Ranking the NBA’s best offseason moves by team: From Spurs to Heat, Nos. 30-21

We wait.

Until the future addresses of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Russell Westbrook and a half-dozen other guys on the next talent tier are known for sure, my annual exercise in ranking the 30 NBA teams’ offseasons will remain open-ended, subject to frantic rewriting if the other shoes start to drop. (I’m taking the second half of August off, so they had better hurry.)

Rarely in recent history has there been so much uncertainty about the future of so many high-impact guys this late in an offseason. And, obviously, resolving Durant’s status will seismically impact the league — including if he stays in Brooklyn. (If he stays, presumably, Irving would as well, but there’s no guaranteeing the Nets will see it the same way, of course.)

And we’re not even talking about players who are, ostensibly, “settled” where they now are — like, say, Deandre Ayton in Phoenix. Yes, the Suns matched his offer sheet from Indiana. No, I do not think everything is now kumbaya between the big man and his franchise. It won’t matter this year, as Ayton has veto power over any potential trade, but the long-term prospects between the 24-year-old center and Phoenix are not encouraging. The same applies to Indiana’s Myles Turner, who the Pacers were trying to replace with Ayton.

Journalism being but the first draft of history, though, I have to make the best call I can with the information I have. As ever, what follows is a ranking of each team’s offseason. Not its future — or, for that matter, what happened last season. This compilation addresses a very specific time frame: between when a team’s season ended and when you’re reading this. The Golden State Warriors’ season ended in June, with a championship; the Orlando Magic’s in April, with a 60-loss season. Very different offseason priorities for each.

I’m evaluating how much a team improved, either via trades, free agency, the draft or in some other way. Did it hire a new coach, or general manager, or move into a new (or renovated) revenue-generating building? Is a key player returning from injury? And is it better now, after those moves, than it was at the end of last season? That’s the only question I’m addressing here.

But, of course, because some of y’all just want to be willfully obtuse, caveats follow.

What to know about these rankings

As this just covers the offseason, here’s what these rankings are not:

• A predicted order of finish for next season.

These are not “power rankings” as you have come to understand them. For example, I am not saying the Sacramento Kings are now better than the Warriors, just because I thought Sacramento had a more impactful offseason. The Kings aren’t as good as the Dubs, so they had a lot more work to do to improve their roster. (This graph is for the “Tim F.s” of the world or similar — who, invariably, leave a version of the following in the comments every year, after reading the rankings and completely ignoring the context of the exercise: “Kings better than the Warriors, lol.”)

Accordingly, as I say every year:

• 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.

There’s just one 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, for example, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. That doesn’t mean I’m right.)


• This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess. Giannis Antetokounmpo or Nikola Jokić would fit in anywhere, but most additions have to make sense for their new teams. Sometimes, in my view, they don’t.

• Rebuilding teams have different priorities than teams making a championship run; teams that fixed obvious roster weaknesses get credit, while teams that ignored or didn’t address clear deficiencies probably get dinged a little.

• A rebuilding team with a lot of cap space can make a lot of moves, but do they work together? And a contending team that continues to go deep into the luxury/repeater tax — which most teams try to avoid — should be commended, and is so here.

• Injuries matter. The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t as good without Khris Middleton. Not Milwaukee’s or Middleton’s, fault, but … injuries happen. Conversely, getting a key player back after he missed time last season is a boost: see Denver, which should get Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back on the court next season.

• Continuity matters too. The more successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players but also keep them together. It also may make more sense for other teams to keep their powder dry for another day.

So, here we go.

Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Spotrac, which stays on top of this stuff as well as anyone east of Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report/Basketball Insiders/NBA TV. Draft pick details from both Spotrac and Real GM.

