The NBA Offseason never fails to disappoint the basketball community. After a 2021-22 season filled with storylines and excitement, we were again blessed with the summer drama. Summer started off with a bang, with stars requesting trades, teams looking to switch up the direction of their franchise, and a flurry of new players entering the league.
A few weeks ago, I highlighted the biggest losers of the 2022 NBA Offseason. Now, it’s time to think positively and shed some light on the teams that deserve praise. Here are the biggest winners of the 2022 NBA Offseason:
Honorable Mention: Brooklyn Nets
I want to apologize to Nets fans if there are still any of you out there. In my list of the biggest losers of the offseason, I had Brooklyn at the top spot. This was before Joe Tsai and Sean Marks pulled off a miracle and convinced Kevin Durant to stay, after he requested a trade and put the NBA world on pause for 2 months.
Durant is back, Kyrie Irving is back on a player option, and Ben Simmons looks to finally commit to the team this year. The Nets are scary. Not as scary as the Warriors, Bucks, or Celtics, but scary enough to at least contend for the title.
I have high expectations for KD and the Nets, as I’m sure most of you do. As disappointing as last season was for Brooklyn, there is at least some leeway for the fact that Kyrie Irving played a sliver of the season, Ben Simmons didn’t play at all, and Kevin Durant didn’t exactly have the best supporting cast in terms of role players.
So why are the Nets an honorable mention? Managing to keep your star and one of the best players in NBA history when he firmly claims he wants out is always a plus. The Nets basically treated this like Durant was a free agent because they had to convince him to play for their team, the team he is already rostered on.
I also like incoming players for Brooklyn. Royce O’Neal and T.J. Warren are solid roster acquisitions with experience and value. What the Nets need is a reliable center to start over the young and inexperienced Nic Claxton. Had the Nets made that move before this, they would have made it onto the winner’s list. Nevertheless, congrats Nets fans!
5. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta was one of the first teams to make a significant move this offseason. The Hawks traded for All-Star guard Dejounte Murray in late June, giving away Danilo Gallinari, three first-round picks, and a pick swap in 2026. The Hawks gave up good amount of draft capital, but the return on investment outweighs it.
Clint Capela is still a force down low, but Murray provides the elite-level guard defense the Hawks have been missing for a long time. Trae Young, as talented as he is on offense, is not a good defender, and Kevin Huerter (now on the Sacramento Kings) didn’t help.
This is the first time Young will be playing with a reigning All-Star, which is impressive considering he took the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021. In 2022, the Hawks barely made the playoffs, and were taken down in the first round by the Miami Heat.
The one-two punch of Young and Murray hurts opponents on both sides of the floor. Young is coming off of season where he averaged 28.4 ppg and 9.7 apg, and Murray is coming off of a seasons where he averaged 21.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and 9.2 apg. That can pretty much take care of the scoring in Altanta’s offense.
Over on the defensive side, Murray averaged 2 steals a night in 2022. Combine that with De’Andre Hunter at the forward spot, and Clint Capela at center, and you have a recipe for one of the better defensive lineups in the NBA.
Murray isn’t necessarily an All-NBA player, but he is certainly one of the better guards in the league. The Hawks are certainly poised to be a better team than this past season, and they’re hungry to get back to where they were just two seasons ago.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves gave up a mammoth load of capital to get Rudy Gobert. That being said, they got Rudy Gobert. Gobert, a former Defensive Player of the Year and multi-time All-Star, is 30 years old and playing for a Timberwolves team filled with young talent. Anthony Edwards is 21 years old and blossoming into a star, Karl-Anthony Towns is still just 26 years old and has been a star for years now, and D’Angelo Russell, despite the recent criticism, is also 26 and clearly a good player, averaging 18.1 ppg and 7.1 apg in 2022.
Gobert adds what the T-Wolves had been missing last season: defense. The offense was clearly there, but rim protection was a struggle for them, especially against Ja Morant and the Grizzlies in the playoffs.
Now that Towns can play the four, and Gobert will be at the center, the Timberwolves have an advantage height-wise and skill-wise. KAT moves and shoots like a guard, despite being 6’11”. With a lineup including Russell, Edwards, Towns, and Gobert, Minnesota will once again be looking to make the playoffs, and this time make some noise when they get there.
I also like Minnesota acquiring Austin Rivers and Kyle Anderson, solid backup players, and drafting Wendell Moore out of Duke. Moore was a leader for Duke his entire collegiate career, and he can certainly bring that flare to the NBA, despite being a rookie. Overall the Timberwolves have a lot to look forward to this season, and the expectations are only getting higher.
