What were the best, worst, most surprising and most intriguing moves this NBA offseason? The Crossover staff weighs in.
What was the best move of the offseason?
Howard Beck: The Rudy Gobert trade—and I don’t mean the Minnesota side of it (though I liked that, also). I know, “best move” usually implies “best acquisition.” But I’m going with Utah’s decision to cash out Gobert for all those draft picks. It was bold and risky and will send the Jazz tumbling to the NBA cellar for the foreseeable future. But it was necessary. The Gobert-Mitchell era had grown stale. There was no upside left, and no paths to improve. Tearing down a 50-win team is difficult. I admire the decision—and the haul.
Robin Lundberg: Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics. The Eastern Conference champs improved in a subtle and smart way. For a team that was undone by a lack of discipline at times in the NBA Finals, adding another high IQ player who can also handle the rock and make plays was a sound strategy. Now we'll see if Boston is done with big moves.
Mannix: Minnesota was lampooned for forking over years of future draft capital for Rudy Gobert. But Gobert instantly makes the ‘Wolves a top-10 defense and takes enormous pressure off Karl-Anthony Towns who, if he continues to make threes, will ease any concerns about having two bigs on the floor. With Anthony Edwards poised to take another step, you can comfortably pencil Minnesota into a top-five slot in the Western Conference. From there it will be on Tim Connelly—one of the NBA’s top talent miners—to find the pieces to fit around them.
Rohan Nadkarni: The Nuggets picking up Bruce Brown was a perfect move for them. Aaron Gordon desperately needed help on the perimeter defensively, and Brown gives Denver a legit option to throw at some of the explosive guards and wings in the West. Offensively, Brown should find plenty of open looks playing off Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, either as a screener or spacer. The Nuggets needed more defensive tenacity to be taken seriously as a contender. Brown gives them exactly what they were looking for.
What was the worst move of the offseason?
Beck: Kevin Durant’s trade demand. Whatever his reasons—and those remain murky—it’s objectively a mistake from a basketball standpoint. This might be the best roster the Nets have ever had. Sure, there’s a lot of volatility (hello, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons), but on paper this team is a championship contender, with three All-NBA talents, flanked by two elite shooters (Seth Curry and Joe Harris) and capable role players. And Durant wants out? Which team—after trading away assets to get Durant—will give him a better chance to chase a title? If the goal is to win, his best move is to stay put.
Lundberg: The Kevin Durant trade request. Whoever is responsible, KD, the Nets … the whole thing is a mess! NBA fans do love gossip and drama but at some point player empowerment becomes player entitlement and I'm not sure it is good for the league when stars under contract for four years are asking out. Let's at least hope we all didn't waste our time and energy following this and there is some resolution soon.
Mannix: I get that the Mavericks think Jalen Brunson is replaceable. Tim Hardaway jr. will be back, Christian Wood has been brought in and Luka Dončić has the ball anyway. But not paying Brunson—and that’s what this was ultimately about, money—could haunt the Mavs for the next few years.
Nadkarni: It’s not exactly a move, but the Heat losing P.J. Tucker to the Sixers is a massive blow. Not only does Miami lose Tucker to a conference rival, but the Heat have yet to replace him. Is Miami’s plan really to start the season with Caleb Martin at power forward? Tucker’s defensive knowledge, willingness to guard stars, rebounding, and shooting were all instrumental to the Heat’s success last season. His departure leaves a blatant hole on the roster, and also adds to the regular season burden of vets like Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler. Though Tucker in a vacuum may not be an All-Star, the ripple effects of his departure are significant.
What was the most surprising move of the offseason?
Beck: The Lakers’ failure to trade Russell Westbrook. Last season was a disaster. Westbrook isn’t getting any younger, nor any better at shooting or defense or moving without the ball, nor (as far as we know) any more willing to accept a diminished role. There’s zero reason to believe things will be better this coming season. Yes, trading Westbrook means burning a first-round pick (or two) to incentivize a trade partner. But it’s the only rational way forward. And I still think it happens before opening night.
Lundberg: Rudy Gobert to the Wolves. This move was surprising for two reasons: 1.) I wouldn't have thought of Minnesota as a destination for Gobert given the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns and 2.) The return Utah was able to procure for Gobert. Rudy is still a very good player even if somewhat limited so it takes something to get a guy like that, but it still wasn't what I was expecting.
Mannix: Does Charlotte bringing back Steve Clifford count? The Hornets were stunned when Kenny Atkinson rejected their offer so they turned back to Clifford, who coached the Buzz from 2013–18, leading them to the playoffs twice. Charlotte is a team in need of development, with rookie Mark Williams joining a young core headlined by LaMelo Ball, and Clifford has a solid track record there. He’s also a terrific defensive coach—Charlotte was a top-10 defensive team in three of his five seasons. The Hornets were 23rd last season, so they need the help.
Nadkarni: I mean, did anyone have the Jazz scooping up four first-round picks (and a pick swap!) for Rudy Gobert? I still have no idea how to feel about this trade. And the shocking haul definitely seems to have complicated the superstar acquisition price. If Gobert nets you four picks, how many do you need to get Kevin Durant? Do you have to throw in some ownership equity?
What was the most intriguing move of the offseason?
Beck: The Hawks’ acquisition of Dejounte Murray. No other offseason move has greater potential to change a team’s trajectory. Will it work? Who knows? But Murray’s length, playmaking and defensive abilities should be the perfect complement to Trae Young. Both guards will have to adjust to having less control of the offense, and both might have to reel back their usage rate. But if they mesh well, it should solidify the Hawks as a top-six team in the East, and potentially as a contender down the road.
Lundberg: Dejounte Murray to the Hawks. I love the possible fit between Dejounte and Trae Young. And given the histrionics Murray has shown in summer runs and the fact that the Spurs were willing to move on from him, rebuilding aside, it should be intriguing to watch the dynamics in Atlanta and whether they can take a jump in the East.
Mannix: Can a 37-year-old P.J. Tucker make a playoff-level impact on another franchise? Can Danuel House shoot well enough to crack the rotation? What is James Harden at this stage of his career? On paper the Sixers look like title contenders. But how they come together will determine if they are.
Nadkarni: Dejounte Murray headed to Atlanta is a fascinating gamble for the Hawks. The team then traded Kevin Huerter, signaling (in my opinion) they are ready to pay Murray in a couple years and move forward with a Trae Young-Dejounte core. Murray’s talent has never been in question. His fit with Young is. And theoretically his arrival should adjust Atlanta’s style of play, which at least has been successful for Trae. Even if I’m not convinced it will definitely be a success, it’s the new partnership I’m most looking forward to watching once the season starts.
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