DA's Morning Tip

DA's Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

David Aldridge

DA’S OFFSEASON RANKINGS:

The chase is on.

The Golden State Warriors have put a marker way, way out there for the rest of the league with their second title in three years, with the possibility of several more now that they’ve re-signed their core group for a while. No one figured out a way to slow down, much less stop, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and teammates, even as coach Steve Kerr again missed time with the physical ailments that have plagued him for almost two years.

> DA’s Offseason Rankings: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

Compounding the rest of the league’s dilemma is that there was far less money in the system — about a third — than there was a year ago, when most everyone in the game lost its collective mind and threw money at any free agent with a pulse.

Also, the league is about to tip over, it is so imbalanced at present, with a significant majority of the game’s elite talent in the Western Conference.

Paul George, Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were among the better players who went from the Eastern Conference to the West, with only Gordon Hayward waving at them in the other direction. That leaves easier egress in the East, but the east also has the game’s most immovable object in LeBron James — who’s made seven straight NBA Finals and counting, but whose Cavaliers are in the midst of a tumultuous summer.

This is where we come in with our offseason grades.

Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything — how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much — or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most.

Here’s what these rankings ARE NOT:

  • A predicted order of finish for next season.

I do not expect the Kings, for example, to have a better record than the Spurs. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the 76ers are a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves — offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before?

  • If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn’t mean I love your team.
  • If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn’t mean I hate your team.

It’s an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn’t mean I’m right.)

What plays into the rankings:

  • This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses (I’m looking at you, Knicks), the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.
  • Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That’s factored in. It’s why, even though I may think Atlanta was right to push the reset button and start over, losing Millsap and the other players who’ve departed in the last two years is a bigger deal — and, thus, the Hawks’ offseason can’t be viewed as a success when determining if they’re better now than they were in April. They’re not. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax — which most teams try to avoid — in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.
  • Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management — and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely.

Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately — which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means.

The Bottom 10

No. 21: Cavaliers | No. 22: Jazz | No. 23: Suns | No. 24: Trail Blazers | No. 25: Knicks | No. 26: Pistons | No. 27: Hawks | No. 28: Bulls | No. 29: Grizzlies | No. 30: Pacers

> MORE RANKINGS: The Top 10 | The Middle 10

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21. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

2016-17 RECORD: 51-31, lost in NBA Finals

ADDED: G Isaiah Thomas (acquired from Boston); F Jae Crowder (acquired from Boston); F/C Ante Zizic (acquired from Boston); G Derrick Rose (one year, $2.1 million); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.1 million); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); F Cedi Osman (three years, $8.3 million); named Koby Altman General Manager

LOST: G Kyrie Irving (traded to Boston); former general manager David Griffin (mutual decision he would not return)

RETAINED: G Kyle Korver (three years, $22 million)

THE KEY MAN: Owner Dan Gilbert. There’s only one guy that can make what is always going to be a less-than-optimal situation work, and that’s Gilbert. There are two things true about LeBron James: 1) No player in the league has more power to bend a franchise toward what he wants, with all the compromises that that entails, from hiring associates to who is at the end of the bench, and 2) No player in the league is more worth making those compromises for. So Gilbert has to determine what he’s willing to put up with in order to have a chance to recreate that magic moment of June 19, 2016. It’s his team, his financial risk — and, his potential multi-billion dollar payoff when and if he ever decides to sell. LeBron’s not changing, nor should he; he is the straw that stirs the franchise valuation drink. Both Gilbert and James acknowledged errors when they made up in 2014 and James returned to the Cavs. Gilbert has to be proactive in reaching out to James this time, lest James walk out the door a second — and, almost certainly, final — time next summer.

THE SKINNY: You may recall that Cleveland was originally 28 in these rankings. But that was before rookie GM Altman turned what looked like an impossible task — getting value for Irving once his trade request got out — and did quite well. The Cavaliers got Thomas, whose physical status for the start of the regular season is in doubt as he recovers from a torn labrum suffered late last season and which he gutted through until the conference finals. But even if the injury costs him much of the 2017-18 season, we all know by now that the regular season means next to nothing in the 216.

