The Bounce: Which NBA teams got better (or worse) so far this offseason? (2024)

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Hope everybody had a safe Fourth of July and even safer hot dog eating contests.Summer Leaguebegins next week!

West Free-Agency Roundup

Is the Clippers’ window closed?

Free agency is just about over. While our food coma from ribs, hot dogs and hard seltzers made playing tag with Roman Candles seem like a good idea, the NBA is finishing up a pretty underwhelming summer of free agency.So many teams are afraid of the new luxury tax restrictions,as the dreaded phrase “second apron” isn’t just about the mess you made while applying BBQ sauce. We still need to figure out where guys like (Kendrick Lamar video guest star) DeMar DeRozan, Tyus Jones and Talen Horton-Tucker are signing. That won’t stop us from determining which teams got better, worse or stayed the same, though. First, the Western Conference, and then the Eastern.


Who got better:Thunder, Mavericks, Warriors, SpursIt’s pretty obvious OKC, fresh off 57 wins last season, got better by adding Alex Caruso and Isaiah Hartenstein while giving up only Josh Giddey.The Thundershould be atop the West again. While some have concerns aboutDallaslosing Derrick Jones Jr., Naji Marshall can defend, and 34-year-oldKlay Thompson still knows how to shootand play team ball. Also,the Maverickshave a full training camp and preseason with Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington, two midseason additions who transformed their defense on the fly.The Spursupgrading their point guard rotation by going from experiments (Jeremy Sochan) to one of the wisest ever (Chris Paul) will help transform them.

Also, I know this will sound crazy to many – and maybe it’ll be proven dumb at some point – but I thinkthe Warriorssneakily got better. Yes,it sucks to lose Thompson, and we can’t undervalue them losing CP3 too. But they’re bringing in De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson and Buddy Hield. Golden State is deeper, is bigger, has more defense andadded one hell of a shooter in Hield. Maybe Hield is not as good as prime Thompson, but he’s more accurate than the current version.

Who got worse:Nuggets, Clippers

I do thinkthe Clippershave done a good jobof filling in the void left by Paul George with quality role players, but they will not fully replace what PG can do on the court. Replacement players can be a great band-aid over a wound in need of stitches. The Clippers have done an admirable job, but they’re still worse off.As for the Nuggets,there isn’t a planet where replacing Kentavious Caldwell-Popewith Christian Braun is good, especially considering they currently have no backups for Braun.

Who stayed the same:Lakers, Kings

I’m gladthethe Kingsretained Malik Monk, but they’ll need a significant trade to improve their conference standing.The Lakers… I just need to know ifRob Pelinka’s planjust didn’t work out? Because it sureseems like they don’t have oneand keep just hoping people will want to play for the Lakers solely because they’re the Lakers.

East Free-Agency Roundup

Is Philly ready to contend for the NBA Finals?

Now, let’s check for any shifts in the Eastern Conference. Has anybody lightened the Celtics’ stranglehold on this conference? Have any new challengers emerged?

Who got better: Knicks, 76ers, Magic

Even thoughthe Knickslost Hartenstein, they’ve improved due to their acquisition of Mikal Bridges.New Yorkcanfind a big man at some point, and Mitchell Robinson will be healthy next season.Phillydefinitely got better by essentially swapping in Paul George for Tobias Harris, but none of that will matter in the long run if Joel Embiid can’t be a healthy, dominant playoff performer. And thesurprising, 47-win Magicbringing KCPto the Magic Kingdom is actually big.Orlandoneeded a wing who can knock down a shot to help transform its offensive attack (last in total 3s, 22nd in offensive efficiency).

Who got worse:Bulls, Hawks

I guess maybeDeRozan could return to Chicago, but this team needs to do a full teardown. Trading Caruso for Giddey was not enough. Unfortunately for them,the Bullscan’t give Zach LaVine away in a trade right now.As for Atlanta,I believe it’s worse after the Dejounte Murray trade and plugging a solid rookie into the rotation with new No. 1 overall pick Zaccharie Risacher.The Hawksare hopingaddition by subtraction will help their fate.


Who stayed the same: Celtics, Cavaliers, Bucks

Boston stayed the same,and I’m fairly certain I don’t need to explain why that’s a good thing for such a dominant champion.

ClevelandsignedDonovan Mitchell to a contract extension, but it still needs to move Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland soon.Milwaukeedidsign Taurean Princeand Delon Wright, but we need to see if this group is still prone to a second-half malaise under Doc Rivers’ coaching.


It was so bad, I implore you to watch it

We should all remember what happened with the LA Clippers 10 years ago. No, I’m not talking about them losing to the Thunder in the second round. I mean whenAdam Silver banned Donald Sterlingfrom the NBA for life, after recorded conversations surfaced with him saying some racist stuff. Banning Sterling — who was already widely seen as one of the worst people in sports — and forcing the sale of the franchise was a monumental act by Silver, who was just a couple months into his commissionership.

FX turned the reporting and podcast series by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne on the Sterling fallout into a television show. The show’s casting was the opposite of what HBO did with “Winning Time,” the recently canceled series about the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s.Screenshots of the “likenesses”of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Jamal Crawford and Glen “Big Baby” Davis have flooded social media. You could forgive the lack of similarities if there’d been great acting in those roles. Unfortunately, the latter didn’t happen either. The acting is mostly terrible, as was the script.My best compliment? The look of the show is, at best, bizarre.

And yet, this show was addictive. Don’t get me wrong: Itisan awful show and has only six episodes, but I couldn’t get enough. There are incredible performances by Ed O’Neill (Donald Sterling), Jackie Weaver (Shelly Sterling) and Cleopatra Coleman (V. Stiviano). I could never buy Laurence Fishburne as Doc Rivers (at one point, in episode 6, he even slips into his underworld spy character from the John Wick franchise). This show was an absolute trainwreck, which maybe is emblematic of the Clippersprior to current owner Steve Ballmer’s tenure:

These were my favorite moments from the series:

These were my most bewildering moments from the series:

I can’t recommend this show enough. It’s terrible. You’ll love to hate it.

Bounce Passes

Always readMarcus Thompson,especially aboutKlayleaving theWarriors.

Paul George’sfree agency might bea peek into the period’s future.

Will theJazztradeLauri Markkanen?

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(Top photo: Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images)

The Bounce: Which NBA teams got better (or worse) so far this offseason? (2)The Bounce: Which NBA teams got better (or worse) so far this offseason? (3)

Zach Harper is a staff writer for The Athletic, covering the NBA. Zach joined The Athletic after covering the NBA for, CBS Sports and FRS Sports since 2009. He also hosts radio for SiriusXM NBA and SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio. Follow Zach on Twitter @talkhoops

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