The wild NBA offseason is over, although there can always be a late surprise. For the most part, though, teams know what their rosters will look like. Let’s recap some big trades that affected Eastern Conference teams and their 2017-18 win totals.
The Atlanta Hawks were 43-39 last season, the Indiana Pacers 42-40 and the Chicago Bulls 41-41. They were the Eastern Conference’s No. 5, 7 and 8 seed, respectively, and all lost in the first round of the playoffs. That apparently was enough for management in each city to decide on a rebuild.
The Hawks got the trade market going with a surprising trade of hometown boy Dwight Howard to Charlotte for Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli. So essentially a salary dump. Howard is nowhere near the MVP-caliber player he used to be in Orlando, but he was still a pretty solid player in 2016-17. He played 74 games, his most since 2012-13, and averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. It was the first big move by new GM Travis Schlenk as Howard had two years left on a three-year, $70.5 million deal. Howard took on a diminished role in the playoffs and sat the entire fourth quarter in two of six playoff games during the Hawks' first-round loss to the Wizards.
The Hawks also lost their best player, forward Paul Millsap, in free agency to Denver. They are given a win total of 34.5 for this season on NBA futures odds.
The biggest trade of draft night was the Chicago Bulls trading All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, easily a Top 15 player in the NBA, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for swingman Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft, which turned out to be Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen. Chicago also gave Minnesota the No. 16 overall pick.
Dunn was a bust as a rookie last year as he averaged just 17.1 minutes per night along with 3.8 points and 2.4 assists. He’s a very good defensive player but can’t shoot at all. LaVine had a breakout 2016-17 season in averaging a career-high 18.9 points but tore his ACL in early February and is expected to miss the start of this coming season. The jury’s obviously out on Markkanen.
Chicago has a win total of just 28.5; that negative 12.5 difference from how many games the Bulls won in 2016-17 is the worst in the East.
Indiana is joining Atlanta and Chicago in a full-scale rebuild as the Pacers traded All-Star forward Paul George, another Top 15 player, to Oklahoma City for guard Victor Oladipo and rookie forward Domantas Sabonis. That trade was largely panned around the NBA for how little the Pacers got in return. New GM Kevin Pritchard reportedly turned down better deals from the likes of Boston, Cleveland and Denver.
Oladipo, who played at Indiana University, is an OK player but is vastly overpaid. Sabonis didn’t do much in his first NBA season. The Pacers are given a win total of 31.5 for this season at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks.
Teams That Got Better
Honestly, no East team made a trade that in and of itself made the club entirely better. But the Celtics were big winners in trading Avery Bradley to Detroit simply because it officially opened up enough cap space for Boston to sign Utah’s Gordon Hayward. Bradley was a redundant player with the C’s at this point. The Celtics have a win total of 51.5, second-best in the East behind Cleveland.
I believe Detroit got slightly better in landing Bradley for forward Marcus Morris. But the Pistons now have to re-sign Bradley as he hits free agency after next season. Also, Detroit then renounced starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who isn’t as good an all-around player as Bradley but a better pure scorer. The Pistons won 37 games last year and have a win total of 40.5.
I like the Howard trade from Charlotte’s perspective. If anyone can motive the grumpy, whiny Howard it’s likely team owner Michael Jordan and Coach Steve Clifford. The latter is familiar with Howard, having coached him for six seasons as an assistant in Orlando and the LA Lakers when Howard was still a dominant player. General manager Rich Cho said Clifford's familiarity with Howard was a major reason his team pulled the deal. The Hornets gave up basically nothing for him. Charlotte has a win total of 40.5.
About The Same
Brooklyn landed guard D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov from the Lakers for center Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists this past season. He has a much higher upside at this point than Lopez does so it was a no-brainer move for the Nets, who owe the Celtics yet another first-round pick next year. The Lakers did it simply to be rid of Mozgov’s monster contract. He’s a better defender and rebounder than Lopez. The Nets have a win total of 20.5, still the NBA’s lowest.