cameroncrazies02
So the season isn't over yet, but for many of the non-playoff teams, off-season is ramping up, young players are getting a majority of the burn and tanks have been clunking along for awhile now.  So here's a team by team year in review.

New York Knicks-14-61 (current)
Biggest surprise-Trading away Kristaps Porzingis
Biggest letdown-Frank Ntilikina's lack of development

When Porzingis went down early in 2018 with a torn ACL, it was pretty well known they were going to have quite a project on their hands.  KP was going to be out for at least half the season and with the Knicks not in any sort of contention for major free agents until this coming summer, it was likely going to be a re-building year.  But nobody would've expected what kind of re-build it would've been.  Just before the trade deadline, the Knicks trade Porzingis to the Mavericks in what will essentially equate to a salary dump.  They picked up the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews, along with young PG Dennis Smith Jr, while sending Porzingis, Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee to the Mavs.  The Knicks also picked up an unprotected 1st and future protected 1st from DAL in the deal.

It was blasted at the time for being a salary dump, but the Knicks had no traction with KP on a contract extension coupled with an ACL tear for a 7'3" big man, the Knicks were stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Their biggest handcuff was always their two massive contracts and they fast-tracked a re-build to this summer.  They can offer much of what MIA could when Lebron and Bosh signed there (sans Dwyane Wade) in that they can offer two max contract deals this summer to any two stars and let them know it's their team surrounded by young guys.  They do have a few intriguing prospects-Smith Jr, Mitchell Robinson, Mudiay (FA), Knox, Trier to name a few.  Much of this will come down to how NY plays their hand this summer.  Will they nab their dream connection of Durant and Kyrie?  Or will they end up blowing their savings on Jimmy Butler and some other aging overpaid max guy?

The Knicks did stockpile young assets and turn them into serviceable players.  Robinson looks like a budding DeAndre Jordan, Alonzo Trier has all the scoring you could want and Knox is coming along as a combo-forward.  The Knicks also have a good stockpile of picks now as well.  To go along with the two future DAL 1sts, they own all of their own future 1sts which they could utilize if a sign and trade was necessary to get their star players this summer.

Phoenix Suns-17-59 (current)
Biggest surprise-Ayton bringing back old school big men
Biggest letdown-roster chock full of talent still can't crack 20 wins

Many, including myself, thought this was finally the year PHX got over the hump.  They brought in Trevor Ariza for his defensive veteran prowess, moved up to draft Mikal Bridges, nabbed DeAndre Ayton 1st overall...things seemed to be on the up and up for PHX, but alas, they remain a bottom feeder in the NBA.  

PHX did make some shrewd moves this summer.  They made a few trades, cleared up some salary and got Kelly Oubre Jr in a trade with WAS sending newly signed Ariza to WAS.  Oubre looks every bit the part of a hard-nosed role player on a good team, but he'll be an expensive free agent this summer to retain.  

One has to look at PHX's roster the last few years and wonder what it is that makes them so bad and the one constant is Devin Booker.  He puts up some gaudy stats, but he's forced into a PG role where he'll never pass and is a lazy defender.  There has also been zero discipline to the team in years past which was the same this year after Booker and Ayton went at each other in the media over Booker's lazy style.  

It has been said for two straight summers that this will be the big summer for PHX.  But this one seems bigger than any others.  They bring back much of the same roster under contract except Oubre, and Richaun Holmes and is once again set to have some money in free agency along with a high draft pick.  But you have to wonder if this summer they choose to shake things up and make a trade to re-make their roster.  Bringing in a highly touted rookie and an overpaid vet didn't work last summer but that's their recipe going into this summer as well.  If PHX remains in the top 2 though, they may have a shot at Ja Morant which could be the sparkplug they need.  PHX could build their own Process-lite touting Booker, Ayton and Morant with complimentary players Bridges, Warren, and Josh Jackson.

Ayton has come strides this year defensively.  That was always his biggest question mark, but his size and strength alone are a tear around the paint.  He's not going to block a lot of shots, but he uses his size so well to disrupt driving guards and opposing bigs.  Their trio of young-ish but flawed wings continue down the same path and watching what they do with Oubre this summer will be something to watch.  They have Warren under contract for 3 more years, Jackson for 2, so re-signing Oubre would mean they need to jettison one of the others.  If they could take Warren's shooting prowess, Oubre's length, versatility and Jackson's streaky scoring, they would form quite the NBA basketball player, but someone needs to tell PHX you can't just morph three players into one.

