The NBA offseason is basically behind us. Rosters are largely finished, despite a potential Donovan Mitchell trade still hanging around.
Teams are mostly adding camp players and angling for Affiliate Player rights to get them to their G League teams. A few notable free agents remain unsigned, but the vast majority of potential rotation players have been signed.
Now, it’s time to start looking towards the start of the 2022-23 season. With training camps opening in approximately one month, let’s start by looking back at what changes the 2022 offseason brought.
The Atlantic Division has a couple of title contenders, a solid playoff team, another that could be a solid playoff team and the most confusing team in the NBA. The Boston Celtics made the 2022 NBA Finals and hope that their additions will allow them finish the job this time around. The Philadelphia 76ers have added depth and defense around their star duo in hopes of finally finding playoff success. The Toronto Raptors have resisted breaking up their core and will be firmly in the playoff mix. In New York, the Knicks are still pushing for a Donovan Mitchell deal to supplement what was already a solid offseason. And then there are the Brooklyn Nets. The talent is there for a deep playoff run, but how long will it all hold together after a season and summer marked by absences and unhappiness?
Additions: Malcom Brogdon (trade), Danilo Gallinari (free agency), J.D. Davison (Two-Way), Mfiondu Kabengele (Two-Way)
Subtractions: Malik Fitts (Pacers via trade (since waived)), Juwan Morgan (Pacers via trade (since waived)), Aaron Nesmith (Pacers via trade), Nik Stauskas (Pacers via trade (since waived)), Daniel Theis (Pacers via trade), Matt Ryan (unrestricted free agent), Brodric Thomas (unrestricted free agent)
Remaining Acquisition Tools: Veteran Minimum Contracts, $6.9 million Traded Player Exception, $5.9 million Traded Player Exception
Analysis: The Celtics made only a couple of additions, but they were big ones that Boston hopes will help them get back to, and win, the NBA Finals. And with several roster spots still open, there is still some work left to do too.
Boston traded for Malcolm Brogdon in an attempt to clean up some of the ballhandling issues that infected the team during the playoffs. Brogdon’s ability to play on and off-ball, as well as his willingness to come off the bench, are also big for the team. And, Boston parted with no key rotation players to get Brogdon. Aaron Nesmith was stuck without enough time to develop on a contender, and Daniel Theis was only a semi-regular in the rotation.
In free agency, the Celtics signed Danilo Gallinari. The hope is that Gallinari, paired with Brogdon, will give Boston the bench scoring they lacked as they got deeper into the playoffs. An offseason meniscus injury has Gallinari’s availability somewhat in doubt, but the hope is he won’t miss much time.
Beyond that, the Eastern Conference champs are basically running it back. There are a slew of veterans reportedly joining Boston in a training camp battle for regular season roster spots. Someone out of the group of Bruno Caboclo, Noah Vonleh, Denzel Valentine and possibly Brodric Thomas and Matt Ryan, will emerge to snag a spot on the regular season roster.
Boston could use another big. Maybe they need another big wing if Gallinari is out for a while. But for now, that will all play itself out during camp and the early part of the regular season.
The Celtics still have some tradable assets available to them, if needed. They can match salary with relative ease in a deal for a high-salary player, or they can ship off a combination of young players in a deal with a rebuilding team. But, for now at least, Boston’s roster seems relatively set. They’ve added depth around their rotation mainstays and will start their title push with the group they’ve got.
Additions: Markieff Morris (free agency), Royce O’Neale (trade), Edmond Sumner (free agency), T.J. Warren (free agency), Alondes Williams (Two-Way)
Subtractions: LaMarcus Aldridge (unrestricted free agent), Bruce Brown Jr. (Nuggets via free agency), Goran Dragic (Bulls via free agency), Andre Drummond (Bulls via free agency), Blake Griffin (unrestricted free agent), David Duke Jr. (restricted free agent)
Remaining Acquisition Tools: $6.5 million Taxpayer MLE
Analysis: “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” is a line from Macbeth, but Shakespeare could have just as easily been writing about the Brooklyn Nets over the last year.
It’s not that the Nets did nothing, because Brooklyn made some solid pickups. But for the most part, after a lot of noise and speculation, the main news is that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are back in the fold and ready to go.
For months, Durant’s trade request, made in the moments just before free agency opened, lingered over the NBA. Some players and teams were paralyzed while waiting on a Durant deal to develop. A similar, but less impactful, process played out with Irving.
