Welcome to the first day of the rest of the NBA offseason. While so much attention has been focused on LeBron and now the Miami Heat, there are 29 other teams and a couple hundred other players with business to take care of before training camp.
Not everybody was waiting for LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh, either. From the eve of the NBA Draft to the early stages of free agency, those who were active have been rewarded. Here are the five best offseason moves that may have slipped under the radar:
1. Daequan Cook to Oklahoma City
The way the Thunder lost to the Lakers in the playoffs made getting a rebounding big man the team’s top offseason priority, but before that, I believe it would have been getting a pure shooter. Too many times when OKC needed a three or somebody to knock down a J, all defensive eyes went to Kevin Durant, and his teammates couldn’t deliver. Before this year’s Draft the Thunder picked up Cook in a trade with Miami for a pick, and got their shooter. The issue now is Cook finding playing time. OKC’s backcourt is loaded with Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor running the point, Thabo Sefolosha for defense, James Harden for offense, and Mo Pete for veteran savvy. If Cook plays his way into the rotation, he can spread the floor and provide a legit sniper behind the arc.
2. Martell Webster to Minnesota
Another team that was loaded in certain areas but didn’t really have a pure shooter. ‘Tell was also acquired in a Draft-day trade, but just like in Portland, he’ll go right into a situation where minutes may be hard to come by at small forward. The Wolves have former Lottery pick Corey Brewer and this year’s Lottery pick Wes Johnson on the wing, but Webster could set himself apart with his defense as well as his outside shooting ability.
3. Drew Gooden to Milwaukee
Forget how much they paid him and consider where he fits into the Bucks’ scheme. Until Larry Sanders is ready to take over as the power forward of the future, Milwaukee needs somebody who can complement Andrew Bogut in the post. In the East they’ll now have to deal with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer — along with Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Brook Lopez, etc. — and Gooden immediately bolsters the frontcourt. You may not like the cap number, but Milwaukee GM John Hammond saw a need on his roster and he filled it.
4. Hakim Warrick to Phoenix
He’s not the next Amar’e, but he at least has the framework to take an honest crack at trying to fill STAT’s shoes. Warrick is long, athletic and he can finish at the rim; that alone should get him some easy buckets courtesy Steve Nash feeding him the ball. Warrick’s career-high averages are 12.7 points and 5.1 boards per game, and that’s when he was a part-time starter in Memphis playing 26 minutes a night. If he can put up 15 and 7 a night in Phoenix at a clearance-rack price in comparison to Amar’e putting up 20 and 8 in New York, the Suns got themselves a steal.
5. Steve Blake to L.A. Lakers
The Lakers didn’t have any point guards signed before reaching an agreement with Blake, who could mess around and find himself starting for the defending champs by Opening Night. There are three things a Lakers point guard needs to do, and Blake can handle all three: Bring the ball up, play D, and hit treys. He’s not as proven in the clutch as Derek Fisher, but he does have postseason and (NCAA) championship experience. And he’ll at least slow down quick opposing PG’s who got into the lane so easily against Fisher, giving L.A.’s bigs a chance to defend more effectively.