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Which Way Did He Go?
By the time Labor Day rolls around – with teams’ Training Camps tipping off near the end of the month – NBA squads have pretty much settled in with who they are and what they want to be.
As always, this year’s offseason featured some big names changing addresses, others hanging up their sneakers and a few even staying put. The coaching carousel continued to spin over the summer. A few franchises cashed in on multiple first rounders from this past June’s Draft.
The Knicks underwent a major facelift, the Sixers might actually be competitive and the Warriors re-loaded in a major way after dropping the NBA Finals in historic fashion. And speaking of the World Champs – the Wine and Gold continued to add veteran help while the rest of the East made moves, big and small, to stay in the hunt.
With under three weeks to go until the unofficial start to the 2016-17 season – on Media Day at the Cleveland Clinic Courts – Cavs.com breaks down who went where after Cleveland wrapped up the NBA title in late June …
Key: Coaching Carousel
Last season, Tyronn Lue took over the reins of the Wine and Gold on January 22, and all he did was go 43-19 (.694) the rest of the way – winning the first NBA Championship in franchise history before he was done.
Seeking that type of spark heading into the 2016-17 campaign, several squads made coaching changes over the summer.
The Big Apple brings in a pair of new top men – Jeff Hornacek to oversee Phil Jackson’s reclamation project at The Garden and Kenny Atkinson to maintain the Nets until they can reload their depleted Draft future. Saying that the Triangle “will be part of our offense” in New York, Hornacek will face big expectations with the additions of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings and the promising Kristaps Porzingis.
In terms of high-profile gigs, Luke Walton – who won two titles during his nine-year run with the Lakers – will try to return the league’s proudest franchise to its glory days in the first year of the post-Kobe era (and reclaim Tinseltown from the Clippers). Up the coast, Dave Joerger – who won 147 games during three successful seasons with the Grizzlies – will try to mold DeMarcus Cousins from a guy who puts up monster stats into a consistent winner. (Longtime Heat assistant, David Fizdale, takes over in Memphis.)
In Houston, Mike D’Antoni will try to mold his high-octane offense around James Harden and former Bulls top man, Tom Thibodeau, takes over a young, extremely talented squad in Minnesota.
In the East, a pair of veteran coaches who’ve tasted plenty of success out West – Scott Brooks and Nate McMillan – take over a pair of franchises that have flirted with the upper echelon of the Conference for a while now: with Brooks taking over for Randy Wittman in Washington and McMillan, for Frank Vogel in Indiana.
Vogel – who averaged 46 wins a year over his last five seasons in Indy – landed on his feet, taking over for Scott Skiles in Orlando.
Key: The Kids Are Alright
Could this be the year that the Sixers master plan finally comes to fruition? If Ben Simmons – who was, at times, spectacular during Summer League – comes close to reaching expectations, it very well could be. Experts love the uber-athletic Timothe Luwawu (No. 24) and believe Furkan Korkmaz (No. 26) could be a steal after some seasoning in Turkey.
After drafting No. 2 for the season straight season, Luke Walton and the Lakers hope Brandon Ingram can live up to the potential that already have some comparing him to a young Kevin Durant. In Minnesota, Kris Dunn looks to unseat Ricky Rubio at the point and take the promising Timberwolves to the next level. Buddy Hield, the best pure shooter in the Draft, should benefit from teams doubling-down on Anthony Davis in New Orleans. And Denzel Valentine showed in Summer League that he could be a force on the next level with Chicago.
Seven teams in this past Draft had multiple first round picks – including a trio of Eastern Conference Playoff teams – as they load up for the league’s next chapter.
Boston (which actually had eight picks in June) continued converting their bounty of Draft picks they’ve been accumulating – adding Cal’s Jaylen Brown (No. 3) along with French power forward Guerschon Yabusele (No. 16) and high-energy big man, Ante Zizic (No. 23).
Elsewhere in the East, the Raptors tabbed Austrian seven-footer Jakob Poeltl with the No. 9 overall pick and energy guy, Pascal Siakam at No. 27. The Hawks selected Baylor’s defensive standout Taurean Prince at No. 12 and flashy St. Joe’s wingman DeAndre' Bembry at No. 21.
Out West, Denver maintained their rebuilding process through the Draft – tabbing Kentucky’s polished and versatile Jamal Murray at No. 7 followed by Spanish big man Juan Hernangomez at No. 15 and FSU’s Malik Beasley -- sure to be a Mike Malone favorite – at No. 19. The Suns selected intriguing big man, Dragan Bender with their top pick and a player some considered the most explosive frontcourt player in the Draft – Washington’s Marquese Chriss – with the No. 8 overall pick.
The Kings look to keep building around their prized big man – tabbing massive Greek center Georgios Papagiannis at No. 13, Syracuse two-guard Malachi Richardson at No. 22 and, at No. 28, Kentucky seven-footer Skal Labissiere – who’s drawn comparisons to Cleveland’s Channing Frye.
Key: Marquee Moves
For the myriad player movement that goes down every offseason, one player or story usually dominates the headlines. Two summers ago, it was LeBron’s return to Cleveland. Last year it was the DeAndre Jordan drama (which, in some ways, contributed to the Cavaliers’ Championship run – freeing up Richard Jefferson in the process.)
This year, Kevin Durant did two things. One, his departure from Oklahoma City – and a squad that was one game away from the Finals – stole the free agency headlines. Two, it took the pressure right off the defending Champs, while putting it all right back on Golden State.
