The 2022 NBA offseason featured a tidal wave of player movement. On top of the draft, dozens of players changed teams by way of trades and free agency.
And a handful of squads undoubtedly improved.
To determine who moved the needle furthest in the right direction, we consulted Dunks and Threes' estimated wins. For a baseline, we sorted each team by total 2021-22 estimated wins added (the total from incoming players minus the total outgoing).
But that only covers past production. Determining which teams improved most takes plenty of prognostication, which always requires subjectivity.
With stats, potential team fit and a healthy dose of subjectivity taken into account, here's a look at the teams that improved most this offseason.
But first, a word on the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans. All three should be better in 2022-23, but that's because of improved health from stars like Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Zion Williamson. None of those players were acquired this offseason, so we've omitted them here.
Portland Trail Blazers
Incoming: Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, Shaedon Sharpe and Jabari Walker
Outgoing: Joe Ingles and Eric Bledsoe
The Portland Trail Blazers are likely hoping to look back on 2021-22 as a gap year.
Damian Lillard played only 29 games before undergoing abdominal surgery. Jusuf Nurkic played only 56 games. And the Blazers traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Los Angeles Clippers and send CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of the February trade deadline.
Now, they enter 2022-23 with Lillard and Nurkic healthy and newcomers Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II ready to lend support.
After spending two years as an alpha scorer with the Detroit Pistons—where he averaged 20.9 points on 16.1 shots per game—Grant is returning to a role more suited to his game. With defenses focused on slowing down Lillard, he should experience a bounce-back to the kind of efficiency he had in Oklahoma City and Denver.
Grant also provides more size and defensive versatility than McCollum did. Meanwhile, Payton was one of the best and most important defenders on the Golden State Warriors last season. His cutting and corner three-point shooting made him a plus on offense as well.
In 2021-22, Golden State's plus-minus was significantly better when Payton played with Stephen Curry than it was when Curry played without him. Don't be surprised if he makes a similar impact on Lillard.
If Shaedon Sharpe lives up to his top-10 pick status earlier than expected, the Blazers could be back in the hunt for a playoff spot in 2023.
Incoming: Malcolm Brogdon, Danilo Gallinari, JD Davison and Mfiondu Kabengele
Outgoing: Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Daniel Theis, Juwan Morgan and Malik Fitts
The Boston Celtics just made the NBA Finals with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, their two best and most important players, firmly in the pre-prime portions of their careers. This offseason, they added a starting-quality guard in Malcolm Brogdon and a high-end role player in Danilo Gallinari in exchange for one player who was consistently in the rotation (Daniel Theis).
If Brogdon can stay healthy—a big "if"—Boston will have one of the best guard rotations in the league with him, Brown, Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard.
During his three seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Brogdon averaged 18.9 points and 6.3 assists while providing versatile defense. Lineups with him, Smart, Brown and Tatum will have a potentially unparalleled combination of playmaking, shooting and switchability.
Although Gallinari is entering his age-34 campaign, he's still a reliable floor spacer. Over the last four seasons, he's averaged 16.0 points and hit 40.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Boston is a great spot for the twilight of his career, where he'll likely have a healthy portion of his looks created for him.
The Celtics already had one of the best rotations in the NBA. Bolstering it as thoroughly as they did this offseason makes them one of the title favorites in 2022-23, and that's without even considering the Kevin Durant question.
Earlier this summer, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Boston had offered a package that included Jaylen Brown for KD. Those talks haven't led to a trade yet, but Charania dropped another nugget in his report on Durant issuing an ultimatum to Brooklyn's front office this week.
"The Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat remain the most significant candidates to acquire Durant, sources said, with Boston’s package centering around All-Star forward Jaylen Brown seen as a viable deal," he wrote. "Durant has grown close with Boston coach Ime Udoka in recent years after Udoka spent a year with Durant as an assistant in Brooklyn and later with Team USA for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics."
Whether such a trade makes long-term sense for the Celtics is a topic for another day, but adding him to Tatum now would only solidify Boston's position as a title front-runner.