (trade rights from Lakers), F Robert Dozier (second-round pick)
Lost: F Jamario Moon (signed with Cleveland)
The key man: F Michael Beasley. He will get minutes at both forward positions and every opportunity to show he was worth the second pick in last year's Draft. Beasley impressed his coaches with his genuine desire to get better, but he has to take a step up.
The skinny: See New York. Not getting Lamar Odom to return was a big blow. The Heat also didn't get much done in the Draft that will provide immediate help, though some liked Beverley before the Draft. Riles still has the lure of millions in cap room and South Beach to offer up next summer. Problem is, Dwyane Wade might be in Chicago by then. It's a big, big gamble, but if Riley can pull it off, he'll be the one laughing 12 months from now.
Send your 2010 draft boards, crazy trade proposals, questions, comments and criticisms to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is picked you'll be the next judge on American Idol, replacing wacky Paula. Well, actually, that's not true; you won't be sitting next to Simon any time soon. But we will publish your e-mail.
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