Pressure aside, Durant – a seven-time All-Star and the 2014 MVP – does join a squad that already featured the best shooting backcourt in the league and an All-Defensive First Teamer and the reigning Coach of the Year. Along with Durant, the Dubs also inked David West and Zaza Pachulia – losing Festus Ezeli (Clippers), Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes (Mavericks) in the process.
Dwight Howard has been to seven All-Star Games and has been named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year three times, yet frustration has followed him since his final days in Orlando. Howard hopes to revive his sagging career in a return to his hometown Hawks – who underwent a pretty significant facelift, losing a pair of All-Stars over the summer: Al Horford (Boston) and Jeff Teague (Indiana).
The Bulls have been in somewhat of a slow transition for a couple years now. That metamorphosis was completed over the summer when the Bulls sent Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to New York while inking Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to free agent deals. It’s still Jimmy Butler’s team, but – with the added departure of Pau Gasol (Spurs) – there’s not much left of the squad that Cleveland faced in the Second Round of the Playoffs two seasons ago.
With Rose and Noah joining Carmelo Anthony in New York, the Knicks have a combined 14 All-Star appearances among their new Big Three. And they hope that 21-year-old Kristaps Porzingis can build upon a tremendous freshman season with the Knicks – leading them back to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
Key: Supporting Roles
While the big names garner the majority of headlines – (and we did see three future Hall of Famers on the move this summer) – sometimes it’s the lesser-known moves that matter most in April and beyond.
Al Horford gives the Celtics a veteran presence in the middle and, although he’s not exactly a banger in the paint, provides more security than the departed Jared Sullinger (Raptors). Dennis Schroder’s play over the past two seasons – and especially in the Playoffs – gave the Hawks the flexibility to move former All-Star Jeff Teague in a three-team deal.
Teague joins a Pacers team, itself in a state of flux. Nate McMillan takes over for Frank Vogel, Teague takes over for George Hill (Jazz) and Big Al Jefferson takes over for Ian Mahinmi (Wizards). In true Larry Bird fashion, he also scooped up a pair of underrated role players – Thaddeus Young and Aaron Brooks.
One of the co-stars of the aforementioned DeAndre Jordan drama – Chandler Parsons – goes from Dallas to Memphis, giving them an athletic wing option they haven’t had during the Z-Bo-Marc Gasol era. Taking his spot on the wing in Dallas is Harrison Barnes, who struggled mightily over the second half of the 2016 Finals, but cashed in big with the Mavericks as they try to make one more run with Dirk.
With Dwight Howard vacating Houston, the Rockets inked a pair of efficient veterans in his stead – signing Nene away from the Wizards and Ryan Anderson away from the Pelicans. (Thankfully, Anderson – a burgeoning Cavs-killer – stayed in the Western Conference.)
The first move of the offseason was a pretty decent-sized deal – with the Magic dealing Victor Oladipo – the No. 2 overall pick in 2013 – to Oklahoma City in exchange for Serge Ibaka. But a couple weeks later, Kevin Durant bolted for the Bay and everyone forgot about it.
Key: No Place Like Home
Sticking with the headline theme, you’ve heard the expression that “no news is good news.” That was definitely the case for a few teams around the Association this summer.
No place was that more evident than in Oklahoma City, where the biggest free agent news might have actually been Russell Westbrook signing an extension to stay with the franchise. When Durant left earlier in free agency, it had to be white-knuckle time for the Thunder – who could not have weathered a second defection. Westbrook proved to be a transcendent talent last year and his presence keeps OKC competitive in the West.
When healthy, the Grizzlies are one of the most dangerous squads in either Conference. That hasn’t been the case over the past couple seasons, but the Grizz committed to keeping it together – re-signing guard Mike Conley to a lucrative extension.
In the East, a pair of perennial postseason contenders – including the team Cleveland clipped to return to the Finals – re-signed their backcourt studs in order to stay with the Wine and Gold. Despite speculation that he could head home to L.A., two-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan re-signed with Toronto where he’ll pair again with Kyle Lowry. In Washington – speaking of dynamic backcourt combos – the Wizards were able to retain the services of Bradley Beal.
The Blazers – coming off an inspiring season that saw them win 44 games and reach the Second Round despite an exodus of stars – re-signed a trio of core players: Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and the league’s reigning Most Improved Player, Canton’s own C.J. McCollum.
Key: Title Holders
Here in Cleveland, the Cavaliers had a relatively quiet offseason – with some work still left to do.
Earlier this summer, Cleveland dealt for veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy – who last played with Chicago, but has logged 933 NBA games over the course of his 14-year career with Golden State, Indiana, Milwaukee and Chicago. A couple weeks later, the Wine and Gold added a former teammate of LeBron James in Miami – inking another 14-year vet, Chris “Birdman” Anderson – for some added muscle in the middle.
Departed from the Wine and Gold are a pair of Russian big men – Timofey Mozgov (Lakers) and Sasha Kaun (Sixers/retired) and everyone’s favorite Australian antagonist – Matthew Dellavedova, who went from an undrafted rookie to World Champ to a nice, fat contract with the Bucks.
The Cavaliers didn’t have a pick going into this June’s Draft, but made a deal with Atlanta to acquire guard Kay Felder – who led the nation in assists as a junior with the University of Oakland. Though listed at only 5-9, the explosive point guard has proven his mettle against some of the top programs in college hoops and was very impressive this summer in Vegas.
For those of you keeping tabs on the whereabouts of other former Cavaliers – Anthony Bennett and Joe Harris signed deals in Brooklyn, Ramon Sessions is back in Charlotte, Jarrett Jack is back in his hometown of Atlanta, Jon Leuer signed with the Pistons, Luol Deng with the Lakers, Marreese Speights with the Clippers and our old friend, Dion Waiters, with the Miami Heat.