The free agency season is not over yet, of course, but almost all of the major players have signed, and most role players as well. There still might be a Russell Westbrook-type trade or two to go, but we have a good idea of what teams are going to look like going into training camp.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
Key Additions: SG Wesley Matthews, C Robin Lopez
Key Losses: SG Malcolm Brogdon
Draft Picks: None
Swap Matthews for Brogdon, and you have a very similar team to last year’s NBA regular season best. Giannis Antetokounmpo is obviously the top draw here, but retaining Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez were key. Both guys are great fits next to the MVP.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions: PF/C Al Hofrord, C Kyle O’Quinn, SG/SF Josh Richardson
Key Losses: SG/SF Jimmy Butler, SG JJ Redick, PG TJ McConnell
Draft Picks: SG Matisse Thybulle, SG Marial Shayok
The 76ers continue to distance themselves from The Process, and now feature one of the most veteran and unique starting fives in the NBA. They will be big, tall and stifling defensively, but who will shoot? Losing JJ Redick will hurt. Josh Richardson was a key part of the Jimmy Butler trade, he will need to space the floor for slashers like Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. The Horford deal could look bad in a couple of years, but props to the front office for going for it in a wide open Eastern Conference.
3. Toronto Raptors
Key Additions: SF Stanley Johnson
Key Losses: SF Kawhi Leonard, SG Danny Green
Draft Picks: PF Dewan Hernandez
Even though Kawhi Leonard was only around for one year, the trade was still a resounding success for Masai Ujiri and the Raptors. Toronto gets its first NBA Championship and has financial flexibility going forward. Plus, this team is still an Eastern Conference contender as far as I am concerned. They are veteran laden, and Pascal Siakam is on his way to stardom. Losing Leonard knocks them down several pegs, but this is still a 50+ win team.
4. Indiana Pacers
Key Additions: PG/SG Malcolm Brogdon, SF TJ Warren, SG Jeremy Lamb, PG TJ McConnell
Key Losses: PG Darren Collison, SG/SF Bojan Bogdanovic, PF Thaddeus Young, PG Cory Joseph, SG Wesley Matthews
Draft Picks: C Goga Bitadze
Indiana made a ton of changes, but it is hard not to like what they have done. Malcolm Brogdon was a huge addition who should shore up the point guard spot and will be a great fit next to Victor Oladipo. They got TJ Warren for nothing, and Jeremy Lamb was a shrewd pickup. He was Charlotte’s second best player last year. The Pacers were on a 50+ win pace before Oladipo went down, and could be a dark horse threat if he returns healthy.
5. Boston Celtics
Key Additions: PG Kemba Walker, C Enes Kanter
Key Losses: PG Kyrie Irving, PF/C Al Horford, SF/PF Marcus Morris, C Aron Baynes, PG Terry Roziers
Draft Picks: SG Romeo Langford, PF Grant Williams, PG Carsen Edwards, PG Tremont Waters
The Al Horford/Kyrie Irving duo was not able to deliver Boston to the promise land, and both players ended up signing with division rivals. Not all is lost in Boston, however. The team is not likely a threat, but they still have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who should be able to flourish next to Kemba Walker, a great teammate and even better person. Size and defense is a serious issue, however. You cannot get much worse defensively going from Horford to Enes Kanter.
6. Brooklyn Nets
Key Additions: PG Kyrie Irving, SF/PF Kevin Durant, C DeAndre Jordan, SF Taurean Prince
Key Losses: PG/SG D’Angelo Russell, SG Allen Krabbe, PF Jared Dudley, SF DeMarre Carroll
Draft Picks: PF/C Nicolas Claxton
Swapping out Russell for Irving is an upgrade now, but who knows how it will fare long term. Will Irving be happy? This team will be a real threat once Kevin Durant returns from injury, and if it’s in time for the playoffs this team will be as good as any in the East. You have to like the veterans sprinkled in without sacrificing too many youngsters. Too bad Durant is not healthy, but once he is, this will be a very interesting team to watch.
7. Miami Heat
Key Additions: SG/SF Jimmy Butler
Key Losses: C Hassan Whiteside
Draft Picks: SG Tyler Herro, SF KZ Okpala
Jimmy Butler gives the Heat it’s first real star since the Big Three days. He is pretty much a perfect fit for Eric Spoelstra and his system. Miami should reclaim what is, by far, the worst division in basketball. The Heat are still not a threat in the East, since the rest of the roster is practically composed of role players and has beens, but a .500+ record is near certainty.