Now, both superstars are back in Brooklyn. For how long? That’s anyone’s guess.
With Durant and Irving, and a hopefully healthy Ben Simmons, the Nets have a solid nucleus for the upcoming season. There are availability questions, as all three have missed considerable time with injuries over the years, but it’s as a good a starting point as any team in the league.
Brooklyn re-signed Nic Claxton, Patty Mills and Kessler Edwards to start rounding out the rotation. Claxton has a clear runway to the starting center spot, while Mills should revert back to the high-end backup role he was always intended to play. The Nets will also welcome back Seth Curry and a healthy Joe Harris, which allows Steve Nash to put plenty of shooting around his All-Star trio.
Royce O’Neale was added to help upgrade the team’s wing defense. O’Neale slipped some while with the Jazz last year, but if he can find his form again, he’ll play plenty as one of the team’s better big wing defenders.
The Nets took a chance on a pair of former Pacers by signing T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner. Both are coming off seasons that were lost to injury, but have shown plenty in the past. Warren will give the team some frontcourt scoring punch off the bench, assuming he can stay healthy. Sumner could be a bigger option for a backcourt that is comprised of mostly smaller players.
Perhaps because of waiting out the Durant trade request, Brooklyn’s roster feels a little unfinished. They added Markieff Morris as a veteran frontcourt option, but the Nets could still use more depth up front. They don’t have anything resembling a proven backup center option, and that’s a hole given Claxton is a first-time starter.
If everything comes, and holds, together, the Nets are title contenders. But they’ve got to get past a summer of unhappiness, while incorporating a lot of new faces. And then they have to stay healthy. That’s a lot of “ifs”, but the collection of talent can’t be overlooked in Brooklyn.
Additions: Jalen Brunson (free agency), Isaiah Hartenstein (free agency), Trevor Keels (Two-Way)
Subtractions: Ryan Arcidiacono (unrestricted free agent), Alec Burks (Pistons via trade), Taj Gibson (Wizards via free agency), Nerlens Noel (Pistons via trade), Kemba Walker (Pistons via trade)
Remaining Acquisition Tools: $5.4 million Room Exception
Analysis: Roster changes weren’t numerous for the Knicks, but they were as impactful as any team in the NBA. New York rapidly moved on from previous free agent additions while upgrading at both point guard and center.
The offseason centered around adding Jalen Brunson. New York will probably get punished for tampering with the former Mavericks guard, but they’ll happily pay a second pick in exchange for Brunson leading the backcourt moving forward.
If Brunson looks like the player he was for a lot of last season but especially in the playoffs, no one will bat an eye at his $26 million average annual salary. Brunson is that good. And he fills a spot that’s been a long-term issue for the Knicks.
Up front, New York added Isaiah Hartenstein on one of the best value deals of the summer. Hartenstein is one of the better rim protectors in the league, and his offensive game has continued to develop. He’ll pair with a re-signed (if slightly overpaid) Mitchell Robinson to give the Knicks 48 minutes of quality center play.
To clear the space for Brunson and Hartenstein, New York salary-dumped the trio of Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kemba Walker into the Detroit Pistons cap space. Injury and age-related issues made it unlikely any of the three would be major contributors for the Knicks this season. Essentially, New York didn’t lose much of anything in moving on here to make two major upgrades.
The next big decision was to ink RJ Barrett to a reported four-year, $120 million extension. While many are screaming about $30 million per season for Barrett, that lacks context. With the salary cap going up, that’s going to be the going rate for an All-Star level of player. And that’s exactly what Barrett should become over the next couple of seasons.
And, of course, the Knicks are still trying to get a Donovan Mitchell trade done. Most around the NBA expect this to happen, but it will have to wait until both New York ups their offer a bit, while the Utah Jazz simultaneously bring down their asking price a bit.
Assuming a Mitchell deal happens, New York will be in the mix for a top-six spot and an assured playoff spot. Without Mitchell, the Knicks are part of a pretty big group that will be fighting to make it through the Play-In Tournament. That’s the difference adding Mitchell will make in taking this from a pretty good offseason to an excellent one.
Additions: Danuel House Jr. (free agency), De’Anthony Melton (trade), Trevelin Queen (free agency), P.J. Tucker (free agency), Julian Champagnie (Two-Way)
Subtractions: Danny Green (Grizzlies via trade), DeAndre Jordan (Nuggets via free agency), Paul Millsap (unrestricted free agent), Myles Powell (China via free agency)
Remaining Acquisition Tools: Veteran Minimum Contracts
Analysis: The Sixers are making a title run by shoring up their defense and depth in the front court and on the wing. And Daryl Morey turned to some familiar faces to do so.