  • Nos. 30-21: (Tuesday)
  • Nos. 20-11: (Wednesday)
  • Nos. 10-1: (Thursday)

30. San Antonio Spurs

2021-22 record: 34-48; lost in Play-In round

Added: F/C Gorgui Dieng (one year); F Isaiah Roby (waiver claim); F Jeremy Sochan (first round, ninth pick overall); G Malaki Branham (first round, 20th pick overall); G Blake Wesley (first round, 25th pick overall); G Dominick Barlow (two-way); 2023 first-round pick (acquired from Atlanta via Charlotte and New York); 2025 first-round pick (acquired from Atlanta); 2027 first-round pick (acquired from Atlanta); 2026 first-round pick (pick swap with Atlanta); 2024 second-round pick (acquired from Memphis)

Lost: G Dejounte Murray (traded to Atlanta); F Danilo Gallinari (waived after acquisition from Atlanta; signed with Boston); F Lonnie Walker IV (signed with Lakers); C Jock Landale (traded to Atlanta); G Kennedy Chandler (draft rights traded to Memphis)

Retained: None

Extended: G Keldon Johnson (four years, $74M)

Returning from Injury: Sochan (COVID-19)

The Skinny: The Spurs are two for two when they’ve had a high lottery position — they got the first pick of the 1987 NBA Draft and took David Robinson, then got the first pick in ’97 and took Tim Duncan. Their hope for a quick rebuild would involve a third bolt of lightning to strike next year when 7-foot-3 teenage big man Victor Wembanyama is almost certain to go No. 1, and they’re likely to be a bottom-four team. Otherwise, it may take a good long while for San Antonio to build back better.

Don’t get me wrong. I see the logic in moving Murray; even though he’s just 25 and an All-Star, his presence wasn’t going to lift San Antonio much higher in the West, and the chance that one of those four Hawks’ future firsts nets a real talent down the road is worth the risk. And I loved the Spurs’ draft this year, starting with Sochan. Branham and Wesley each had terrific college seasons last year and have real potential, too. But young talent takes a while to win in the NBA, and the Spurs are, now, very young, with 10 of their top dozen projected rotation guys 26 or younger. They’re not better, hence the ranking. But I understand the future play — and especially if it winds up with another transformational big man in their shop a year from now.

29. Indiana Pacers

2021-22 record: 25-57; did not make playoffs

Added: C Daniel Theis (acquired from Boston); F Aaron Nesmith (acquired from Boston); G Bennedict Mathurin (first round, sixth pick overall); G Andrew Nembhard (second round, 31st pick overall); F Kendall Brown (draft rights acquired from Minnesota); 2023 first-round pick (acquired from Boston)

Lost: G Malcolm Brogdon (traded to Boston); F T.J. Warren (signed with Brooklyn); G Ricky Rubio (signed with Cleveland); G Nik Stauskas (waived); G Duane Washington, Jr. (waived); F Malik Fitts (waived); F Juwan Morgan (waived); G Hugo Besson (draft rights traded to Milwaukee); 2026 second-round pick (traded to Minnesota)

Retained: F Jalen Smith (three years, $15.1M); F Oshae Brissett (team option, $1.84M)

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: C Goga Bitadze (foot)

The Skinny: The Pacers are all-in on a rebuild, so the roster could look even more different in a few weeks. After dealing Brogdon to Boston, they went for Phoenix’s Ayton. But Phoenix matched Indy’s offer sheet, leaving things dicier than ever with long-rumored trade candidate Turner. They’ve also been in the Russell Westbrook rumor mill, with Turner and/or Buddy Hield as potential bait. But that would be an odd call (on the floor, at least; presumably, clearing 2022-23 cap space by taking on the last year of Westbrook’s deal would have some value, and make Indy a more attractive potential trade partner with other teams). The Pacers appear to have their backcourt of the future set with Tyrese Haliburton and Mathurin, who could be special at the two.

Either way, Indy doesn’t project to be a contender in the East next season. If the Pacers move Turner, I’m not sure what the move is long-term in the middle. Theis has done solid work during two stints in Boston. But he’s 30. The Pacers’ future is not likely to include him in a starring role.

28. Charlotte Hornets

2021-22 record: 43-39; lost in Play-In round

Added: C Mark Williams (first round, 15th pick overall); G Bryce McGowens (draft rights acquired from Minnesota); 2023 first-round pick (via New York), 2023 second-round pick (New York), 2023 second-round pick (Utah), 2024 second-round pick (New York); hired coach Steve Clifford

Lost: C Jalen Duren (draft rights traded to New York); F Josh Minott (draft rights traded to Minnesota); fired coach James Borrego

Retained: F Cody Martin (four years, $31.3M); F Jalen McDaniels (team option, $1.93M)

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: F Gordon Hayward (foot)

The Skinny: The Hornets are ranked low here because they’re likely to have a major hole to fill in their promising young lineup – with forward Miles Bridges, the team’s leading scorer last season, facing three felony domestic violence charges. Bridges has been charged with one count of injuring a child’s parent and two felony counts of child abuse under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death, stemming from an alleged brutal assault of Bridges’ partner, Mychelle Johnson, the mother of his two children, in June. The NBA’s policy on domestic violence says that Commissioner Adam Silver can put a player under DV investigation on administrative leave with pay, but that action has to meet certain criteria, including the severity of the allegations against the player, any history the player may have of prior conduct, and, according to Collective Bargaining Agreement expert Larry Coon, “the risk of reputational damage to the NBA or to the player’s team.”

