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The 2-3 Zone, the winners of the offseason

The “2”

Every year, there are clear winners and losers of the National Basketball Association offseason, and this year is no different. Numerous teams have made moves to improve their playoff and title odds in a year that will hopefully be filled with parity.

Surprisingly, one of the clear winners of the offseason is the reigning champion. The Los Angeles Lakers improved in just about every way they could, given their slender cap space heading into the offseason.

The Lakers moved Danny Green, who hasn’t shot the ball even remotely well in the playoffs since 2016, for Dennis Schröder. The new Lakers point guard is arguably the best sixth man in the league on top of being an efficient scorer, skilled playmaker and one of the most clutch players in the NBA.

The addition of Schröder also far and away makes up for the loss of Rajon Rondo. The loss of Rondo has been overstated by many, and having LeBron James and Schröder as playmakers easily makes up for not having Rondo.

The Lakers also upgraded their big man duo from Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee to Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. Although Gasol and Harrell might not provide as much rim crashing and high-energy defense as Howard and McGee, Harrell’s scoring and Gasol’s basketball IQ will be difference makers for the Lakers in the playoffs. 

Los Angeles also retained Markieff Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, while adding a solid 3-and-D guy in Wesley Matthews.

The Lakers have retooled and are ready to win it all again.

The Portland Trail Blazers have also been winning all offseason, making the right move at just about every turn.

The Blazers were already spearheaded by a superstar point guard, along with a clearly above-average shooting guard and big man. But Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic have not had the best supporting cast for a few years now.

This offseason, though, the Blazers brought in two elite defenders with Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. Covington will also give the Blazers some reliable three-point shooting, while Jones Jr. will give Portland some excitement and high-energy hoops.

The Blazers even brought back Enes Kanter, who had a nice 23-game spell with the team back in 2019. And they brought in Harry Giles, who could have some great upside.

The Blazers will be a team to watch in 2021.

The “3”

Out in the Western Conference, the most exciting teams continued to improve.

The Phoenix Suns offseason hasn’t been perfect. The decision to draft Jalen Smith at No. 10 is questionable. And bringing in Damian Jones isn’t particularly special.

However, the Suns brought in some above-average three-point shooters on the wing, Jae Crowder and E’Twaun Moore, to make up for what they lost in Kelly Oubre Jr.

Additionally, the Suns traded for Chris Paul without giving up too much. Paul will immediately contribute to winning in Phoenix. He’ll allow Devin Booker to thrive even more as an off-ball scorer. He’ll also take pressure off Booker’s burdened shoulders. And Paul might even transform Deandre Ayton into an All-Star center with his pick-and-roll playmaking.

With a murky Western Conference picture, the Suns could emerge further toward the top of the pack than many expect.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are also big winners simply because of the amount of asset-compiling they were able to do this offseason.

They’re in tank mode now, and their own picks are incredibly valuable. But more importantly, the Thunder have a grand total of 15 first-round picks from 2021 to 2026. That doesn’t even seem real.

Hopefully the Thunder can land the next generational prospect, Emoni Bates, with all that draft capital.

The last big winner this offseason is Gordon Hayward. 

This one is easy. 

He’s 30 years old. He’s been an All-Star once in his career. He has a serious injury history. And he averaged more than 20 points per game only once in his career several years ago.

Even considering all that, Hayward received a four-year contract worth $120 million. So, congratulations to Hayward for absolutely fleecing the Charlotte Hornets and securing his future.

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