P.J. Tucker was coaxed over from the Miami Heat with a three-year deal for the full Non-Taxpayer MLE. That deal could look a little sketchy in a year or two, but Tucker should hold his value for at least the next season. He’ll give Philadelphia a solid backup 4/5 or he could start at the 4 if Doc Rivers goes a little bigger to open games. Tucker has slipped just a bit against quicker perimeter players, but he can hold up against anyone else.
Danuel House was brought in to help defend the bigger wings that often gave the 76ers trouble. He got the Bi-Annual Exception, which is more than fair value for what House can do as a 3&D player. Trevelin Queen was also added as a bit of a flyer to do similar work to House. He flashed potential with the Houston Rockets while on a Two-Way last season, so Queen is someone to keep an eye on.
In the backcourt/wing mix, Philadelphia swapped Danny Green and a first-round pick to bring in De’Anthony Melton. Melton immediately becomes the team’s backup combo guard behind James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. He should be an upgrade over Shake Milton, who was previously tasked with that role.
All of these additions were made possible by James Harden opting out and taking significantly less in a new deal. That freed up the necessary cap and tax flexibility for Morey to add to the roster. Harden signed a two-year, $68.6 million contract, but everyone expects he’ll opt out and then sign a long-term deal for max money next summer.
None of the players Philadelphia lost will likely have much of an impact. The team didn’t replace DeAndre Jordan with another veteran center, and that’s one of the few holes the Sixers still have to fill. Given Joel Embiid’s injury history, you’d like to have a proven veteran behind him. That’s something Morey can address down the line, if necessary.
It remains to be seen if Harden’s sacrifice will be worth it or not, but this is the best roster Philadelphia has taken into a season in a while. Everyone is healthy and hungry to advance beyond the second round. If Harden is back near his MVP form, the 76ers are title contenders. If not, they’re capped as a good, but not great playoff team.
Additions: Juancho Hernangomez (free agency), Christian Koloko (2022 NBA Draft), Otto Porter Jr. (free agency), D.J. Wilson (free agency), Jeff Dowtin (Two-Way), Ron Harper Jr. (Two-Way)
Subtractions: Isaac Bonga (Germany via free agency), Armoni Brooks (waived), Svi Mykhailiuk (waived), Yuta Watanabe (Nets via free agency), David Johnson (restricted free agent)
Remaining Acquisition Tools: $2.99 million of Non-Taxpayer MLE, $4.1 million Bi-Annual Exception, $5.25 million Traded Player Exception
Analysis: Toronto had an eventful offseason, but is mostly running back the same squad as last year’s talented team. Team president Masai Ujiri waded into trade talks for a couple of superstars, but held firm on keeping players the Raptors have put a high value on.
Scottie Barnes was deemed off limits in trade talks after he won 2022 Rookie of the Year. That’s a reasonable, and likely prudent, decision. Barnes is already good and still overflowing with potential to be better. Toronto has put a less firm, but still solid, stake in the ground on not trading OG Anunoby either.
Barnes and Anunoby, alongside veterans Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr give the Raptors a tough, versatile starting group on both ends of the floor. Behind them, Ujiri has done a good job giving Nick Nurse options to play both big and small, depending on what matchups call for.
The Raptors signed Thaddeus Young to a two-year extension, but left the second season most non-guaranteed should Young age out faster than expected. The team also re-signed Chris Boucher for additional frontcourt depth. Boucher has been a little all over the map, but if he can find consistency with his shot, he’ll be well worth the three-year, $35 million deal he got.
The most important new face is Toronto adding Otto Porter Jr. to their never-ending collection of forwards. How Porter fits in a crowded group at the forward spot is something Nurse will have to work out, but he’s on an excellent value contract.
Ujiri may not have swung a deal for Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert, but that doesn’t mean he’s not working on something. The Raptors are set to trade from a position of strength, especially at the 3-5 spots. When it’s time to go all in for a star, Ujiri will be able put together a solid package, while still leaving Toronto with plenty of depth.
Until then, the Raptors are a really good team. They’re a tier below the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but it won’t take much to make the step up. If Barnes develops, or they make a big trade, Toronto will be in the mix to make a deep playoff run.