If Thomas is on the floor in late April and early May, when it counts, that’s all that’s going to matter next season — and next season is all that matters right now, with James’ future afterward uncertain. That uncertainty is why the Cavs insisted on the unprotected 2018 Boston still had from the Nets as part of the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett deal with Brooklyn. That pick will give Cleveland a shot at a high Lottery pick next year that it could build around if James leaves, or to supplement him and Kevin Love if James stays. That pick gives the Cavs a future. That pick thus moves them up several spots in the offseason rankings, after the removal of Griffin (who may well have been able to deliver Jimmy Butler had he not been shut down the week of the Draft. We’ll never know for sure, probably.)

But with Thomas on the shelf for a while, Rose will have to play big minutes immediately next season. He was decent in his one season in New York and is looking for a better year to get his value back up. James gets people paid — although at an abysmal .217 on threes last season, Rose is not the catch and shoot guard that usually works best off of James. Green has played well with stars (Oklahoma City) and not so well (Boston), so we’ll see. Is Cleveland is still the team to beat in the East? Well, they still have James, and no one’s beaten him in that conference since 2009, and he is more motivated than ever to get back to The Finals. But the gap between the Cavs and Celtics is now much smaller, and the tsuris of this summer hasn’t helped.

22. UTAH JAZZ

2016-17 RECORD: 51-31, lost in Western Conference semifinals

ADDED: G Ricky Rubio (acquired from Minnesota); G Thabo Sefolosha (two years, $11 million); F Jonas Jerebko (two years, $8.2 million); F Ekpe Udoh (two years, $6.5 million); G/F Royce O’Neal (three years, $3.8 million); G Donovan Mitchell (No. 13 pick, 2017 Draft); C Tony Bradley (No. 28 pick, 2017 Draft; Rights acquired from Lakers)

LOST: F Gordon Hayward (signed with Boston); G George Hill (signed with Sacramento); F Trey Lyles (traded to Denver); F Tyler Lydon (Draft rights traded to Denver); G Josh Hart (Draft rights traded to Lakers); C Thomas Bryant (Draft rights traded to Lakers); F Boris Diaw (waived); C Jeff Withey (renounced)

RETAINED: F Joe Ingles (four years, $52 million)

THE KEY MAN: Unnamed Starting Small Forward. No one is going to make up Hayward’s 21.9 points, 5.4 boards and 3.5 assists by himself. Coach Quin Snyder could go traditional and pick Sefolosha, a starter on several good Oklahoma City teams through 2014, or go small(er) ball with the likes of Rodney Hood at the three. He could, conceivably, even opt for 71-year-old Joe Johnson in a pinch. The point is, the Jazz will have to depend on several folks throughout the lineup — and not just at small forward — to replace what Hayward brought to the table every night.

THE SKINNY: No matter the spin — and Utah did very well after July 4 to fill out its roster — losing an All-Star and franchise player in Hayward cancels out any notion that the Jazz had a “good” offseason. Rubio, acquired before Hayward left, is a valid replacement player for the departed George Hill at the point; Rubio’s a better passer (though Hill is a better scorer and defender). Jerebko is a smart and tough player. Sefolosha is still a plus defender. Udoh had a great season playing abroad. And keeping Ingles in the fold was key. But Hayward did so many seen and unseen things to lift Utah to where it was when he left — a team that was ready to be a perennial top-four squad in the west. He had become a go-to guy, a beast of a scorer, a more than willing rebounder, a leader, all of it. It’s a gut punch, pure and simple. Maneuvering on Draft night to get Mitchell could turn out to be huge; he was electric at the Summer League and looks like he could play rotation minutes immediately. And maybe Joe Johnson’s got a few more Iso Joes in him. But Utah’s taken a step back. Bottom line.

23. PHOENIX SUNS

2016-17 RECORD: 24-58; did not make playoffs

ADDED: G/F Josh Jackson (No. 4 pick, 2017 Draft); G Davon Reed (No. 32 pick, 2017 Draft); F Alec Peters (No. 54 pick, 2017 Draft)

LOST: G Leandro Barbosa (waived)

RETAINED: C Alan Williams (three years, $17 million)

THE KEY MAN: Owner Robert Sarver. Sarver bought the Suns from Jerry Colangelo in 2004 for what was then an NBA record $401 million. His stewardship of the Suns has been mixed; they made the Western Conference finals in his first two years in charge, but since then they’ve fallen to the bottom of the pack. Sarver has been known to blame others for the team’s failings, but he acknowledged recently that he has to shoulder some of the responsibility for not being more patient during the team’s rebuild under GM Ryan McDonough. That will be tested as the Suns decide how much it would be worth to them to go get Kyrie Irving from Cleveland.

THE SKINNY: Feels like there’s a Kyrie 3 sneaker yet to drop on the Suns’ summer. With Irving still out there as of this writing, Phoenix is one of the teams that could, relatively quickly, make a legit offer for the 25-year-old All-Star. They’re reluctant to put Johnson in the deal, and understandably so; he’s got a chance to be a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist type of wing defender with substantial offensive upside. But at some point, the Suns are going to have to get back in the game of competing in the West. Bledsoe is a very solid point guard, but his presence hasn’t led to major team improvement the last couple of years. And, it should not have to be noted that no one is blaming Bledsoe for that, merely pointing out that it’s extremely difficult for one guy to change a franchise’s fortunes. Irving is younger and more dynamic. But it will be up to McDonough to decide if it’s worth offering up Jackson’s potential (along with Bledsoe and a future first-rounder or two) to get him. If not, the Suns will go as far as the development of their second-year forwards, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, and the scoring of Devin Booker, will take them.

24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

2016-17 RECORD: 41-41; lost in first round

ADDED: F Zach Collins (No. 10 pick, 2017 Draft; Rights acquired from Sacramento); C Caleb Swanigan (No. 26 pick, 2017 Draft)

LOST: F Allen Crabbe (traded to Brooklyn); G Tim Quarterman (traded to Houston); F Justin Jackson (Draft rights acquired from Sacramento); F Harry Giles (Draft rights acquired from Sacramento); F Andrew Nicholson (waived via stretch provision)

RETAINED: None

THE KEY MAN: F Maurice Harkless. The Blazers’ starting three may have garnered national headline for what he did — more accurately, what he didn’t do — on the last night of the regular season. But his body of work throughout his 69 starts at the three were what the Blazers were focused on. Portland gave him a four-year, $40 million deal last summer, and Harkless responded with a solid season, cracking double figures in scoring for the first time in his five-year career and becoming the Blazers’ best perimeter defender. But he’ll have to do more for Portland to become a real threat to the top teams in the west — think Otto Porter, Jr. in D.C., who complements a high-scoring backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal by spotting up in the corners and constantly cutting baseline. Harkless has to become that kind of complimentary player in Portland to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

THE SKINNY: Dealing Crabbe and the remainder of his $75 million contract to Brooklyn for Nicholson, whose salary was then stretched, saved owner Paul Allen almost $60 million in salary and luxury tax payments. And that was obviously worth doing. Except…Allen is a billionaire. He’s one of the richest men on earth. And while the desire to save money is understandable, it shouldn’t be among the top highlights of a team’s offseason. (Still, the Blazers’ PR staff did win the summer after sending Quarterman to Houston for 100 large.) Both Collins and Swanigan have bright futures, but in the west, it’s about the here and now. The trade for Jusuf Nurkic last February was a godsend, giving the Blazers a chance to be a player in the west going forward. But their 2016 spending spree (in addition to Crabbe and Harkless, there was $70 million for Evan Turner and $41 million for Meyers Leonard) came back to bite them. They had to move starting center Mason Plumlee in the Nurkic deal because they knew they had no chance of re-signing him this summer. They’ve already jettisoned 2016 signees Crabbe and Festus Ezeli ($14.7 million). Assuming Big Nurk is healthy next year, he remains the team’s best pickup in the last 14 months.

25. NEW YORK KNICKS

2016-17 RECORD: 31-51, did not make playoffs

ADDED: G Tim Hardaway, Jr. (four years, $71 million); G Ramon Sessions (one year, $2.3 million); G Frank Ntilikina (No. 8 pick, 2017 Draft); named Steve Mills President of Basketball Operations; hired Scott Perry as General Manager

LOST: G Derrick Rose (signed with Cleveland); G Justin Holiday (signed with Chicago); F Maurice Ndour (waived); F Marshall Plumlee (waived); G Sasha Vujacic (renounced UFA rights); announced Phil Jackson would not return as president of basketball operations

RETAINED: G Ron Baker (two years, $8.8 million)

THE KEY MAN: Mills. Owner Jim Dolan kept his word from all indications and let Jackson run the Knicks without interference. Though Mills has survived numerous changes in management through two tours of duty in New York, this is the first time he’s really in charge of the basketball side of things full-time (he was general manager the last three years, but it was a title without authority; Jackson called all the shots). The expectations in Gotham, are, as ever, outsized, and there are many in the New York media (shocking, I know) that believe Mills, a Princeton grad who played for Pete Carril, is in over his head. How he manages Carmelo Anthony after Jackson’s scorched-earth policy toward the team’s star forward will provide a good indication of whether Mills has the chops to not just survive, but thrive in the high-pressure gig.

