Leading up to Bulls media day on Sept. 28, Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Strotman will preview the upcoming NBA season with daily features on everything related to the Association. Today the pair analyze which teams "lost" the offseason with a combination of free-agent signings, trades and/or draft picks.
Mark Strotman: This is tough for me to admit as a Marquette graduate who covered him during my time at school, but for the life of me I can't figure out why a smart Dallas front office would sign Wesley Matthews to a four-year, $70 million deal. If he had stayed healthy I would have loved the signing; Matthews, 28, was enjoying a career year before blowing out his Achilles heel in March, ending his season abruptly. When looking at similar players' deals this offseason - Danny Green (4 years, $40 million), Monta Ellis (4 years, $44 million) and Lou Williams (3 years, $21 million) - Matthews' money looks far too steep for a guy who may never fully recover.
The DeAndre Jordan fiasco wasn't really Dallas' fault, but the reality is they now swap Tyson Chandler (Suns) with some combo of Zaza Pachulia/Sam Dalembert/JaVale McGee at center. I actually liked the safe Deron Williams signing (two years, $10 million) but in the ultra-competitive Western Conference the moves simply aren't going to be enough to make them legitimate contenders, if a playoff team at all. Mark Cuban was right that Jordan could have changed the outlook of the franchise; his 180 to the Clippers and the Matthews signing make that outlook grim. Sidenote: The Justin Anderson draft selection was a great one. At least they'll have that to look forward to in the post-Dirk era.
Vincent Goodwill: Ironically, Matthews was speculated by some to be a target of the Bulls this offseason, perhaps believing he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal until he was fully healthy. But the DeAndre Jordan fiasco made Matthews a beneficiary of Mark Cuban’s generosity. And even after all that, the Mavericks didn’t have the absolute worst offseason. They’ll get what’s left of the shell of Deron Williams, the best point guard they’ve had since an aging Jason Kidd helped them to the 2011 title.
That would be our friends in the Pacific Northwest would be the squad with the worst summer, the team whose second-biggest loss was Matthews. The Portland Trailblazers probably weren’t going to contend for a championship, as good as they were with a core led by LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Matthews But now they’re going to join the lottery-bound teams in the West, looking up to all the giants after losing Aldridge, Matthews, Arron Afflalo and Nic Batum over the summer. They brought in Al-Farouq Aminu and Gerald Henderon as space-fillers, but making the playoffs is a pipe dream.
They have Lillard, but being the undisputed No. 1 guy making super max money on a team going nowhere is sure to make him miserable…until the 1st and 15th.
MS: I suppose Dallas didn't have the worst offseason, but what it could have been and the return value they received post Emoji-gate was a punch to the gut. Another team that took one on the chin was the Los Angeles Lakers. LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, (for a short time) Marc Gasol and even Greg Monroe were all potential options, and that tasty prospect of Jimmy Butler not taking an extension with the Bulls to become a free agent in 2016 and join the Lakers seemed plausible thanks to his relationship with Marky Mark. Instead, Mitch Kupchak signed the aforementioned Williams and Brandon Bass, and traded for Roy Hibbert. In a vacuum this wouldn't seem like an awful offseason...
...But remember, the Lakers will lose their first-round pick if it's outside of the top three next season. With their additions and a (hopefully) healthy Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle returning, the Lakers won't be as bad as they were last year when they won 21 games and lucked into the second overall pick. I project them to top 30 wins this year, meaning they'll be handing that first-round pick over to Philadelphia (through Phoenix), really crippling their rebuilding efforts in the short-term. Also, I wasn't thrilled with them selecting D'Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor. I know you've got your reservations about Okafor's defense at the next level, but that kind of offensive skill set shouldn't have fallen to third overall. Plus, point guard Jordan Clarkson showed some real potential in the season's second half - nothing serious enough to consider him the team's future at the position, but just another reason Okafor should have been the pick. The Lakers made due with what the offseason handed them, but like the Mavericks it could have been a whole let better. Now they pray for Russell Westbrook in 2017.
VG: I think the Lakers were in an obvious catch-22, when you consider all the factors starting with an aging but expensive Kobe Bryant. Signing him to that deal which is now viewed as an albatross may hurt the Lakers in the short term because it’s more about “what you’ve done before” as opposed to current value, but his importance to the somewhat-tarnished Laker brand is undeniable. The franchise needed to have someone to hold up as an example for what it does for its own as a show of loyalty, and count this writer as someone who doesn’t criticize that organization for its particular set of circumstances.
Okafor is a borderline franchise big man in a league that’s moving away from being big. And seeing D’Angelo Russell in Big 10 country last season, he has star written all over him—another special circumstance of living in Los Angeles and playing for THAT franchise. But if we’re going to talk about “marquee” franchises that haven’t had the best luck in acquiring stars, the New York Knicks are the best place to start, because at least the Lakers have won titles in the last 40 years.
The Knicks also missed out on Aldridge, Monroe, Love and Gasol, with those players often using the Knicks’ interest to set the market for other teams to inevitably match. And although the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis may produce dividends in the long run, they have Carmelo Anthony making max money in the short term, with former Bulls coach Phil Jackson trying this executive thing out for the first time in his career. Jackson, a self-promoter in his own right, doesn’t want players coming to the Knicks for the money, although it’s clear the $12 million annual salary he’s commanding is the only reason he signed up for this mess. And it doesn’t look like he has any grand plan of getting this franchise out of it, after signing Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez to free agent deals—names who won’t make the marquee at MSU, let alone MSG.
Expect another long season at the Garden, and another year full of laughs against the laughingstock of the league.