Nick Wass/Associated Press

Dallas Mavericks

If the Dallas Mavericks are fine holding onto Wesley Matthews’ expiring contract and clearing up space for 2019 free agency, that’s perfectly fine. But they’ve at least thought about engaging in such a transaction, as Mike Fisher of 247Sports reported they’d trade the veteran swingman for a deal they’d consider “special.”

This obviously isn’t a glaring concern, and it’s hard to fault the Mavericks for holding tight. But with Matthews on the roster, they’ll have to be careful and avoid letting him get too many minutes at the expense of the Luka Doncic/Dennis Smith Jr. backcourt pairing that will shape the future of this franchise. 


Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks successfully addressed their need at center by signing Brook Lopez, but he might prove little more than a stop-gap solution at the biggest position—an ideal stop-gap, given his floor-spacing abilities that will pair well with Giannis Antetokounmpo, but a stop-gap nonetheless. 

Lopez is only aboard on a one-year pact worth $3.4 million, which means the Bucks will be back to the drawing board next summer. Fortunately, that gives them a full year to find a long-term fix alongside Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton, whether that comes from Thon Maker finally developing into a useful contributor, a follow-up contract for Lopez or an external option.

Though the lack of immediacy keeps them away from the featured teams in this article, a concern exists all the same. 


New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans recovered nicely from the departures of Rajon Rondo (Los Angeles Lakers) and DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State Warriors). Quite frankly, both exits may prove positives for the bayou-based franchise, as the former is getting by more on reputation than enduring skill set, while a positive bounce-back from an Achilles injury isn’t guaranteed for the latter.

But even if we view those flights as negatives, New Orleans did well to add Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle in the quest for a more complete supporting cast around Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. 

On the flip side, will Davis be pleased with the lack of commitment to his fellow Kentucky products? That’s the risk here, since the Pelicans can’t afford to frustrate the franchise centerpiece as it tries to build an actual contender during his prime years. Even while they gained quality pieces, they run the risk of unhappiness.


New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are building their roster the right way, remaining patient as they prepare for 2019 free-agency expenditures. Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson should receive significant opportunities during the 2018-19 campaign, and the franchise also took reasonable fliers on Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh. For once, a desire to expedite the rebuild isn’t holding the organization back. 

But what about this whole Joakim Noah situation? As Adrian Wojnarowski and Ian Begley reported for, “The New York Knicks remain unlikely to reincorporate exiled center Joakim Noah into the team under new coach David Fizdale and still plan to part ways with the veteran big man before training camp.”

Therein lies the mistake, as the Knicks should either have taken care of this situation by now or proved willing to give him an opportunity at redemption, even if doing so was only geared at revitalizing his trade value for a future swap. The timing doesn’t make sense, as Mike Vorkunov elaborated upon for The Athletic.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Though I have enduring concerns about Dennis Schroder’s fit as a non-starting point guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the franchise still added plenty of talent during the offseason. Hamidou Diallo and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot make for intriguing fliers, while Nerlens Noel should add more depth to the frontcourt portion of the roster. And that’s saying nothing of Paul George’s return or Andre Roberson’s rehabilitation process. 

But while the Thunder are now poised to become legitimate challengers in the Western Conference, they do have one weakness that might need to be addressed in the future. Noel, Steven Adams and Jerami Grant aren’t exactly reliable floor-spacing options, and the coaching staff hasn’t proved willing to lean on Patrick Patterson for a larger role. 

This lack of frontcourt shooting could prove problematic, forcing the smaller players to fill even tougher assignments on the offensive end. 


Philadelphia 76ers

We’ll likely never know how hard the 76ers tried to land a superstar during the 2018 offseason. They had the cap space necessary to pursue either LeBron James or Paul George, but those signings never materialized before they went to the Lakers and Thunder, respectively. Maybe they could’ve put together a convincing package for Kawhi Leonard, though that didn’t happen either. 

So can we really hold the failure to upgrade against the Sixers? To some extent, sure. Just not enough that it cancels out the good they did by acquiring Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden while getting Landry Shamet and Zhaire Smith via the draft.


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