- Kevin Pelton, ESPN Staff Writer
When the question of "Who got better this summer?" was posed at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas earlier this month, there was an easy answer: the Cleveland Cavaliers. By signing LeBron James, the Cavaliers landed the offseason's biggest prize.
Finding other teams that improved was more challenging.
To quantify my answer, I turned to the wins above replacement projections I previously used to rank this summer's top free agents. They incorporate both my box score ratings for next season from the SCHOENE projection system and ESPN's real plus-minus ratings, adjusted for age. For each team, I added up these projections for players lost and added via free agency and trades.
These team ratings don't include the draft and are still a work in progress. In particular, the final two top free agents on the market -- Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns and Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons, both restricted -- will swing things when they sign new contracts. Nonetheless, this method offers a good snapshot of which teams have helped themselves the most heading into the 2014-15 season via free agency and trades and which lost the most talent.
Here's a look at the five biggest winners and five biggest losers of the NBA offseason according to WARP projections.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers | plus-9.9 WARP
The Cavaliers lost a pair of starters acquired midseason in Deng and Hawes. They added the best player in the NBA. James alone is projected for 21.1 WARP next season, making it somewhat surprising Cleveland isn't projected to improve more. Blame gutting the bench to make room for James' maximum salary. Officially signing Mike Miller (1.2 WARP) will help a little. Adding Kevin Love (14.6, fourth in the league) would help a lot, no matter the package the Cavaliers send in return.
2. Dallas Mavericks | plus-9.1 WARP
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann