Most NBA teams will look back upon their 2023 offseason with a certain fondness—or, at the very least, without any real regret.
Emphasis on most.
Certain organizations have (so far) failed the offseason sniff test. Granted, not all of these flops are smack-you-in-the-face egregious.
A couple of teams have gone brazenly belly up. Others, however, have more subtly—yet still meaningfully—missed the mark by virtue of squandered opportunities and traveling down unspectacular paths.
Everything that follows is presented with the caveat that there's still plenty of offseason yet to unfold. Fortunes and circumstances can change.
For the moment, though, these NBA teams will be left to lament what they did or didn't do.
Members of the billionaire class might applaud the Atlanta Hawks' offseason. Everybody else should be trashing them for what is, at best, a masterclass in sideways stinginess.
The Hawks successfully ducked the luxury tax. Woohoo! It only cost them a player who used to have real value.
To be clear, Atlanta's cardinal sin isn't moving on from John Collins. It's holding on to him for so long while repeatedly de-optimizing his usage that he was offloaded as a pure salary dump.
Beyond grand gestures of cheapness—like spending exactly $0 of the mid-level exception—signing Dejounte Murray to a four-year, $114.1 million extension was the Hawks' most notable transaction. That's a legitimately great move. Ending up with Kobe Bufkin at No. 15 (holy finishing at the rim), Patty Mills (for now) and Wesley Matthews is perfectly fine as well.
Still, it's tough to view the addition of three guards to a roster that already has Murray, Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanović as some sort of saving grace.
Atlanta can potentially flip the script by trading for Pascal Siakam. For the time being, though, it appears the organization's C-suite looked at a maddeningly mediocre core and decided to do virtually nothing about it.
Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas essentially began the offseason touting the merits of the Nikola Vučević trade. That is, unequivocally, a weird thing to do in service of a deal that cost the Bulls Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner and Jett Howard (this year's No. 11 pick) and culminated in zero playoff-series victories.
We shouldn't expect Karnišovas to publicly dump all over his own body of work or a player whom Chicago was trying to bring back. To be even more fair, the Bulls have done nothing over the offseason to materially worsen their trajectory.
Deals for Vooch (three years, $60 million), Jevon Carter (three years, $19.5 million), Torrey Craig (two years, $5.4 million), Ayo Dosunmu (three years, $21 million) and Coby White (three years, $36 million) are all fine. Chicago scooped up the No. 35 pick (Julian Phillips), too.
However, these read like a series of transactions from a team preserving its present. In the Bulls' case, that means scrapping and clawing to protect proximity to 40 wins.
This should have been an offseason in which they explored a proper reset. They didn't. They didn't pointedly improve themselves, either. They remain uninspiring and stranded, spinning their wheels without discernible aim.
But hey, at least they (predictably) skated juuust beneath the luxury tax!
To what end the Philadelphia 76ers could have prevented James Harden's trade request is debatable. He wants to land exclusively with the L.A. Clippers and is apparently "extremely upset" with the organization and team president Daryl Morey for how "they handled his possible free agency," according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.
For Morey's part, as Bryan Toporek laid out for Forbes Sports, he is doing what's in the best interest of the franchise given their relative crappy hand. He won't jettison Harden without bringing back a star or a return that can help bag another star.
That's the right stance to maintain. It's also different from a ringing endorsement.
Harden's dissatisfaction is somewhat confusing. The Sixers technically couldn't handle his free agency before it actually began—not legally, anyway. But they should have done a better job forecasting his discontent. He took a pay cut north of $10 million last summer to facilitate the arrivals of P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. Did Philly really think he wouldn't expect preferential treatment, both financially and functionally, down the line?
Meanwhile, as all of this is going on, the Sixers have watched the peak of free agency pass them by. Three rotation players—Jalen McDaniels, Shake Milton, Georges Niang—are all gone. Philly responded to their departures by signing, like, 67 bigs and Patrick Beverley. (The team was smart to match Paul Reed's unique offer sheet from Utah but should have done more to retain him without competing overtures.)
The past-its-expiration-date cherry atop the warm, soupy, sour-smelling sundae that is the Sixers' offseason: Joel Embiid's recent comments about the importance he ascribes to winning a title—in Philly or "anywhere else."
Dismiss this as over-analyzation if you're so inclined. Embiid is smart enough to know exactly what he's doing. And it puts the Sixers in an even tighter bind.
Either they figure out how to exit Harden's trade demand better for wear, despite having little leverage or outside market, or they watch their should-be title contender disintegrate into smithereens.
Portland Trail Blazers
Landing Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 overall pick and being nudged toward a rebuild is far from a nightmare scenario for the Portland Trail Blazers. Some would argue it's the best-case outcome for an organization that has perpetuated sub-contention for most of the past decade.
At the same time, the Blazers aren't embracing a restart by choice. They waited until Damian Lillard requested a trade, specifically to the Miami Heat, rather than initiating this process themselves.
Letting him dictate when and how the rebuild begins bilked Portland of at least some agency and leverage. The Blazers will still glean real value from his departure. But will they get as much as they possibly can from the Heat, when Miami knows it's Dame's one and only? Or if they send him elsewhere, will they be forced to accept even slightly less, paying the price for one of 28 teams rolling the dice on a star who doesn't have them on his wish list?
There is real, immense value in organizations jump-starting teardowns by their own hand. The Utah Jazz wouldn't have gotten nearly as much for Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell last summer if they were moving them in response to a trade request.
Waiting for Lillard to commence this divorce also limited Portland's ability to game-plan around it. Do the Blazers keep Jerami Grant past the trade deadline if they know their franchise icon won't be sticking around? At minimum, if they understood what was coming, they could have aggressively explored sign-and-trade scenarios rather than ink him to a five-year, $160 million deal that has the chance to age extremely poorly and doesn't align with the direction of a rebuilding franchise.
Portland is much less screwed than Philadelphia. The order of operations that led to this moment feels more like a hindrance than a metaphor for hell. But we won't know the full extent of how it impacts the team's future until Lillard gets moved—a process that is already inconveniently lengthy and could take months more.
Are the Toronto Raptors gearing up for a rebuild? Attempting to straddle two timelines? Showing enough faith in who they already have to catapult them up the Eastern Conference standings?
Who the hell knows. The era of existential crisis in Toronto keeps on keeping on.
Letting Fred VanVleet leave for absolutely nothing is franchise malpractice. Especially when you just traded away a top-six-protected first-round pick to acquire Jakob Poeltl, who you then signed to a four-year, $78 million deal, even though his crummy free-throw shooting may prevent him from playing in the highest-stakes moments.
Dennis Schröder and Jalen McDaniels are sound additions. Neither will begin to replace VanVleet's perimeter gravity, though. Toronto's already-cramped spacing has constricted even further, and its direction isn't any clearer, Pascal Siakam trade rumors and all.
This rampant ambiguity makes you wonder what team president Masai Ujiri will do as a follow-up. Will he let Siakam leave for nothing next summer? How about O.G. Anunoby? Or Gary Trent Jr.?
Will the Raptors find a way to shrink the floor even further? Will they pick a direction, firmly restocking assets in a Siakam deal or consolidating their own into a singular talent who accelerates their trajectory? Could they continue to do a whole bunch of nothing?
Anything is apparently—and disturbingly—on the table.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.