As the 2020 NBA offseason goes on, we can see that some things never change.
The Bulls wasted another high lottery pick — this time on someone who didn’t even start in college. The Knicks signed an excessive amount of power forwards. The Hornets overpaid a player based on potential that he’s unlikely to reach.
Michael Jordan may be the greatest basketball player of all time, but he’s proven yet again that he’s not competent as an owner. During his tenure with the Charlotte Hornets, he has given lucrative contracts to players such as Cody Zeller, Nicholas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, and Terry Rozier—all considered among the worst contracts in their respective offseasons.
Jordan may have done it again this year, giving Gordon Hayward a four-year-deal worth $30 million per year. While Hayward has shown flashes of his pre-injury abilities, giving large contracts to players over the age of 30 and assuming that they will improve is rarely a good idea.
The Hornets may have fared better in the draft, where they took point guard Lamelo Ball with the No. 3 overall pick. The move isn’t perfect, considering the Hornets' two leading scorers last season—Rozier and Graham—are also both point guards, but Ball still has the potential to become a superstar.
Perhaps the biggest move of the offseason was Washington and Houston’s blockbuster trade of Russell Westbrook for John Wall and a first-round pick.
Wall was widely considered to be among the league’s best point guards before injuries derailed his last three seasons. The last time Wall was healthy, the Wizards were the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Since then, they haven’t finished higher than 8th.
Yet, expecting a player whose game relies on speed and athleticism to come back 100% after an Achilles injury is unrealistic. While the addition of Christian Wood gives Houston a true center, they will likely regress unless Wall returns to his prime.
Westbrook’s inability to find postseason success since the departure of Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City in 2016 has given him a reputation as a stat-padder and bad teammate on the court.
He’ll go into this season with extra motivation to build chemistry and find success with his backcourt partner, Bradley Beal. If they can mesh with Deni Avdija, the highly-touted forward from Israel selected in the 2020 Draft, the Wizards could become a playoff team in the East.
The movement of elite point guards doesn’t end there.
Oklahoma City moved Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Kelly Oubre, a package of young players with some potential, and a first-round pick. Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti’s continued success in trading aging stars for young talent and an obscene amount of first-round picks should pay off for the Thunder down the line, but the loss of Chris Paul will likely remove them from playoff contention in 2021.
As for the Suns, the addition of Chris Paul is enough to completely rejuvenate any franchise. In a loaded Western Conference, however, it won’t be quite enough.
Chris Paul is the only quality defender for the Suns going into this season and despite the Suns’ 8-0 record in the bubble, there is substantial evidence from the rest of the regular season that Devin Booker’s offensive talent isn’t enough to carry the franchise without more help.
Looking elsewhere in the West, Golden State should be a team that comes back with a vengeance after finishing last in their conference last season. The Warriors recently acquired Kelly Oubre from the Thunder, and two-time MVP Steph Curry will make his return from a wrist injury that forced him to miss most of last season.
While Klay Thompson won’t be returning this season due to a torn Achilles tendon, James Wiseman will be the big that Golden State has lacked during their recent dynasty. His 7’1” frame and 7’6” wingspan will make him a force to be reckoned with on the boards, and his athleticism can give Golden State the strong defensive presence they need in the paint. Wiseman was a consensus No. 1 overall pick going into the 2020 Draft, only falling to No. 2 due to the Timberwolves already having an elite big in Karl Anthony Towns.
Looking further down the California coastline to Los Angeles, the gap between the Clippers and the Lakers seems to have expanded.
The departures of Montrezl Harrell, Reggie Jackson, JaMychal Green, and Landry Shamet strip the Clippers of any bench depth. The loss of Harrell is especially impactful since he will be donning the purple and gold next year for the Lakers. Joining last season’s Sixth Man of the Year winner will be the runner up, Dennis Schroeder, and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.
The Lakers’ greatest weakness last season was their lack of depth, but after adding two of the league’s best sixth men, they are poised to become a true juggernaut in 2021.
Yet, the biggest surprise of the offseason may be the New York Knicks actually drafting well.
Obi Toppin’s athleticism and scoring abilities seem almost certain to translate to the NBA. He’s another power forward, which is a slight issue considering that the Knicks are already overloaded at the position, but that doesn’t matter much in today’s largely position-less landscape.
They also drafted Immanuel Quickley with a mid-first-round pick. Coming out of Kentucky, he gives them the perimeter shooting they so desperately needed last year.
Look out for the Orlando Magic, a team emerging as a potential threat in the East.
The Magic may have drafted the biggest steal of the draft in Cole Anthony. Anthony was the No. 3 recruit coming into college and while he missed a large chunk of his freshman year at North Carolina due to injury, he showed great potential to become a star in the NBA when he returned.
Between the addition of Cole Anthony and the continued improvement of Markelle Fultz, the Magic could finish as high as sixth in the East this year.
Still, the biggest shift in the East could be the Atlanta Hawks.
They drafted Onyeku Okongwu with the sixth overall pick, and he is possibly the best two-way player in the draft. While he’s not the answer to all their defensive woes, he is certainly a step in the right direction.
The acquisition of Rajon Rondo through free agency gives them valuable veteran leadership, and Rondo’s all-time great basketball IQ should help Trae Young develop his playmaking ability.
Adding in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari to the mix gives the Hawks some scoring depth and puts them in position to compete for a playoff position, just a year after having the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference.