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5-on-5: The best and most underrated NBA offseason moves

Who won and lost the NBA offseason? Are these Lakers locks to make the playoffs?

With nearly all the major moves in the books, our NBA experts answer the big free-agency, trade and draft questions.

1. Which was the best move of the NBA offseason?
Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight: I feel obligated to say LeBron James, given that he’s the best player in the world. But if you’re the Oklahoma City Thunder, you have to feel like it was locking in Paul George after making the enormous gamble to trade for him without knowing whether he’d stay in the small market. On top of that, the Thunder got out from under the last year of Carmelo Anthony’s deal (and all the luxury tax payments it would have triggered) and managed to get a useful player out of it. They won’t win a title because of these two things, but they came out of it all pretty well, all things considered.

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: The Los Angeles Lakers signed the best player in the game. The acquisition instantly rescues a team that has spent the past several seasons in the NBA wilderness and restores its brand to among the most relevant in professional sports. The Lakers still need to assemble some additional pieces, be it another marquee free agent or the maturation of a couple of their young prospects into bona fide top-shelf talents, but the golden hue around the Lakers has officially returned.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com: The best move was the most anticlimactic, the most predictable and the most obvious. Never mind that there has been a run on graffiti paint since LeBron took his talents to Redondo Beach. The Lakers got their man, the juice of a “big name” that pumps new life into the Lakers’ hype machine and a chance to position themselves for a game-changing summer in 2019. In the meantime, LeBron will settle into his L.A. digs and sort through the — ahem — colorful cast of characters who have joined him. Anytime you sign the best player in the game, you win. Simple as that.

Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Signing the best player in the game was pretty good for the Lakers, although the Thunder keeping Paul George was such a monumental moment for the franchise that I sort of feel like it should be put in a special category. It totally set them up for the next three seasons.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: I’m choosing to interpret this as a move with the highest degree of difficulty — or, in other words, not the Lakers signing LeBron James. In that case, I’m going with the Toronto Raptors dealing for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Although adding Leonard is a high-risk move because of his injury and impending free agency, the Raptors gave up so little in addition to DeMar DeRozan (center Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick) that even if Leonard leaves after this season, the trade can still be a positive move for them.

2. Which offseason move is least likely to work out?
Arnovitz: We’ll grade the Washington Wizards on a curve because it’s unlikely that they believe the acquisitions of Dwight Howard, Jeff Green and Austin Rivers vault them toward the top of the Eastern Conference. But at some point, the Wizards might need to take a cold, sober look at the roster and measure whether they believe their core, as currently constituted, has a strong probability of playing for an Eastern Conference title. It might very well be that the core in question is their best shot, but the full range of options — however radical — should be explored.

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