Charlotte has not yet withdrawn its qualifying offer to Bridges for this season but would have no say in the matter if he’s suspended or otherwise disciplined by the league for a significant stretch of time. Until there’s clarity on Bridges’ status, it’s hard to give the Hornets a good offseason grade. Charlotte’s remaining core group of LaMelo Ball, P.J. Washington and Terry Rozier is still ascending, but if the league disciplines Bridges severely, or he’s incarcerated, the Hornets can’t replace him easily, or well.

27. Utah Jazz

2021-22 record: 49-33; lost in first round

Added: G Patrick Beverley (acquired from Minnesota); G Malik Beasley (acquired from Minnesota); G Leandro Bolmaro (acquired from Minnesota); F Jarrod Vanderbilt (acquired from Minnesota); C Walker Kessler (draft rights acquired from Minnesota); F Simone Fontecchio (two years, $6.5M); 2023 first-round picks (acquired from Minnesota and Brooklyn); 2025, 2027, 2029 first-round picks (acquired from Minnesota); 2026 pick swap from Minnesota; G Johnny Juzang (two-way); hired coach Will Hardy

Lost: C Rudy Gobert (traded to Minnesota); F Royce O’Neale (traded to Brooklyn); F Juancho Hernangomez (waived); coach Quin Snyder resigned

Retained: None

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: C Udoka Azubuike (ankle/foot surgeries)

The Skinny: Danny Ainge is not sentimental. It took him about five minutes after taking the Jazz’s top decision-making job to show three-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert out the door, for five players and control over multiple first-round picks. Gobert could soon be followed by Donovan Mitchell, whether it’s to the New York Knicks or elsewhere. It will leave Utah facing a massive restart — but also in a position to, as Ainge did in Boston, rebuild with high lottery picks going forward. Utah now controls 13 (!!!) first-round picks between 2023 and 2029, and if the Jazz do make a deal with the Knicks for Mitchell, they’ll likely add three or more firsts to that kitty. The immediate impact, though, won’t be pretty, and this exercise grades whether a team is better now than it was at season’s end. Plainly, Utah is not.

As with Brad Stevens, whom Ainge hired as the Celtics’ head coach in 2013, Hardy will have plenty of runway to put his system in place. If Mitchell remains this season, the Jazz could still be competitive, even if they’re no longer a real championship threat. But the real action in SLC the next couple of years will be off the floor, as Ainge and Utah’s front office continues jackhammering the team’s previous foundation.

26. Los Angeles Lakers

2021-22 record: 33-49; did not make playoffs

Added: F Troy Brown, Jr. (one year, $1.97M); C Damian Jones (two years, $4.88M); G Lonnie Walker IV (one year, $6.4M); C Thomas Bryant (one year, $2.1M); F Juan Toscano-Anderson (one year, $1.9M); G Max Christie (second round, 35th pick overall); G/F Scotty Pippen, Jr. (two-way); F Cole Swider (two-way); hired coach Darvin Ham

Lost: G Malik Monk (signed with Sacramento); fired coach Frank Vogel

Retained: G Russell Westbrook (player option, $47.1M); F Kendrick Nunn (player option, $5.25M); F Stanley Johnson (team option, $2.35M); F Wenyen Gabriel (team option, $1.88M)

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: F Anthony Davis (mid-foot sprain)

The Skinny: Ham is highly regarded and respected after doing great work as an assistant in Atlanta and Milwaukee for Mike Budenholzer. He has the gravitas of a former player, the temperament and work ethic of a non-star — and the toughness that comes after you, literally, get shot in the face and survive. But L.A. still has to resolve the Westbrook situation, which seems untenable, despite Ham’s public statements that he wants to make a go of it with the nine-time All-Star.