Cleveland Cavaliers-19-57 (current)
Biggest surprise-Collin Sexton coming out of slump
Biggest letdown-Kevin Love injury

Tristan Thompson said at the beginning of the year that even without Lebron, the East still ran through Cleveland, which is technically correct, but I think many saw this type of season coming.  With guys like Jordan Clarkson running the show it was clear what type of season CLE was destined to have.  Last summer, the Cavs re-signed Kevin Love to a monster contract to which he responded with missing half the season with an injury.  That hurt not only the development of the team, but his trade value.  Nobody believed Love was re-signing to stay in CLE forever, but he would've been a good trade chip at the deadline.  Alas, Love continues his injury-riddled career and is now another year older on a monster contract.  

Collin Sexton looked lost on both ends of the court early in the season, trying way too hard and overthinking when he'd get into games considering he didn't start the season, but he's really come around.  I don't know where he'll land, but his ceiling is De'Aaron Fox based on his athleticism alone.  This month he's shooting over 50% from the field and 42% from 3, a drastic increase from his first few months.

The Cavs will enter this summer capped out thanks to monster contracts to Love, Nance, and Tristan Thompson.  They also added to their salaries for next season by trading George Hill for Dellavadova and Henson while getting back a future MIL 1st rd pick.  But the Cavs will also have a host of expiring contracts to work with around the deadline next summer.  They also own HOU's 1st rd pick and they owe ATL their own first round pick, but is top 10 protected, so likely to stay in CLE and likely a top 3 pick where they could nab RJ Barrett, a perfect fit for them as they are in desperate need for a bump in perimeter players.

The Cavs don't have a ton to look forward to.  Sexton's a good young player and depending how their draft plays out, they'll nab a high pick.  They also are up a few 2nd round picks and MIL's future 1st, but nothing stands out as a true blue chip trade piece unless Kevin Love becomes some healthy monster and even then, his contract runs for 4 more years at around $30M per year.  They will likely be cellar dwellars again next season, so more bad basketball is on the way.

Chicago Bulls-21-55 (current)
Biggest surprise-Zach LaVine borderline all-star
Biggest letdown-Jabari signing

There was a twinge of hype in CHI after they brought back LaVine and signed Jabari Parker as some young, athletic starting 5, but Jabari, from day 1 in CHI, was doomed.  He set himself up for failure, complaining about his position and spot in the rotation and played horrendous defense, even worse than was seen in Milwaukee.  They quickly had to jettison him to WAS along with Bobby Portis to WAS for Otto Porter.  Porter has played well and very efficient offense which wasn't seen in WAS due to a lack of touches.  He will fill out their rotation moving forward and only for 2 more seasons on that large contract.  They also got little contribution from anyone outside of their starting 5 and even Kris Dunn took a step back from where he was heading.  

The upside for CHI is when LaVine signed with SAC on that 4/80 contract and CHI matched, there was a lot of giggling around the league, but LaVine has become a borderline all-star.  On a better team, he would've gotten a nod, but the question remains if LaVine is an empty stat guy.  Lauri Markkanen was hurt for awhile as well which set them back, but he's come back strong and while Wendell Carter is very young, he looks to have a promising future.  Add in a top 5 pick where they may be out of position for Ja Morant, but could pick up Darius Garland as their PG of the future, or find depth on the wing, CHI is in a pretty good position moving forward.  They'll also have cap space, around $20M to play with this summer without any key free agents leaving.

Atlanta Hawks-27-49 (current)
Biggest surprise-Trae Young bucking the haters
Biggest letdown-???

You can't expect much more out of a team that trots out three or four competent NBA players a night.  27 wins, possibly getting to 30, has to be seen as a win all things considered.  And this is why judging "obvious" trade winners right away always ends up short-sighted.  The Hawks traded Luka Doncic to the Mavs for Trae Young and their 2019 1st rd pick and it seemed like such an obvious win for DAL right off the bat.  But Trae Young has made the ROY conversation really tough.  Doncic is a transcendent talent, but Young has shown he could be a top tier PG in the future as well as of late.  And this couldn't have worked out better for ATL.  DAL is currently sitting with the 6th worst record in the league at 29-46.  Funny enough, only ATL can screw up that top 5 projection barring a jump in the lottery.  ATL would come away with bags and bags of riches if they can nab DAL's 6th pick (as their 2019 1st is top 5 protected) while also having their own at the 5th spot.  ATL is also going into this summer with an unbelievable amount of cap space in the realm of $50M.  Two top 6 picks and that much cap space will make for a very interesting summer for ATL.

