This NBA offseason was among the busiest that we’ve seen in recent history. With the salary cap rising to a record $94 million, many different players were able to take advantage of the market and sign lucrative contracts.
While some teams still have a few roster spots to fill, the bulk of moves are behind us. Players have been drafted, some trades were made and a ton of free agents were signed. While some players decided to stay put in free agency, others wanted a change in scenery.
Of course, Kevin Durant headlined the list of players that opted to sign with a new team. Some of the players who changed teams will be given a fresh start and it could prove beneficial for their career. Whether it was to find an increased role, to compete for a championship or to leave a bad environment (or some combination of these reasons), some players will find themselves in a better situation next season.
Here is a look at five players who look to have better opportunities heading into the 2016-17 season:
Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks:
For all parties involved, it seemed best that Howard moved on from the Houston Rockets. Howard’s relationship with James Harden was said to be a bit rocky, as the two had problems getting along on and off of the court. It also didn’t help matters that Harden said prior to the start of free agency that the two hadn’t communicated much throughout the offseason.
Another sign that it was time for Howard to choose a new team was the hiring of Mike D’Antoni at head coach. The two didn’t have the best relationship during their time with the Los Angeles Lakers and any potential problems between the two are now effectively gone with Howard set to suit up for the Hawks in 2016-17. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer seems to be the disciplinarian needed to help Howard get his career back on track.
Al Horford, Boston Celtics:
While Horford’s situation with the Atlanta Hawks wasn’t as toxic as Howard’s was, it seems like a good decision that Horford has moved on. The Hawks made the playoffs in each of the nine seasons Horford spent in Atlanta, but the team failed to advance deeper than the Eastern Conference Finals.
In fact, the Hawks advanced to the Conference Finals just that one time two seasons ago and were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Horford could have recognized that Hawks roster went as far as it’ll go and a change in scenery was necessary. Horford’s reception in Atlanta will be interesting to see considering his father’s recent comments that the lack of fan support was a factor in his decision to leave.
Pau Gasol, San Antonio Spurs:
Leaving the Chicago Bulls was likely a welcomed move by Gasol. The second half of last season for the Bulls was a struggle as the team fell from third place in the Eastern Conference to out of the playoffs altogether. The team’s chemistry came into question toward the end of the season since players were said to be clashing with one another.
It shouldn’t be shocking then to see how Gasol will be in a better situation next season. He’ll be leaving a team that had a lot of issues for a team that virtually has no locker room issues or any drama. The Spurs are seemingly always a candidate to win a championship and those odds figure to stay high with the addition of Gasol.
Willie Reed, Miami HEAT:
Reed proved to be a good addition for the Brooklyn Nets last season. The only problem for Reed was his playing time came sporadically and he even missed time at the beginning of the season due to a thumb injury. For one reason or another, Reed’s playing time seemed to dwindle under interim head coach Tony Brown. However, Reed played very well when he did see the court. He averaged just 4.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and .8 blocks in just under 11 minutes per game, but his per-48 stats were off the charts: 20.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.
Prior to joining the Nets last season, the HEAT were interested in Reed and he even played for their Summer League team. While things didn’t quite work out in Brooklyn, Reed figures to have a bounce-back season next year for the HEAT. He’ll back up starting center Hassan Whiteside in the lineup and looks poised to have a big role. He’s already been in the gym in Miami working out with his new teammates and seems to be getting adjusted to South Florida quite well. Playing under such a respected head coach in Erik Spoelstra likely won’t hurt either.
Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls:
After one season with the Sacramento Kings, Rondo arrives to the Bulls on a clean slate. The problems within the Kings organization are well-documented to this point and finding a way to move past those figures to be a win for Rondo. Rondo joins a Bulls team that already has its established leader in Jimmy Butler, as well as fellow offseason addition Dwyane Wade.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Rondo, Butler and Wade will mesh together on the court, but it seems as though all players involved know their roles moving forward and it shouldn’t become a big problem. Rondo signed a two-year contract with the Bulls, but he’s only guaranteed for this upcoming season so the team can move on from him if it doesn’t work out.
Derrick Rose, New York Knicks:
Acquiring Rose from the Bulls can prove to be a great move for the Knicks. Rose is entering the final year of his contract and will be trying to prove to everyone that he can still be an elite point guard in the NBA. Expectations will surely be high for the Knicks this season, but it will give Rose a fresh start and a chance to move on.
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks:
Noah seems to be in the same position as Gasol and Rose. All three were on an underachieving Bulls team last season and all have the opportunity now to move on. The Knicks invested a significant amount of money in Noah and he should benefit by the decision to sign in New York.
Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks:
Let’s be clear that being on a team that went to the last two NBA Finals was in no way a bad situation to be in. But signing with the Mavericks will give Barnes a chance to be one of the team’s top scoring options. Barnes was obviously the fourth option with the Warriors behind Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but he’ll now have a chance to lead a Mavericks team that wants to play deep into the playoffs.
Did we leave any players out? Hit the comments and let us know!
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