Also, while the Lakers did get much younger this offseason, almost none of the players they’ve brought in, other than Bryant, project to be plus shooters at their positions. After last season’s fiasco of a floor-spacing team, you’d think the Lakers would have been all-in on adding perimeter firepower around LeBron James and AD. Instead, they saw their one consistent shooter from last season, Monk, walk to the Kings. If you squint, with Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker returning, and Walker and Brown and JTA arriving, and Ham putting in the Bucks’ drop coverages for the bigs, maybe they could become a longer, switchy disruptive team on the perimeter, with Davis and Bryant in the back. But you need really good bifocals to see that clearly.

25. Dallas Mavericks

2021-22 record: 52-30; lost in Western Conference finals

Added: PF/C Christian Wood (acquired from Houston); C JaVale McGee (three years, $17.2M); G Jalen Hardy (draft rights acquired from Sacramento)

Lost: G Jalen Brunson (signed with New York); C Boban Marjanović (traded to Houston); G Sterling Brown (traded to Houston); F Marquise Chriss (traded to Houston); G Trey Burke (traded to Houston); F Wendell Moore, Jr. (draft rights traded to Houston)

Retained: G Theo Pinson (one year, $1.9M)

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: G Tim Hardaway, Jr. (foot surgery, fifth metatarsal)

The Skinny: No denying that losing Brunson for nothing hurts. But at least the Mavs had solid insurance in Spencer Dinwiddie, acquired at the deadline last February from Washington, and who showed he could play well off of Luka Dončić. That bit of prep work should allow the Mavs to more or less keep the party going next season, with Wood and McGee now bolstering Dwight Powell up front – though Wood didn’t produce as expected in Houston. They’ll need Reggie Bullock and Hardaway to bounce back from major regression behind the arc (Bullock shot 36 percent last season on 3s, after making 41 percent in New York in 2020-21; Hardaway shot .336 from deep last season, .391 the season before). If Jason Kidd’s emphasis on defense continues to stick, Dallas should be in the top-four mix again next season.

24. Milwaukee Bucks

2021-22 record: 51-31; lost in second round

Added: F Joe Ingles (one year, $6.48M); G MarJon Beauchamp (first round, 24th pick overall); G Hugo Besson (draft rights acquired from Indiana); G A.J. Green (two-way)

Lost: Assistant coach Darvin Ham (hired as Lakers head coach)

Retained: F Bobby Portis (four years, $48.5M); C Serge Ibaka (one year, $2.9M); G Wesley Matthews (one year, $2.9M); G Jevon Carter (two years, $4.3M); F Thanasis Antetokounmpo (player option, $1.8M); G Rayjon Tucker (Exhibit 10); G Luca Vildoza (Exhibit 10); G Lindell Wigginton (Exhibit 10)

Extended: G Pat Connaughton (three years, $28.2M)

Returning from Injury: F/G Khris Middleton (wrist surgery); Ingles (ACL tear)

The Skinny: It’s all about April, 2023 for the Bucks, who signed Ingles from Portland knowing he won’t return from the surgery he underwent in February to repair his knee until well into next season. And there’s no guarantee Middleton, who missed the second-round loss to Boston, will be there at the beginning of camp. Doesn’t matter. Having those two on the postseason roster will probably be better than any deadline trade Milwaukee could make. Ingles intrigues with his obvious floor-spacing ability. And even though he got hunted by Western Conference playoff opponents the last couple of postseasons, the Bucks have potential help with Antetokounmpo and Middleton that Utah couldn’t provide Ingles, even with Gobert in the back. While they wait on Ingles, the Bucks have plenty to get them through the regular season, including (hopefully) a full campaign from center Brook Lopez – who only played in 13 games last season while rehabbing a back injury. Will be interesting to see how Budenholzer handles the departure of Ham, one of the league’s top assistants for the past several years.