THE SKINNY: Some teams, like the Knicks, really should get an incomplete offseason grade. Because we don’t know yet what the team’s new braintrust will do with Anthony, or if ‘Melo is even willing to listen to their pitch to stay. His open desire to be with Chris Paul and James Harden has made New York’s task at getting anything approaching equal value a near impossibility, but that may be less important than finally turning the page and starting over. The Knicks would not have taken Ntilikina if the new guys were in charge. He was a Jackson pick. But he’s still an 18-year-old who has skills and is worth grooming. They overpaid for Hardaway Jr. based on what he did in Atlanta, but if he turns into your basic 18-20 point scoring two guard upon his return to Gotham, his salary won’t be that far out of line. The bigger question mark is how much Joakim Noah has left; that $18 million per year needs to be on the floor as much as, if not more than, Hardaway.

26. DETROIT PISTONS

2016-17 RECORD: 37-45, did not make playoffs

ADDED: G Avery Bradley (acquired from Boston); G Langston Galloway (three years, $21 million); F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $2.3 million); F Eric Moreland (three years, $5.4 million); G Luke Kennard (No. 12 pick, 2017 Draft)

LOST: F Marcus Morris (traded to Boston); G Darrun Hillard (traded to Houston); G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (signed with Lakers); C Aron Baynes (signed with Boston); G Michael Gbinije (waived)

RETAINED: F Reggie Bullock (two years, $5 million); C Eric Moreland (three years, $5.4 million)

THE KEY MAN: F Stanley Johnson. He fell toward the back of coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation last season, but the rising third-year forward will be front and center in 2017-18. Detroit’s trade of Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley gives the 21-year-old Johnson, the Pistons’ first-round pick in 2016, an unencumbered shot at the starting three spot after playing a lot of two in Detroit last year. Johnson has defensive chops and he’ll have to display them every night against the Carmelos and LeBrons of the world. Like the Hawks, the Pistons have multiple players like Johnson that are now P3 disciples for offseason workouts in Cali. If Johnson can secure the starting three spot the Pistons will have a leg up for a playoff push next season.

THE SKINNY: The Pistons opted to use their cap room a couple of years ago to extend their own guys like Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Now, they’re pretty locked into the roster they have. More importantly, they’re basically hard-capped, which left them unable to make an offer to Caldwell-Pope as a restricted free agent; he left for L.A. after Detroit rescinded its qualifying offer. That handwriting was pretty much on the wall after the Pistons signed Galloway and drafted Kennard, who starred on an injury-riddled Duke team last season. Detroit’s cap will be slightly better next summer, when Bradley is an unrestricted free agent, but the Pistons will have to do a lot of improving from within to justify the payroll. Bradley will help; he remains a terrific two-way player. But there’s been way too much smoke about Detroit looking to move either Drummond or Jackson to feel like everything’s great with the current group in Motown.

27. ATLANTA HAWKS

2016-17 RECORD: 43-39, lost in first round

ADDED: G Marco Belinelli (acquired from Charlotte); C Miles Plumlee (acquired from Charlotte); C Dewayne Dedmon (two years, $14 million); F Luke Babbitt (one year, $2.1 million); G Nicholas Brussino (waiver claim from Dallas); F/C John Collins (No. 19 pick, 2017 Draft); F Tyler Dorsey (No. 41 pick, 2017 Draft); F Alpha Kaba (No. 60 pick, 2017 Draft); named Travis Schlenk General Manager

LOST: C Dwight Howard (traded to Charlotte); F Ryan Kelly (traded to Houston); F Paul Millsap (signed with Denver); G Tim Hardaway, Jr. (declined to match offer sheet from New York); G Thabo Sefolosha (signed with Utah); G Jose Calderon (signed with Cleveland); F Diamond Stone (waived)

