The 6 biggest winners of the 2019 NBA offseason


Star Tribune/TNS

Kawhi Leonard, left, and Paul George are joining forces next season with the Los Angeles Clippers.

By Michael Elesinmogun, For The Pitt News

The 2019 NBA offseason will go down as one of the biggest offseasons in league history. With big name players like Kevin Durant leaving Golden State, effectively ending the Warriors’ “superteam,” and defensive legend Kawhi Leonard moving to Los Angeles, the league has been reset. Now that most of the major free agency moves have wrapped up, it’s time to name our top six winners of the NBA offseason.

Los Angeles Clippers

Offseason grade: A+

2019-20 expectations: 1-2 seed in the West

Anyone would be excited to land Leonard, the biggest free agent of the offseason, but when you add in MVP finalist candidate Paul George, the Clippers were able to change the trajectory of their franchise in a week. In addition to two of the top 10 players in the league, the Clippers resigned Patrick Beverley, Ivan Zubac and JaMychal Green, all major contributors from last year. The team has found itself a cofavorite in Vegas to win the NBA championship. To make this happen, the Clippers had to trade a record number of picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with talented players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. It’s a haul that many Clippers fans won’t be worried about if Leonard and George lead the team to their first NBA Final appearance.

Brooklyn Nets

Offseason grade: A

2019-20 expectations: 3-4 seed in the East

After landing Kyrie Iriving and Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets have come a long way from being the laughingstock of the league a couple of years back. The Nets had a great offseason  after overachieving last year with all-star D’Angelo Russell and a good, young, solid core. The Nets upgraded further by adding Durant, who before his devastating Achilles injury was arguably the best player in the game, and Kyrie Irving, an NBA champion who knows what it takes to win. The Nets won’t be NBA Championship favorites next season because Durant is presumed to be out for the year, but once he comes back their chances will improve markedly. The Nets were also able to add role players in DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince and Garret Temple to round out a very deep roster. Once everyone on the team is healthy, it’ll be the best in the East.

Los Angeles Lakers

Offseason grade: A-

2019-20 expectations: 1-2 seed in the West

Last year, the Lakers were the most disappointing team in the NBA by far. Despite possessing a young core paired with the legendary Lebron James, they weren’t able to make it to the playoffs. Injuries played a major role in their failure to advance, but the Lakers still knew that a change was necessary this year. The team completely overhauled the roster, giving up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and many draft picks for Anthony Davis. But the Lakers signed a host of new players to replace the ones they traded away, including Danny Green, Demarcus Cousins, Avery Bradley and Quinn Cook, all experienced veterans — who James prefers to play with compared to the young guys from last year. Now the Lakers have quality role-players along with two superstars. Sounds familiar? Like the Clippers, the Lakers have put themselves firmly in the conversation for an NBA championship next year.

Philadelphia Sixers

Offseason grade: B+

2019-20 expectations: 1-2 seed in the East

The Sixers were four bounces away from potentially being in the Eastern Conference finals last year. The team didn’t make many big changes this offseason but it was able to retool to keep itself in the conversation for best team in the East. First, the Sixers resigned Tobias Harris who was a quality third option on offense and a good defender. They were able to get Josh Richardson, a shooting guard from the Miami Heat, in a trade for Jimmy Butler, who didn’t want to stay with the Sixers after they offered him a max contract of five years. The Sixers were also able to sign all-star center Al Horford, who helps on both ends of the floor and can also play with Joel Embiid as a Power Forward for the Sixers. The Sixers, with their modified roster, will still be very high in the Eastern Conference next year.

Utah Jazz

Offseason grade: B

2019-20 expectations: 3-4 seed in the West

The Utah Jazz, the silent winner of the offseason, made some subtle moves to take its team to the next level. The Jazz traded for talented point guard Mike Conley, an immediate upgrade from Ricky Rubio. It also was able to sign Bojan Bogdanovic, a sharpshooter formerly of the Pacers, who will help immediately with scoring. The Jazz was ranked one of the top defensive teams in the NBA last year, led by the two-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the year Rudy Gobert and strong perimeter defender Donovan Mitchell. But offense struggled greatly, as Mitchell was the only player who could create his own shot consistently, as could be seen in the playoffs. With these new additions, the Jazz now has another ball handler as well as a consistent knock down three-point shooter in Bojan, who shot 42.5% from three last year. Now that the offense has had a makeover and the defense remains top-tier, the Jazz will be a force in the West next year.

Atlanta Hawks

Offseason grade: B-

2019-20 expectations: 6-8 seed in the east

The Hawks probably won’t come up often when fans discuss winners of the offseason, but two years ago it seemed like the Atlanta Hawks were in no man’s land. They didn’t have a star or a face of the franchise, and their record was comically atrocious — the worst in the Eastern Conference. But since then, the Hawks have managed to build a solid team. After drafting Trae Young last year, the Hawks have added to the core by drafting De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. They also made trades this offseason for Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Chandler Parsons. Because many of the players on this team are still unproven, the Hawks haven’t earned an A for this offseason, but they’ve shown that the team is starting to become complete.

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