23. Brooklyn Nets

2021-22 record: 44-38; lost in first round

Added: F Royce O’Neale (acquired from Utah); F T.J. Warren (one year, $2.6M); G Edmond Sumner (two years, $4.2M); G Alondes Williams (two-way)

Lost: F Bruce Brown (signed with Denver); C Andre Drummond (signed with Chicago); G Goran Dragić (signed with Chicago); F James Johnson (waived); 2023 first-round pick (traded to Utah)

Retained: G Kyrie Irving (player option; $36.5M); G Patty Mills (two years, $13.2M); F Kessler Edwards (two years, $3.5M)

Extended: C Nic Claxton (two years, $17.2M)

Returning from Injury: G Ben Simmons (back surgery); F Joe Harris (ankle surgery); G Seth Curry (left ankle arthroscopic surgery)

The Skinny: If “incomplete” came in human form, it would be Brooklyn. There’s no way to properly assess the Nets’ offseason until the Durant and Irving situations are resolved, one way or another. If the Nets just run it back, even with an unhappy KD … there could be a much-improved group around him. Emphasis, given the team we’re talking about, on “could.” Warren missed all of last season rehabbing the stress fracture in his left foot and has only played in four games since his star turn for Indiana in the Bubble in 2020. Similarly, Simmons and Harris missed last season rehabbing surgeries; Curry is spending his summer rehabbing now. So, Brooklyn could have great complimentary pieces and a much more compelling rotation next season – if KD and/or Irving aren’t traded. That is a whole mess of uncertainty, so I can’t give Brooklyn a high grade despite its additions and impending player returns.

22. Golden State Warriors

2021-22 record: 53-29; won NBA championship

Added: G Donte DiVincenzo (two years, $9M); F JaMychal Green; F Patrick Baldwin, Jr. (first round, 28th pick overall); G Ryan Rollins (draft rights acquired from Atlanta); F Gui Santos (second round, 55th pick overall); G Lester Quinones (two-way); assistant coach Mike Brown (took Kings head coach job)

Lost: G Gary Payton II (signed with Portland); F Otto Porter Jr. (signed with Toronto); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Fenerbahce, Turkey); F Juan Toscano-Anderson (signed with Lakers); G Damion Lee (signed with Phoenix); F Tyrese Martin (draft rights traded to Atlanta)

Retained: C Kevon Looney (three years, $22.5M); G Quinndary Weatherspoon (two-way)

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: None

The Skinny: A bit of brain drain for the defending champions, especially in losing Payton, who’d become the team’s Harasser-in-Chief on the perimeter and had begun to earn his keep at the other end (career-high 120 attempts from 3 last season, at nearly 36 percent). DiVincenzo could be a decent replacement for GPII – he’s probably a little better offensively, not quite as good on D. But the Dubs also got quality minutes at different points of the regular season and playoffs from Porter and Bjelica, and still need to replace them. (Stephen Curry and GM Bob Myers both seemed to throw cold water on a potential KD reunion in late July.) It could be that Golden State thinks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody (and, maybe, James Wiseman) are ready to step in and take bigger minutes next season. But there are limits, even for the Dubs, in how much they’re willing to pay in luxury tax. It’s a net negative for now until we see if the kids are ready for more run next year.

21. Miami Heat

2021-22 record: 53-29; lost in Eastern Conference finals

Added: F Nikola Jović (first round, 27th pick overall); G Marcus Garrett (two-way); F Darius Days (two-way); G Jamaree Bouyea (Exhibit 10); F Jamal Cain (Exhibit 10)

Lost: F P.J. Tucker (signed with Philadelphia); G Mychal Mulder (waived); G Javonte Smart (waived)

Retained: C Dewayne Dedmon (two years, $9M); G Victor Oladipo (two years, $18.2M); F Caleb Martin (three years, $20.4M); F/C Udonis Haslem

Extended: None

Returning from Injury: None

The Skinny: Always on the prowl, the Heat have been linked to a pursuit of Donovan Mitchell. But no matter the resolution on that front, they have to replace Tucker, a key cog last season, who went to help Daryl Morey form Houston North in Philly. Replacing Tucker’s defense and rebounding (5.5 boards a game last season) won’t be easy. I’m not sure who starts at the four next season right now for Miami. A full season from Oladipo, who missed almost all of the regular season rehabbing the right quad tendon injury that took more than a year following surgery to respond, would help the Heat, regardless of how they wind up staffing the frontcourt.

(Top Photo: Art by Wes McCabe / The Athletic; Russell Westbrook by Glenn James / Getty Images; Dejounte Murray by Michael Gonzales / Getty Images; Kevin Durant by J. Conrad Williams Jr. / Getty Images)


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