John Collins has also come into his own as a 20-10 guy nightly.  Taurean Prince's numbers month by month have improved dramatically to where he's shooting 50% from the field and 42% from 3.  With Prince extension eligible this summer and Collins next summer, this will be the summer for ATL to make some serious moves and use up that cap space.  

Dallas Mavericks-29-46 (current)
Biggest surprise-trading for Kristaps Porzingis
Biggest letdown-getting little to nothing for their veterans

After years and years of being just out of reach for big name free agents, the Mavericks went a different route this year.  They traded up for Luka Doncic in the draft and traded for Kristaps Porzingis.  The Mavs are right on track to lose their 2019 1st round pick as it conveys to ATL if it's not in the top 5 (currently 6th).  And in the Porzingis trade, they will trade two future 1sts to NY, so for the next 6 years, they will only own their own 1st rd pick every other year.  That's a lot to give up, but if Doncic continues on the same trajectory and Porzingis re-signs, it'll all be worth it.

Speaking of Porzingis...they mortgaged a lot of their future to get him even when he won't play this year at all and without a promise he'll re-sign.  It's going to be a big wait and see game with him this summer if he'll actually sign the qualifying offer and play on a very minimal contract to enter unrestricted free agency in 2020.  That's a huge burden on the Mavs in the mean time.  But it'd be a TERRIBLE decision for Porzingis not to take the max contract DAL is likely to offer, considering he's coming off an ACL tear.  And he'd be giving up A TON of money.  Not only would he miss out on an entire year of max salary (the difference between the QO and a max contract is something around $28M), but then if he bolted for another team in the summer of 2020, he'd give up his bird rights and lose out on $50M more signing for a 4 year max rather than a 5 year max with DAL.  That's a total loss of around $75M in total which is why I'd bet on Porzingis re-signing this summer.

Much else didn't go right for DAL.  They did right by Dirk allowing him to play out this season in farewell tour fashion, but it also meant not tearing it down and re-building entirely.  They lost JJ Barea to injury for the season and at 34 years old, I can't imagine he'll come back at all.  Then they traded Harrison Barnes for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson which was essentially a salary dump to get out of Barnes contract next year.  And they couldn't find a suitor for Wes Matthews and his $18.75M contract and had to buy him out.  

They also acquired Tim Hardaway Jr in the Porzingis trade which seemed like a good addition as a scoring punch, but he's been horrendously inefficient since coming to DAL.  The one other bright spot on their roster has been Jalen Brunson.  He may not be the fastest or best defender, but he's a steady scorer.  

DAL will enter this summer as well with a lot of cap space if they can utilize it before a Porzingis signing.  They have a lot of needs-a starting caliber PG, a center, a defensive minded wing...and without a draft pick this summer, it'll make their summer an interesting watch.  They probably won't get back to contention right away, but could spend their money right this summer and capitalize on Courtney Lee and Dwight Powell's expiring contracts next summer when teams are jostling for cap space for the summer of 2020 which will be chock-full of free agents.

Washington Wizards-32-50
Biggest surprise-Bradley Beal's emergence
Biggest letdown-John Wall

There was some hope WAS could put it together this season.  It even went so far that Bucks beat writer, Gery Woelful, projected them as the #2 seed in the East.  The Wizards signed John Wall to a super-max contract in July 2017 which STILL DOESN'T KICK IN UNTIL NEXT SEASON.  He has now missed more than half of the last two seasons and by next season, he'll be 29 entering his super max contract 1st year.  It's a terrible contract that just keeps getting worse.  To make matters even worse, John Wall commented the other day he's not sure if he'll even be back for next season.  He tore his achilles in November and by normal schedules, he should be ready for the season, but achilles injuries tend to slow players down.  They have very few options-trade John Wall-seems impossible at this point, or stretch and waive him.  However they would owe him $18M per season on their cap sheet for the next eight years.  None of these options are ideal.  

