Roundtable: Offseason winners, losers, underrated signings, more
The Lakers stole headlines this offseason, adding both Dwight Howard, Steve Nash
Orlando finally traded Dwight Howard but failed to secure much talent in return
Ray Allen is the perfect role player for Miami; Jeremy Lin could struggle in Houston
SI.com NBA writers Sam Amick, Paul Forrester, Lee Jenkins, Chris Mannix and Ian Thomsen look back at a wild offseason and try to make sense of what it will all mean for the 2012-13 season.
Sam Amick: The Lakers definitely had the best offseason, but it's not just because they managed to add two future Hall of Famers. They didn't stop at Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, adding a bench shooter in guard Jodie Meeks who, as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told me recently, "has to be guarded," and a proven scorer in forward Antawn Jamison, who has spent most of his career as a No. 1 option, averaging 19.5 points in 14 seasons.
I love what New Orleans did this summer, too, although it was unfortunate that shooting guard Eric Gordon took the fun out of it for Hornets fans with the way he came back dragging his feet after the team matched Phoenix's max offer. Davis will need time to grow, power forward Ryan Anderson and center Robin Lopez were quality free-agent pickups who filled needs, and Austin Rivers was a good draft pick and will be used as a combo guard.
Paul Forrester: The Lakers parted with the league's second-best big man (Andrew Bynum) and got the best (Howard) and added a two-time MVP (Nash) who is one of the few point guards savvy enough to keep a roster full of superstars happy. If the Executive of the Year award doesn't already have Kupchak's name engraved on it, the trophy may as well be melted into scrap metal. Credit coach Mike Brown, too, for checking his ego and turning over half of his job to Princeton offense guru Eddie Jordan in hopes of boosting an offense that ranked 20th in pace last season. Kobe Bryant may be in his golden years, but the Lakers have to up the tempo a bit if they hope to get past the Thunder or the Heat.
Lee Jenkins: The Lakers, because they needed to revamp their roster, yet they had no financial flexibility and few trade assets to do it. They were staring at an increasingly unpleasant future: Bryant with two years left on his contract, yet no realistic chance to win a sixth title. And then, just as they did in 1996, they changed the outlook of their franchise in two months, and, just as they did in 2008, they did it without giving up a whole lot. They essentially swapped Bynum for Howard and Nash, which will reinvigorate Bryant, as well as Pau Gasol. The Hornets had a fantastic summer, but they are still years away from contention. The Lakers are right back in it.
Chris Mannix: The Lakers, easily, for one simple reason: They landed Dwight Howard. If Nash can stay healthy, he will have an enormous impact, what with his baked-in ability to orchestrate an offense and his historically accurate shooting. But Howard is the difference maker. Even if his role in the offense is reduced -- and at this point, it's just a question of how much it will be reduced -- he controls the paint and the backboards in ways that Bynum only dreamed about. That ability alone elevates the Lakers to the top of the conference.
Ian Thomsen: There can be no doubting it was the Lakers. They've resolved their biggest issues by trading for Nash, who gives them the leadership at point guard and the penetration and the outside shooting that were huge problems for the team last season. Howard will be an upgrade over Bynum, obviously, but what separated the Lakers from everyone else this summer was that they put themselves back in the championship discussion. That's the ultimate standard and it trumps the good work done by Brooklyn, New Orleans, the Clippers and other rising teams.
Amick: In a sense, judging Houston's offseason is like reviewing a book after only reading half of it. The Rockets' seemingly endless flurry of moves have resulted in a roster full of assets that have high trade value and could help land a bona fide star, but the stockpiling strategy hasn't paid off for general manager Daryl Morey just yet. And in the absence of Howard or any other big-name player to build around, Rockets fans are left wondering why quality players like Kyle Lowry (traded to Toronto for forward Gary Forbes and a first-round pick) and power forward Luis Scola (amnestied to create salary cap space and later signed by Phoenix) aren't around anymore. Adding point guard Jeremy Lin on a three-year, $25.1 million deal will bring eyeballs and intrigue, but that move only became a priority because Goran Dragic -- the incumbent who had such a strong finish last season -- was lost to Phoenix on a four-year, $34 million deal while the Rockets were making the hard push for Howard.
Forrester: That the Magic finally traded Howard was no surprise. That Orlando got so little in return for its rebuilding efforts (likely low first-round draft picks, little immediate cap relief) was. Add in the firing of Stan Van Gundy, the signing of Jameer Nelson to a pricey three-year contract and just enough talent to keep them out of the top-pick discussion, and the Magic appear headed from the playoffs to NBA limbo. And for a rebuilding team, limbo is no place to reside. GM Rob Hennigan has good front office bloodlines from Oklahoma City and he'll need to rely on them to speed Orlando's post-Howard life.
Jenkins: The Magic, not simply because they lost Howard, but because they failed to come away with either the second- or third-best players in the deal: Bynum and Andre Iguodala. The Magic have talked a lot about their plan moving forward and what they can do with the draft picks they netted and the cap space they cleared. But as far as players who can produce now, they essentially turned the best center in the NBA into Arron Afflalo and not much else.
Mannix: Orlando not only lost Howard but it also got nickels on the dollar for him. In a four-team trade the Lakers landed the big prize while the Sixers (Bynum) and Nuggets (Iguodala) acquired young, impactful players. The Magic? They got a serviceable guard in Afflalo, a good prospect in Moe Harkless and three first-round picks that will likely land at the bottom of the first round, along with cap relief. Say what you want about the Nets' Brook Lopez, but Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and at least four first-rounders with similar cap relief sounded like a better deal to me.
Thomsen: Orlando suffered the worst summer, and no one else can come close. From a team with championship hopes and experience in all phases of the operation, it became a franchise with rookie leadership at GM and head coach and a roster led by Hedo Turkoglu. The Magic won't be bad forever -- this is a franchise with a history of recovering sooner than later -- but this year they're going to be terrible. I don't know who they're going to beat, and the talent figures to keep degrading as they try to dump contracts.