Winners and Losers of the NBA Offseason
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers
After a disappointing first-round exit to the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers made major changes this offseason. With LeBron James now 36-years-old, the Lakers made it clear that they're going all-in to win another championship. The move that headlined the offseason was when the Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the #22 pick in the draft. Westbrook was the 2016/17 NBA MVP and he holds the record for most triple-doubles of all time. He isn't slowing down either as he averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists this past season with the Washington Wizards.
Besides adding Westbrook, the Lakers also signed many key role players from free agency including Carmelo Anthony, Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, Rajon Rondo, and DeAndre Jordan. While they lost many players from last year's team, the Lakers were able to re-sign Talen Horton-Tucker, a 20-year-old who has a bright future ahead of him. As long as the LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook stay healthy, the Lakers will be clear favorites in the West.
Loser: Dallas Mavericks
Many expected the Dallas Mavericks to make some splashes this offseason to better surround Luka Doncic. Doncic has already emerged as one of the best players in the NBA, and he is certainly capable of leading a championship team. However, the Mavericks lack a second star that is necessary to seriously contend with teams such as the Lakers. While the Mavericks seem to believe that Porzingis is the answer, the past two seasons indicate that he's not the star they expected him to be. Goran Dragic is a player who could be a potential target for the Mavericks, but nothing has transpired thus far.
From a roster standpoint, Mavericks had another quiet offseason filled with lateral moves as they re-signed Tim Hardaway Jr. and acquired Reggie Bullock, Sterling Brown, and Moses Brown. As for the staff, the Mavericks made some big changes by hiring Jason Kidd to be their head coach and Nico Harrison as the general manager. As long as they have Luka, the Mavericks will likely be a playoff team, but this was a disappointing offseason for a team looking to contend for a championship. Their best move of the offseason was re-signing Luka Doncic to a five-year, $207 million mega-extension.
Winner: Miami Heat
Similar to the L.A. Lakers, the Miami Heat had a disappointing 2020/21 season as they were swept in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks. The defending Eastern Conference Champs clearly lacked the offensive punch needed to compete with the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.
The Heat made several important moves this offseason to get themselves back into championship contention. Their biggest move was adding 6-time all-star Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa to the Toronto Raptors. In addition, the Heat added two key role players in PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris. Lowry, Tucker, and Morris are all physical players who fit perfectly into the "Miami Culture" that is centered around hard-work and tough defense. Furthermore, the Heat re-signed Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson to long-term extensions, and they brought back two-time all-star Victor Oladipo on a minimum contract. Oladipo is still recovering from injury, but he should play a crucial role for the Heat later in the season.
The Heat are poised to make another championship run this season, and they will be serious threats to knock off Brooklyn or Milwaukee.
Loser: Portland Trail-Blazers
Entering the offseason, Damian Lillard was reportedly upset with the Trail Blazers organization and was on the verge of requesting a trade. His main frustration was that the roster around him was never enough to be a serious championship contender. Based on these complaints, one would expect the Trail Blazers to try making some major moves to better surround Lillard. However, they really didn't do much.
The Blazers re-signed Norman Powell, who had a great year last season, and they traded for Larry Nance Jr. In addition, they acquired some role players via free agency and the draft such as rookie Greg Brown III, Cody Zeller, Ben McLemore, and undrafted rookie Trendon Watford. These players should help fill holes left by guys Portland lost in the offseason, including Carmelo Anthony, Zach Collins, Derrick Jones Jr. and Enes Kanter. While the Trail Blazers are still a playoff caliber team, they are unfortunately still not a threat to contend for a title, and they could be forced to part with their superstar point guard if things don't go well.
Winner: The NBA
When Kevin Durant joined the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, most NBA fans knew that they would win the championship, barring injury. Now, NBA fans should be extremely excited about the future of the league.
The title race appears to be wide open as there are multiple elite teams who could make a serious push. Brooklyn has the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving and they'll hopefully stay healthy this year. The Lakers have their newly formed trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook who will be extremely fun to watch. The defending champion Bucks still have their trio of Giannis Antetokoumpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. The Suns brought back Chris Paul and are in position to "run-it-back" and make another title run. Klay Thompson will be back and the Splash Brothers will undoubtedly make the Warriors a major threat out West. The Heat added Kyle Lowry to an already great team. The Jazz, 76ers, Nuggets, and Hawks are also promising teams that have a chance to contend for the championship. NBA fans should be ecstatic about the direction the league is headed.
Loser: Dennis Schroder and Victor Oladipo
There isn't much to say here. Schroder declined a four-year, $84 million extension offer from the Lakers only to have to sign a one-year, $5.9 million deal with the Celtics. Similarly, Oladipo declined a long-term extension from the Pacers worth about $25 million annually, then declined a two-year, $45.2 million extension from the Rockets, only to sign a one-year minimum contract with the Miami Heat. Hopefully Schroder and Oladipo can prove their worth over the next season and get paid next year.