On the other hand, Bradley Beal had a breakout year.  He was always a very good player, but he took it to another level as the primary ballhandler after Wall went out.  Beal is under contract for the next two seasons.  He has garnered serious trade interest, but the Wizards are going to ask for the house to pry him away from them.  But next season would be the time to make a deal.  They'd get maximum value for him when he has two years remaining, but they may take their chances on re-signing him and keeping him around long term.

There were very few other positives for them this season.  They traded Otto Porter for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis.  They're not likely to accept Parker's $20M team option next season so in essence, they may have successfully salary dumped Porter's final year of his contract.

If the Wizards decline Jabari's team option, they'll have about $10M in cap room with only Wall, Beal, Mahinmi, Dwight Howard and Troy Brown under contract.  Thomas Bryant emerged as a very good big man for them this season, but he too now is a free agent.  They'll have first dibs at him in free agency though.  The Wizards only real option for next season is to fill in the cracks of their roster and run it back and hope Wall comes back healthy.  Otherwise, they may be looking at a tear down by trading Beal for assets and picks, but even then, they're still stuck with the Wall contract.  Just a few short years ago, WAS looked to be in prime position, with some good, young talent, but they now sit in the cellars of the NBA in terms of future.

Memphis Grizzlies-33-49
Biggest surprise-Marc Gasol traded
Biggest letdown-a severe lack of talent

MEM chose to run it back last summer by spending in free agency on Kyle Anderson and not trading Gasol or Conley.  And not surprisingly, it didn't work.  MEM was pretty bad from the get-go and got very little contributions out of anyone outside of Conley, Gasol and Jackson Jr.  Gasol was traded at the deadline for Valanciunas, Dorell Wright, CJ Miles and a future 2nd.  It, to me, was a disastrous trade in that they didn't get any salary cap relief, nor did they get any valuable picks.  Wright was good for them in garbage time late in the season, but he now is a free agent.  They'll have to eat CJ Miles nearly $10M contract next season and Valanciunas has a player option for next season at $17M which is entirely up in the air whether he'll take it or try for a bigger contract in free agency.  Either way, MEM is in a bad way for next season in terms of the cap.  They're slammed by the contracts of Chandler Parsons ($25M next season), Conley ($33M the next two years each) and middling contracts of CJ Miles and Kyle Anderson ($17M combined next year) while also having to waive Avery Bradley and eat his $2M non-guaranteed salary.  They will have no cap space this summer and some holes to fill in their roster.  

MEM's 2019 1st rd pick is owed to BOS if it's outside of the top 8.  After tiebreakers today, it landed at 8 meaning if it doesn't move, MEM will keep their pick which might be disastrous for them as they still will owe BOS a future 1st without any clear direction.  The plus side is, they'll get a solid rookie, but outside of the top 3, the draft is pretty bad this summer.  MEM is likely to keep the same roster without any big moves this summer and hope they can capitalize on a team looking to dump salary for free agency in 2020 considering MEM has a good amount of expiring contracts to work with.

Minnesota Timberwolves-36-46
Biggest surprise-The Jimmy Butler saga
Biggest letdown-Everything after

Before the season even started, Jimmy Butler went hog-wild talking to the media and spouting off about his teammates forcing a trade.  He got his wish when MIN traded him to PHI for Robert Covington and Dario Saric.  They looked to have filled out their roster with good shooting and defense, but alas, it didn't pan out and the Wolves fell well under .500 for most of the season.  They got an admirable season out of Derrick Rose, however some of his heroics kept them from falling far enough to get them a good draft pick.  MIN, like many of these teams in this range, is now too in no-man's land.  They have some bad contracts-Jeff Teague ($19M next year), Gorgui Dieng ($34M the next 2 seasons) and Andrew Wiggins ($123M the next 4 seasons).

On top of all that, Karl Anthony Towns, while supremely talented, seems to have fallen off immensely.  He puts up numbers, but he is a soft defender and doesn't have much of a killer instinct.  They'll land a top 10 pick this summer, but again, it's a weak draft.  They'll retain most of their starters only losing out on Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose, but have no cap space to work with.  A time may be coming where KAT is the next big name to be traded.  But MIN doesn't have a foundation to build on unless they can get a top 5 pick for him.  I'd be surprised to see MIN try to run it back by filling out their roster with minimum salaries and a top 10 pick, but after trading Butler, it may not be in their best interest to turn around and trade their other franchise cornerstone in KAT right away.
Twitter: @TheSpangover

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