Roundtable: Who Won the Eastern Conference Offseason?
*Photo via Getty Images
There may not be NBA games during the offseason (do you really count summer league?), but there were definitely wins and losses throughout the Association. Without raining confetti and those awkward, “How do you feel now that you just lost?” questions that echo throughout postgame pressers, we decided to try and find out, what the hell happened?
We posed our first (of four) questions to six of our most handsome writers:
Who is your offseason winner in the Eastern Conference?
Joe Keller – The Miami Heat won this offseason. For Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat organization, missing the playoffs is unacceptable. Rebuilding is not a part of the plan, so they just reloaded. The Heat went out and got Gerald Green and Amar'e Stoudemire to help with their depth off the bench. They also drafted Justise Winslow, who many believe was a steal at 10th overall. We all knew Wade would eventually re-sign, but the re-signing of Goran Dragic and the return of a healthy Chris Bosh firmly places Miami back into the conversation as a top team in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Ricci – I debated on this one for some time. The correct answer is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Keeping LeBron James locked up for two seasons should qualify you as the biggest winner in free agency and counterarguments shouldn’t be accepted.
However, that’s the easy way out. The Cavs won free agency by re-signing their guys, but winning free agency by re-signing players is boring. So, I’ll stop being boring.
The real winners in the Eastern Conference are the Milwaukee Bucks. This was a team already giving the Chicago Bulls fits during the first round of the playoffs. A scrappy young team with an already solid core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter Williams, and Khris Middleton will get a healthy Jabari Parker back at the start of the season along with their newly acquired big man, Greg Monroe and first round draft pick Rashad Vaughn.
While the Bucks may not be instant contenders in the East next season, they’re positioning themselves to be one of the biggest thorns in the side of their opponents, this of course, assuming that the Bucks stay in Milwaukee. There is a stadium issue hanging over the head of the franchise. Should the deal fall apart, it’s safe to say that the city of Milwaukee would be the biggest loser of the offseason.
Chris Stewart – As the Boys of Summer chase down fly balls, swoop up grounders, steal bases, and swing for the fences, so do NBA teams. No...really they do. Ok...well not literally, but metaphorically they absolutely do, and the 2015 NBA summer was no exception. Many teams chased down free agents, swooped up draft picks, and stole a coach or two. As most teams swung for the fences, few hit the long ball.
The Philadelphia 76ers may have the rookie of the year in Jahlil Okafor. The Orlando Magic drafted the Croatian gem Mario Hezonja, the Charlotte Hornets added the versatility and experience of Nicolas Batum, while the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks each added a power forward with star potential in Myles Turner and Kristaps Porzingis.
But the Chicago Bulls entered the summer with the best pieces in place; or shall we say the bases were loaded. They swooped up the anti-Thibodeau in Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State University, filled a need at power forward in Bobby Portis with pick 22, and cleared the bases by re-signing All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Connor Harr – Maybe I'm a little biased because of how much I love Giannis Antetokounmpo’s outstanding potential. It might even be the sweet Fear the Deer slogan on their warm up shirts. Regardless; the Milwaukee Bucks had the best offseason in the East.
The Bucks signed free agent big man Greg Monroe and re-signed wing player Khris Middleton. The addition of Monroe, who’s a huge improvement offensively from John Henson and Zaza Pachulia, gives Milwaukee a go to scorer in the low and high post. He will help open up driving lanes for guys like the the Greek Freak and Michael Carter-Williams. He will also provide the re-signed Middleton, better looks from behind the arc. On a team full of atrocious outside shooters, Middleton shot 41 percent from deep in his first two years with the Bucks and could be an even better marksman this season.
The Bucks struggled in the playoffs due to their inability to generate offense, averaging a playoff worst 88.5 points per game. Milwaukee’s offseason addressed their offensive issues and they will still be one of the best defensive teams in the league. It’s time to Fear the Deer.
Parth Goradia – The Cleveland Cavaliers won the offseason in the East. The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls set themselves up to be legitimate contenders with their respective moves, but Cleveland is the clear favorite. Dan Gilbert brings back a core that made it to the Finals with two-thirds of their big three stuffing postseason stat sheets with DNP’s. Cleveland should steamroll through the regular season and finish with 60+ wins. However, with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving unfortunately being made of glass, the Cavs may not rule the NBA postseason, despite having the King. It’s a good thing that Chicago and Miami have similar injury concerns. The Eastern Conference will be exciting.
Kory Waldron – As much as I would love to pick my beloved Indiana Pacers, who had a great offseason, the true winners in the Eastern Conference, are the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks made one of the early splashes in free agency, when they signed big man, Greg Monroe. Monroe is the kind of scorer and rebounder this anemic offense (88.5 ppg) needed last season. Monroe may not be a defensive rim protector, but he’s good for 15 and 10 on most nights. The Bucks also re-signed Khris Middleton who had a great third season in the NBA, averaging 13.4 points per-game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. After drafting Rashad Vaughn with the 17th pick, the Bucks upgraded their guard rotation by trading for Greivis Vasquez. The return of Jabari Parker from a torn ACL may be most important transaction or move this offseason for Milwaukee. Parker was drafted to be the future and the face of the franchise. Now he returns to a talented young roster (average age of 23.2 years) who are poised to take the next step. Last season, the Bucks were overachievers. This season, there are expectations. The Bucks are coming.
Transaction information courtesy of RealGM, NBA.com