3. Utah Jazz
Let’s just get it out of the way now, the Jazz will not be good this season by any means. Yet, they are still one of the winners of the offseason. The key word here is ‘capital’. Danny Ainge has once again worked his magic, this time with the Jazz, not the Boston Celtics. Everyone knew that after last season’s first-round exit to the Dallas Mavericks, the Donovan Mitchell-Rudy Gobert tandem was not working out. It was time to blow it up.
Ainge traded Gobert and Mitchell to acquire eight players and ten draft picks. It’s no wonder the Nets couldn’t find a good offer for Kevin Durant because Danny Ainge pretty much broke the trade market with these moves. Utah is most likely going to move veterans Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, and Bojan Bogdanovic as well, which adds more to the future.
Assuming that happens, Utah will potentially have an entirely new starting lineup than last season, which is interesting to think about. With Clarkson, Conley, and Bogdanovic likely gone, the Jazz would be starting Collin Sexton, Malik Beasley, Ochai Agbaji, Lauri Markkanen, and Walker Kessler.
But the most important thing to look at here is the draft capital. The Jazz will have seven first-round picks and three pick swaps via the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves over the course of the next seven years. Looking short-term, the Jazz will enter the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, as they have three first-round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft, which includes their own.
In what is seemingly a carbon copy of what Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder have done, Danny Ainge has set his team up for the future. Don’t expect the Jazz to be any good anytime soon. Patience is a virtue, one that Utah will hold for years to come.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland is back. The jokes about LeBron James bringing the poverty franchise to relevance can stop now. The Cavs are a legit playoff team after trading for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. Last season, Cleveland was good enough for a spot in the Play-In Tournament but lost to the Brooklyn Nets. At the time, they had two All-Stars in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, not to mention rookie sensation Evan Mobley and a mid-season trade to acquire Caris LeVert. So the Cavs were a pretty solid team before the Donovan Mitchell trade, probably a fringe playoff team going into this season.
Now they have their guy. Looking at the trade, the Cavs gave up Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three first-round picks, and two pick swaps, a reasonable offer that is considered a win for both sides. Cleveland seemingly came out of nowhere, as the New York Knicks were the clear favorite to get Spida.
With a potential starting lineup of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, this team is scary. Not to mention, the Cavs brought back Ricky Rubio, who was having a great season before tearing his ACL, plus Kevin Love and Caris LeVert are coming off the bench.
In an underrated move, Cleveland drafted Evan Mobley’s brother Isaiah Mobley in the second round of the NBA Draft. Isaiah isn’t as good as his younger brother, but he can space the floor and go to work in the post with his size and length. I love this second-round steal. Two brothers getting to share the floor and work like they did at USC will be fun to watch.
I like the Cavs as the fifth seed in the playoffs, maybe higher. I can’t see this team in the Play-In Tournament unless injuries get to this team. The best thing about them is that their core is so young. Mitchell is 25, Garland is 22, Mobley is 21, and Allen is 24. Cleveland, you can finally be happy again.
1. Boston Celtics
The Celtics won the offseason, not because they signed a superstar, not because they drafted a future All-Star, but because they played it safe and smart. The Celtics were rumored to be one of the top teams involved in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, but they ultimately decided to not give away Jaylen Brown, who would’ve certainly been involved in a transaction.
The Celtics lost the 2022 NBA Finals, so shaking up the roster with huge trade like that would’ve been a huge risk. They shouldn’t hang their heads, nor should they panic. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are 24 and 25 years old, so there is plenty of room for them to improve after their first Finals run.
Moving into the offseason, the Celtics added one of the best bench pieces possible in Malcolm Brogdon. The enticing part about Brogdon is that while he was a 20 ppg scorer with the Indiana Pacers, Boston doesn’t need that. Brogdon can be even more effective for his team by playing fewer minutes.
Another reason why this trade is so effective is that the Celtics absolutely fleeced the Pacers. Boston got one of the most talented isolation guards in the league for a 2023 first-round pick and five low-level role players. By the way, that draft pick will most likely be a late first-round pick, because it’s their own.
Danilo Gallinari was also acquired after the Hawks traded him to the San Antonio Spurs, then released him. Gallinari is an aging vet, but can still space the floor as a power forward off the bench. While he suffered a torn ACL in a FIBA game, the signing was low-risk, so nothing to worry about too much for the Celtics.
So the takeaways from this summer in Boston are: the Celtics made low-risk, high-reward moves while keeping their best players. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Robert Williams, and more are all still with the team, and the Tatum-Brown duo can only get better. The Celtics should be the favorite to win the East again, and anything less would be a disappointment. Congrats Boston, you won the offseason!