RETAINED: F Ersan Ilyasova (one year, $6 million); F/C Mike Muscala (two years, $10 million)

THE KEY MAN: G Dennis Schroder. He and starting three Kent Bazemore are all that’s left from the 60-win team just two seasons ago. The Hawks are now, completely, in the 23-year-old Schroder’s hands. Last year was one in which Schroder was at once both tantalizing and perplexing. There were games where he looked unstoppable and elite at his position, mixed with others where he was careless and barely made a ripple. The Hawks are betting on more of the former going forward, but Schroder isn’t the kid learning from the crafty vets anymore. He has to lead by example now, on a team without much proven firepower, and get everyone involved on a nightly basis.

THE SKINNY: The Hawks did what you’re supposed to do with a new GM and with little hope of going forward once Millsap made it clear he wanted max dollars to stay. Atlanta blew it up good, saying goodbye to Millsap, sending the rest of Howard’s $70 million contract from last year to the Hornets, letting Hardaway walk at the inflated price the Knicks paid for him, and staying on budget — with the notable exception of Plumlee’s outsized deal. They got Dedmon for less than the mid-level. The name of this game, though, is whether the team is better now than it was at the start of the offseason. Obviously, it is not, so you can’t rank Atlanta any higher. But Schlenk and the Hawks did the right thing nonetheless.

28. CHICAGO BULLS

2016-17 RECORD: 41-41; lost in first round

ADDED: G Zach LaVine (acquired from Minnesota); G Kris Dunn (acquired from Minnesota); G Justin Holiday (two years, $9 million); F Lauri Markannen (No. 7 pick, 2017 Draft; Rights acquired from Minnesota); G David Nwaba (waiver claim from Lakers)

LOST: G/F Jimmy Butler (traded to Minnesota); G Rajon Rondo (signed with New Orleans); F Joffrey Lauvernge (signed with San Antonio); F Jordan Bell (Draft rights traded to Golden State); G Isaiah Canaan (waived)

RETAINED: F Cristiano Felicio (four years, $32 million)

THE KEY MAN: Coach Fred Hoiberg. “The Mayor” was hired with great fanfare out of college three years ago, with GM Gar Forman saying Hoiberg was the guy who’d finally get the Bulls to play fast and efficiently on offense. The roster he inherited wasn’t ideal for that, to be sure; Rose and Rondo were not, when Hoiberg had them, willing or able to push the ball consistently. But they’re both gone and it’s time for Chicago to get into the modern NBA — lots of threes, lots of pace. Per NBA.com/Stats, the Bulls were 20th in the league last season in pace, 21st in offensive rating, and DFL — 30th — in Effective Field Goal Percentage (.487). The Bulls are relatively young and inexperienced now, so there’s no reason the kids shouldn’t take to Hoiberg’s teachings. A traditional rule of thumb in the NBA is that after three years, you basically know what you have in a player, for good or bad. This will be Hoiberg’s third season coaching the Bulls.

THE SKINNY: Most didn’t like the haul the Bulls got on Draft night for Butler, but I didn’t think it was that bad. Depends on what you think of Dunn (LaVine is expected to make a full recovery from his torn ACL), and while he struggled in Minnesota last year the belief here is still that he can be an elite defensive guard and good enough offensively to stay on the floor. Markannen was by far the best shooting big in the Draft, and in a league where you now have to have at least one four/five stretching the floor, how can that be a bad guy to pick? Chicago’s starting from scratch, to be sure, with no guarantee it’ll pay off next summer, when the Bulls will have insane cap space; in addition, they’ll have to take a leap of faith on LaVine, whom they’ll likely have to give a huge extension this year before he hits restricted free agency in 2018, without having a large body of work on which to judge him. But you can understand the long-term view.

29. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

2016-17 RECORD: 43-39, lost in first round

ADDED: G Ben McLemore (two years, $10 million); G Tyreke Evans (one year, $3.2 million); G Mario Chalmers (one year, $2.1 million); F Rade Zagorac (three years, $2.3 million): F Ivan Rabb (No. 35 pick, 2017 Draft; Rights acquired from Orlando); F Dillon Brooks (No. 35 pick, 2017 Draft; Rights acquired from Brooklyn).

