The NBA: Grading the Top Moves of the Summer

The additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets
have made them legitimate contenders for the upcoming season
(Photo from: NY Daily News)
The official start of the 2013-14 NBA season is still more than 3 months away but the roster moves of this summer have kept most of the NBA fans excited and interested. Some moves included a perennial playoff team from the East deciding to pursue rebuilding mode while another contender has risen from Texas. Meanwhile, the back-to-back champions have not done any major tweaks to their roster while the rest of the league scrambles to dethrone the Miami Heat.

Here are some of the top moves of the summer and their grades. The marks are based on potential and how effective the new (or retained) players will be with their respective teams.

Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have officially entered the "championship or bust" category with the major additions of Garnett and Pierce. Their Russian owner was willing to pay a luxury tax of more than $80 million this year to have a chance to beat the Heat. Their starting 5 is ridiculous with Brook Lopez, Deron, KG, PP and Joe Johnson. The Nets upgraded their bench with the signing of Andrei Kirilenko and the acquisitions of Jason Terry and Shaun Livingston. They are at least 10-deep with Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans added to the mix. Kevin Garnett and AK-47 will elevate their team defense immensely. The onus is on rookie head coach, Jason Kidd to make everything work without having any past coaching experience.  
Grade: A+

Houston Rockets
Superman left Hollywood while the Rocketman arrived in Houston. The Rockets snagged Dwight Howard who was the biggest fish in free agency while they maintained most of their core players. Dwight will be paired with budding superstar James Harden to produce a young duo that can rival Westbrook-Durant and James-Wade. The Rockets will have that inside-outside threat with Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley who are able shooters. Theoretically, the threat of a three-pointer could give Howard more space to work in the post or if he gets double teamed, the shooters will have uncontested threes. Coach Kevin McHale could also tutor Dwight into becoming an improved post player while the Rockets are working on making Hakeem Olajuwon a full-time team official to solely work with Howard.
Grade: A+

Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are undoubtedly the best team in Los Angeles and quite possibly in the state of California. Their best free agent signing was Chris Paul who decided to stay with them. CP3 was so sure of staying with the Clips that he did not even bother entertaining other teams during his brief free agent status. Another key signing does not involve players. Coach Doc Rivers left Boston to try and make the Clippers contenders in the West. The Clippers added more firepower to their bench by adding perimeter threats (Jared Dudley, JJ Redick) while Darren Collison is a sufficient backup PG who is more consistent than Eric Bledsoe. Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes will both be back which gives the Clippers a deep rotation littered with wing players. One thing they were not able to address was their lack of a dependable big after Blake Griffin.
Grade: A

Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have struggled mightily in the last 3 years without LeBron James. They finished closed to the bottom during those years and got rewarded with multiple lottery draft picks (Irving, Thompson, Waiters, Zeller, Bennett). This upcoming season projects to be a different one. The Cavs might make the playoffs after they added Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and the injured Andrew Bynum to their roster. The Cavs will make the playoffs if their key players stay healthy. Kyrie Irving has missed big chunks of the past seasons with injuries while Anderson Varejao only played 25 games last year with 14 and 14 numbers. Their prized rookie Anthony Bennett is recovering from an injury as well. They even hired Mike Brown to coach the team again and maybe entice LBJ to sign with them after next season.
Grade: A

Golden State Warriors
The Warriors had a successful playoff run last season led by their hot shooting back court of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson while Harrison Barnes made strides in his development. The Dubs will enter this season without two of their top performers off the bench: Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Those 2 spots were replaced by Andre Iguodala and Marresse Speights. Iggy is definitely a big upgrade over Jack. Iguodala can guard 3 spots easily on defense while offensively, his perimeter shot is much improved. Iggy can also play some minutes as PG if needed. The Warriors are also hoping that their other three lesser-known sophomores (Bazemore, Green & Ezeli) are able to play solid minutes off the bench and contribute while their top pick from last year, Barnes continues to improve as a starter.   Grade: A-

Portland Trailblazers
The Blazers were in playoff contention during the first half of last season even with a very shallow bench. They were only 6-deep and on most nights, the starters played major minutes including Damian Lillard who led them in minutes and played all 82 games as a rookie. Injuries to Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge exposed their glaring weakness on the bench. So, the Blazers certainly addressed that problem by adding veterans: Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright and Earl Watson even if they lost JJ Hickson to the Nuggets. The Blazers also added more youth with the acquisition of Thomas Robinson and lottery pick CJ McCollum.
Grade: B+

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