With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.
Other than the Wizards, what was your favorite move among teams in the Eastern Conference?
J. Michael: For a team, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m not sure about just how good they’ll be with Greg Monroe but it was before 2011 – under the previous collective bargaining agreement – when small-market teams were disadvantaged in the open market. This move shows that cities like Milwaukee can now compete with Los Angeles and New York, both suitors for Monroe, because of the new rules in place.
And that Milwaukee retained Khris Middleton, who has a habit of torching the Wizards, added Greivis Vasquez to a bench that has good scoring ability and essentially dumped Ersan Ilyasova to the Detroit Pistons to clear salary were excellent moves. They’re still not the most athletic team by any stretch but they’ve added a lot of size and wingspan and have perimeter depth to manufacture small-ball lineups (O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Vasquez).
Ben Standig: Picking the NBA finalists might not seem terribly interesting, but the Cleveland Cavaliers walked the free agency tightrope this offseason and won.
We're not even talking about keeping LeBron James. Yes, he was a free agent, but the PR side of King James enterprises ensured there was zero percent chance the four-time MVP would leave Cleveland again. We're talking about keeping Kevin Love, who many assumed would bolt after one season. If he left, Cleveland had little financial resources with which to replace an All-Star player. Instead, the Cavaliers keep their big three of James, Love and Kyrie Irving, at least for another season. That trio didn't play much in the playoffs due to injuries, but helped Cleveland close the regular season with a 34-9 record.
We're talking about keeping a strong two-way wing threat in Iman Shumpert while holding off giving unreliable J.R. Smith a nice deal. We're talking about adding another point guard scoring threat in Mo WIlliams. Playoff folk hero Matthew Dellavedova re-signed. Big man Tristan Thompson will eventually do the same.
While the Cavaliers kept their core together and added help, the other Eastern Conferences contenders either took a step back (Hawks) or held serve. Last season was the time to get Cleveland. Now James and crew are even bigger favorites in the East.