Despite losing Isaiah Hartenstein, Knicks rank among early NBA offseason winners

Two days into NBA free agency, it’s hard to view the New York Knicks’ start to the summer as anything short of a success.

Yes, the Knicks lost Isaiah Hartenstein to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but after trading for Mikal Bridges and re-signing OG Anunoby, they are among the clear-cut winners of the offseason, now solely needing to tidy up the roster at the center position to take a balanced team into the regular season with the hopes of winning a title.

New York isn’t the only city, however, home to a successful start to the offseason. They join six other teams that can call themselves clear-cut winners in improving their roster for next season.

Dallas Mavericks

Only one team can say it had a better start to the offseason, and it’s the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks made it to the NBA Finals on the backs of two players — Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving — then successfully added a third, trading second-round picks to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal to acquire Klay Thompson.

Not only is Thompson a four-time NBA champion regarded as possibly the second greatest shooter in NBA history, but he’s also got a chip on his shoulder after Warriors brass deemed his contributions and accomplishments unworthy of a long-term max extension in San Francisco.

And so, the Mavs got him at a discount: three years, $50 million for one of the most decorated sharpshooters to ever touch a basketball, a player opposing teams quite frankly cannot help off of to double team Doncic or Irving in isolation situations.

The Mavericks also landed a key role player in Naji Marshall and traded Tim Hardaway Jr., who fell out of the rotation, for Quentin Grimes, a former Knick turned Detroit Piston ultimately traded home to Dallas to start the offseason.

In the blink of an eye, the Mavs are stacked. They got their superstar duo some high-level help, and now Dallas is in position to run it back for a shot at a title next season.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Tobias Harris era in Philadelphia came to an end when his five-year, $180 million contract expired entering this offseason.

The 76ers wasted no time in finding an upgrade: Alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Philly has added Paul George.

George is a nine-time All-Star revered as one of the best two-way wings the league has seen this generation. After five injury-riddled seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, George joins the Sixers to form a Big 3 capable of going toe-to-toe with the Knicks and Boston Celtics for the Eastern Conference crown.

George is also coming off of the healthiest season of his Clippers stint, playing in 74 games last year after failing to appear in more than 56 games in any of the previous four seasons.

If the Sixers get a healthy George, their prayers for a legitimate third offensive option will have been answered.

Philly also re-signed All-Star guard Maxey to a five-year, $203.8 million deal, retained Kelly Oubre for two years, $16.3 million, then added Eric Gordon and Andre Drummond for bench help while losing De’Anthony Melton to the Golden State Warriors.

Ultimately, the Sixers will go as Embiid goes, and if the 7-foot MVP’s body holds up for the duration of a playoff run, George’s arrival as an aggressive three-point shooter, a crafty scorer off the dribble, and a versatile defender raises Philly’s ceiling to championship heights.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder did what the Knicks hoped no team would: Make Hartenstein an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The Knicks could only offer Hartenstein a max of four years, $72.5 million to stay in New York, so OKC offered more money over fewer years: a three-year deal worth $87 million at an average annual value of $29 million.

Hartenstein left one championship contender for another and fortifies Oklahoma City’s front court, joining Rookie of the Year runner-up Chet Holmgren and MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder also traded Josh Giddey to the Chicago Bulls for Alex Caruso, a steal given Caruso’s status as a championship-caliber role player known for his defensive edge and three-point shooting.

After securing the West’s No. 1 seed and losing to the No. 5 Mavericks in the second round, the Thunder got better and now have another chance to make a run at emerging as Western Conference champions next season.

Orlando Magic

Cue the goofy Orlando Magic TikTok theme song: This team is officially a piece away.

The Magic poached Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the 2023 NBA champion Denver Nuggets, landing a starting 3-and-D wing on a three-year, $66 million deal.

Pope is a two-time NBA champion who also won in the Orlando bubble with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. He is a low-maintenance floor spacer who can guard his yard, and he joins a team loaded with long, athletic defenders ranking third in defensive rating behind only the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics during the regular season.

And now, the Magic need a point guard. The Magic have split duties between Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, but maybe a deal for C.J. McCollum helps push Orlando over the edge.

This is Paolo Banchero’s team after all, and if the Magic can secure a star-level floor general, it just might be enough to push them into the second round next season.

San Antonio Spurs

Priority No. 1 in San Antonio is unlocking Victor Wembanyama’s true potential, and who better for the job than the “Point God” himself, Chris Paul, who landed on the Spurs on a one-year deal worth $11 million.

Paul is revered as one of the greatest floor generals of all-time, and now he gets to mentor the NBA’s next generational talent.

Wembanyama averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.6 blocks and 1.2 steals on a team ostensibly lost on the mission of getting its best player the ball.

Paul will be an extension of Gregg Popovich and will put the rock places only Wembanyama can reach.

They may not be a playoff team next season, but the Spurs will be must-watch TV as Wemby takes the next step in his career, courtesy of CP3’s basketball genius.

New Orleans Pelicans

Is one team’s trash another team’s treasure?

The Pelicans traded Larry Nance Jr., Dyson Daniels and two first-round picks to the Hawks for Dejounte Murray, whose status as a burgeoning star at the guard position evaporated following a first-round playoff exit with a Play-In Tournament loss last season.

New Orleans took a flier on a player whose value has fallen. Murray joins Zion Williamson and Herb Jones on a Pelicans team still under construction.

Brandon Ingram and McCollum are both under contract, but both have been mentioned in possible trade talks. The Pelicans also lost Jonas Valanciunas on to the Washington Wizards, but New Orleans is now home to one of the more talented teams on paper.

As we saw in Atlanta, however, what’s on paper doesn’t always pan out on-court.