LOST: F Zach Randolph (signed with Sacramento); G Vince Carter (signed with Sacramento); F Wayne Selden (declined team option)

RETAINED: None

THE KEY MAN: F Chandler Parsons. He’s just 28, but the trend line of his last five NBA seasons is not encouraging: 76 games played in 2012-13, to 74 the following season, to 66, to 61, to last season’s 34, in his first season with the Grizz after signing a four-year, $94 million max deal. Signing him was a coup for Memphis, which had to prove it could attract marquee free agents. But it will only pay off — figuratively and literally — if Parsons is on the floor instead of in street clothes, out with yet another knee injury. (He is, apparently, not making any friends in town by spending so much time rehabbing and living large in Los Angeles rather than the 901.) The Grizz desperately need his floor-stretching ability and secondary playmaking skills on the floor with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol next year if they’re going to stay afloat in the loaded West.

THE SKINNY: With so much invested in their starters last summer (Conley’s $150 million contract; along with Parsons’s mega-deal), the Grizz didn’t have much of a chance to re-sign Randolph, who accepted a role coming off the bench for Coach David Fizdale. And unless there’s a dramatic shift, Tony Allen — the other half of Grit-N-Grind all these years in Memphis — will be gone, too, not to mention the sage head of Carter. Add to that the potential departure of starting four JaMychal Green via free agency, and that would be a lot of knowledge and a lot of the team’s identity out the door in one summer, and a lot to replace. (If Allen and Green come back to Memphis, the offseason ranking would improve some.) The Grizzlies have to count on a return to health and production from Parsons, who again missed almost all of a season with knee problems. The Grizzlies took fliers on low-cost options like McLemore, who couldn’t make things work consistently enough in Sacramento, and Evans, who starred locally in the 901 for John Calipari’s last team at the University of Memphis. They could help some. But in a conference that became even more impenetrable this summer, the Grizz feel like they’re going in the wrong direction.

30. INDIANA PACERS

2016-17 RECORD: 42-40, lost in first round

ADDED: G Victor Oladipo (acquired from Oklahoma City); F Domantas Sabonis (acquired from Oklahoma City); G Cory Joseph (acquired from Toronto); F Bojan Bogdanovic (two years, $21 million); G Darren Collison (two years, $20 million); F T.J. Leaf (No. 18 pick, 2017 Draft); C Ike Anigbogu (No. 47 pick, 2017 Draft); G Edmond Sumner (No. 52 pick, 2017 Draft; Rights acquired from New Orleans); named Kevin Pritchard President of Basketball Operations

LOST: F Paul George (traded to Oklahoma City); G Jeff Teague (signed with Minnesota); F C.J. Miles (signed with Toronto); G Monta Ellis (waived via stretch provision); C Kevin Seraphin (waived); F Rakeem Christmas (waived); F Georges Niang (waived); Larry Bird resigned as president of basketball operations

RETAINED: None

THE KEY MAN: C Myles Turner. Any hopes the Pacers have of revitalizing themselves this season starts and ends with their third-year big man, who’ll be a focal point of the offense going forward. With George gone, Turner figures to get a lot more than the 10.7 shots per game he had last season. The Pacers will have to run now to have any chance to score, and that’s prime-cut Turner meat; there aren’t five big men in the league that can keep up with him end to end.

THE SKINNY: Well … it’s not good. It’s not the Pacers’ fault they were put between a rock and a hard place by George’s public flirting with the Lakers. Pritchard got excoriated for not supposedly accepting the bounty of players and picks Boston offered just before the Draft, but there’s no way to know for sure what the Celtics offered — the fog of NBA trade talk always gets fuzzy in the retelling, especially by the team that didn’t get the player it wanted. At any rate, Indiana’s clear objective was to get PG13 out of the east, which it did, but for a return that is, charitably, less than market value for a four-time All-Star. Teague walking out the door a year after his hometown Pacers gave a first to Atlanta for him is just as devastating in a different way. Indy still has some talent on the roster, but no one that jumps out at the top of the scouting report. (Anigbogu and Sumner could be sneaky great pickups if they can recover from their respective knee injuries suffered in college last season.) On his third team in three years, Oladipo will need to shoot the ball better than he has his first four pro seasons. The Pacers will have ridiculous cap room next year and will thus be every capped-out team’s friend for potentially taking oversized contracts, but the next team that builds a contender that way will be the first.

> MORE RANKINGS: The Top 10 | The Middle 10

Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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