With most of the NBA summer already in the books, SI.com recently graded each team's off-season performance and examined their best and worst moves. And while the reports were thorough, as you can see by clicking the links below, not every topic could receive the amount of attention it demanded.
We placed a bow on the entire process by focusing in on teams and players involved in the most intriguing moves from each division. Here, you will find an extended look at the Warriors' Kevin Durant, Celtics' Al Horford and more.
Atlantic: The Celtics landing a star big man perfect for their system. In its most recent form, Boston’s offense was only comfortable with Isaiah Thomas in the mix. Every other ball handler on the roster could be rushed or flustered, made to commit careless errors or hoist up foolish shots under pressure. This made the decision for opponents to to trap and swarm Thomas as simple as could be; without the personnel to help get the Celtics out of a jam, even basic actions could be stymied and stopped at the point of attack.
Horford, among his many utilities, is a way out of traffic. This is a big who can initiate your offense from the top of the floor as cutters seek out their lanes; a roll man who can catch the ball and make a play from within the teeth of the defense; and a weak-side outlet whenever opponents bring another defender to Thomas. A well-meaning offense that moves the ball is only as good as its pressure-release bigs. Horford is among the best of that type.
Central: The Pacers building an uptempo offense…with the option to downshift. Never has it been more complicated to carve out a beneficial role for a plodding post scorer who doesn’t space the floor, move the ball, or defend particularly well. The best-case scenario might look something like Jefferson’s role in Indiana—where circumstances aligned to make the former All-NBA big a super-sub bench scorer. The lower stakes of playing against backup bigs and short scoring options on second units could make this the standard for Jefferson types going forward. It starts, though, with an accomplished veteran taking a back-seat to a team as it looks to push pace.
Southeast: The Magic pairing BismackBiyombo and Serge Ibaka. Very rarely do teams have the option to play two fearsome rim protectors together without cluttering the interior. Ibaka, even off a relative down year, makes this weird duplication feasible. The kinks in Orlando’s roster are self-evident. There’s some fun possibility, though, in this group applying a considerable advantage in length across four or five positions to completely seize up the defensive interior.
Biyombo and Ibaka are critical to that concept, as their ability to cohabitate within lineups makes it far more difficult for opponents to isolate and exploit one particular shot-blocker. Try to pull Biyombo out into space and Ibaka will lurk on the back line. Get Ibaka involved in ball screens on the perimeter and Biyombo will be around to clean up messes at the basket. Nothing in the Magic’s current construction is perfect, but there’s plenty brewing with this group that’s worth watching.
Northwest: The Timberwolves pairing elite defensive prospects with elite defensive instruction. Tom Thibodeau will make a defender of even the slow and unathletic, provided they’re willing to invest in a culture of work. What, then, might he be able to accomplish with the most promising young big in the game (Karl-Anthony Towns) and a wing with all the materials to become a two-way star (Andrew Wiggins)?
Internal growth and Thibodeau’s takeover are good for a solid bump in wins this season. Even more fascinating will be the arc of the franchise at large. This season will inevitably be one of growth. What it will tell us, though, about the team the Wolves ultimately could be under Thibs is a matter of league-wide importance.
Pacific: The Warriors amplifying an all-time team with another all-time talent. Let’s not get too cute here. When a single move has the potential to challenge the understood limits of offensive efficiency, crystallize a contender, and elevate what was already the winningest team in NBA history, it gets the nod virtually by default.
All three of Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson are effective contributors regardless of whether they touch the ball on a given possession. Their swirling orbit around one another promises to be the greatest show in the sport. Steve Kerr and the Warriors staff will have every luxury in terms of skill and shot creation. Where will they go when the game is an open book?
Southwest: The Grizzlies make the biggest signing in their franchise history. Chandler Parsons might not be a world-changing addition for many teams, but in Memphis he represents both a groundbreaking free-agent get for the market and a smart basketball fit. For years the Grizz have stalled out with wings who could neither spot up for three-pointers nor find the means to make plays. These are Parsons’s strongest suits, and they seem likely to bring balance to Memphis.
For years we’ve seen what Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph can do in cramped quarters. At long last they might finally get to breathe open air, with Parsons knocking down shots from the perimeter and making enough secondary plays to keep the defense honest.