8. Orlando Magic
Key Additions: PF Al-Farouq Aminu
Key Losses: None
Draft Picks: PF Chuma Okeke
The Magic are betting on continuity, as the only change made was the addition of defensive stalwart Al-Farouq Aminu. The team did bring back Nikola Vucevic, their first All Star in nearly a decade. The same problems will remain, however. Where does the offense come from? Mo Bamba looks like the odd man out, so they could perhaps move him for a legitimate starting point guard
9. Detroit Pistons
Key Additions: PG Derrick Rose, PF Markieff Morris, PG Tim Frazier, SG/SF Tony Snell
Key Losses: PG Ish Smith, SG Wayne Ellington
Draft Picks: SF/PF Sekou Doumbouya, PG Jordan Bone
Blake Griffin had perhaps his greatest season in 2018-2019, but the Pistons did little to make the team better around him. Derrick Rose should be a nice backup who could unseat Reggie Jackson, but the team is still very weak on the wings and up front behind Andre Drummond and Griffin, though Markieff Morris will help.
10. New York Knicks
Key Additions: PF/C Julius Randle, PG Elfrid Payton, PF/C Bobby Portis, PF/C Taj Gibson, SG Wayne Ellington, SG/SF Reggie Bullock
Key Losses: PG Emmanuel Mudiay, PF/C Luke Kornet, PF/C Noah Vonleh, C DeAndre Jordan
Draft Picks: SG/SF RJ Barrett, SF Ignas Brazdeikis
The Knicks are most likely not a playoff contender, but it is hard to say that any team in the East has improved as much. That is not saying much, however, because the New York roster was talent barren, and has gotten better by virtue of sheer volume. Julius Randle should thrive, and the other guys will be key rotation players. This will stunt the growth of guys like Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier and Frank Ntilikina, but the Knicks do not want to suffer through another absolutely miserable campaign just for the lottery balls to bounce another way.
11. Chicago Bulls
Key Additions: PG Tomas Satoransky, PF Thaddeus Young, PF/C Luke Kornet
Key Losses: C Robin Lopez
Draft Picks: PG/SG Coby White, C Daniel Gafford
Satoransky and Young were not exciting signings, but it does make the team better. Throw in a full off season of Otto Porter and the addition of rookie Coby White, and the Bulls are a deeper and more athletic team. Unfortunately, Jim Boylen returning puts a damper on things, but perhaps Chicago can push for what could be a wide open eighth seed out East.
12. Atlanta Hawks
Key Additions: SG/SF Evan Turner, SG Allen Crabbe, SF/PF Chandler Parsons
Key Losses: SF Taurean Prince, C Miles Plumlee
Draft Picks: SF De’Andre Hunter, SF Cam Reddish, C Bruno Fernando
The Hawks have been busy this off season, but that mostly involved shuffling around bad contracts and picking up some assets and financial flexibility. The main additions were draft picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish to go along with Trae Young and John Collins. Those four represent the future of Atlanta Hawks basketball, and the team could be better than expected in 2019-2020.
13. Washington Wizards
Key Additions: PG Isaiah Thomas, PF/C Moritz Wagner, PG Ish Smith, PG Isaac Bonga
Key Losses: C Dwight Howard, PF/C Bobby Portis, SG/SF Trevor Ariza
Draft Picks: PF Rui Hachimura, SF Admiral Schofield
It is clearly time to rebuild in Washington, but I like the fact that they are holding on to Bradley Beal (for now.) You have to give the fans some reason to go to the arena, and they will still be in contention for a top three pick, even with their fantastic All Star. Other than Beal, Washington took a flyer on Isaiah Thomas, who will have a better opportunity than he did in Denver. Dwight Howard was traded to make way for Thomas Bryant. It will be a tough year, but Beal should make the team watchable at least.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: None
Draft Picks: PG Darius Garland, SF Dylan Winder, SG Kevin Porter Jr.
The Cavaliers have sat the off season out, as they continue to figure out how to build the roster post-LeBron James. Perhaps they could move Kevin Love for additional young pieces, if anybody wants him, but for now they will go with a defensively challenged back court of Garland and Collin Sexton. It will be another very long year in Cleveland.
15. Charlotte Hornets
Key Additions: PG Terry Rozier
Key Losses: PG Kemba Walker, PF/C Frank Kaminsky, SG Jeremy Lamb
Draft Picks: SF/PF PJ Washington, SG/SF Coby Martin, SF/PF Jaden McDaniels
Ouch. The Hornets have monster money tied up in Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller. PJ Washington, Miles Bridges and Dwayne Bacon are decent youngsters to build around, but this team will be very bad on a very high payroll. The best bet is just to wait for the contracts to expire and flat out rebuild from there.