10. Philly Fans
We all know the deal here: the 76ers front office (or just overlord Sam Hinkie who rules his kingdom with an iron fist, either way) is in the midst of rebuilding the team through a slow, slow process, apparently following the mantra, “tank until you make it,” or something along those lines. They have only three players over the age of 26: Jason Richardson (who didn’t play last season and hasn’t been relevant since 2010-2011), Jarvis Varnado, and poor Thaddeus Young (actual talent, though he’s on the move this weekend as part of the Love-Wiggins trade). Sticking with tank-mode, neither one of their 2014 first-round picks (Joel Embiid and European Dario Saric) is expected to play this season. There’s no doubting that Hinkie is acquiring talented players: he’s now got the 2013 ROY Michael Carter-Williams, two prospects who were at some point a sure shot to go number one in their respective drafts (Nerlens Noel and Embiid), and a bundle of talented second-rounders at his disposal. Noel is now in the mix for this year’s ROY (because he didn’t play in his original rookie season, a la Blake Griffin), and the 76ers have built a team seemingly on young and cheap prospects. But what about the fans? Is Philly ready to suffer through another 19-63 season? This is a proud fan base, and you know it has to be hard to drum up optimism when the front office looks like they’re embracing tanking, and it can’t be fun to watch your team trot out a team built on fringe-NBA players and watch learning from the nose-bleeds. With the NBA looking to overhaul the lottery process, will the 76ers even be “rewarded” for their efforts? Only time will tell, but in the meantime Philly fans look to suffer through more of the same this season.
9. Detroit and Sacramento Rebuilding
Both teams feature talented, young big men on their rosters (Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins) to build around. But what exactly are they building? Detroit hired Stan Van Gundy to run things (win!), but is holding onto Josh Smith and might lose Greg Monroe (more on him later). They signed Caron Butler and Jodie Meeks to contracts that are clear overpays and signed D.J. Augustin when both Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum are under contract. Instead of holding onto that cap space for trades or next summer’s free agency, they used it to sign middling veterans that can’t take the team to the next level.
Sacramento let go of stud point guard Isaiah Thomas for essentially nothing (they received 2013 second-round pick Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception in the deal), allowing Phoenix to sign him to a 4-year/$28 million deal, a major steal), and signed an older, also small, point guard to take his place (signing Darren Collison to a 3-year/$16 million deal). Sacramento is now a team full of score-first players at each position with no distributors to even things out (Nik Stauskas, a rookie guard and three-point marksman out of Michigan may already be the best passer on the team).
Both these teams were building for the playoffs, and neither of them got any better this offseason. In fact, you could make a case they both are worse-off now and I’d probably agree.
8. The Los Angeles Lakers
I have a friend who’s also a Laker fan try and convince me their offseason moves were all total wins…and I almost believed him. They lost Pau Gasol, but at least they didn’t overpay to keep him. Getting Ed Davis for the veteran’s minimum might be the steal of the summer, and getting a motivated Julius Randle after a draft night slide was the best outcome for LA. Heck, even the Jeremy Lin trade was pretty good (it netted a 2015 first-rounder for the Lakers). Wait, did the Lakers actually win the summer? No.
While most of these moves keep long-term cap flexibility open (only Jordan Hill and Nick Young signed long-term), they keep the Lakers in NBA purgatory – not bad enough to finish in the bottom five, but not good enough to make noise in or even make the playoffs. To make matter worse, the Lakers 2015 first-round pick is headed off to Phoenix if it falls outside of the top 5 (as a part of the deal that landed Steve Nash in LA). By signing Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle will either see less action on the court, or we’ll have to witness some sort of Randle, Boozer, and Hill starting lineup. Actually, maybe this is all a ploy to tank? With Kobe returning to the lineup this season, it’s safe to say the Lakers will be competitive (unless you’re betting against the Mamba, that is), which is exactly what the Lakers shouldn’t be this year. On another note, who’s excited to see Kobe’s face when Lin misses a layup or after Boozer calls his own number down-low? Trying times lie ahead for the Lakers and their fan base.