Eastern Conference Offseason Grades
Well, the offseason is just about over, and the rosters are pretty much set for most of the teams in the NBA. So, here’s my take on what teams in the Eastern Conference have done so far.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Key Additions: Devin Harris, Lou Williams, John Jenkins, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow
Key Subtractions: Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams
Projected Starting Lineup: Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Hawks have had a surprisingly good offseason simply because they got rid of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams’ contacts, which sets them up to make a big splash in next year’s free agency of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. That alone is a good offseason in itself. They still have a quality starting lineup, which still looks playoff worthy. But I wouldn’t expect anything higher than 6th seed in the East, and a first round playoff exit.
Projected Record: 44-38
Team: Boston Celtics
Key Additions: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo
Key Subtractions: Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, Greg Steimsa
Projected Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Celtics unexpectedly lost a member of the former “Big 3” to a rival team in the East. I don’t think anyone can truly replace Ray Allen, but the Celtics have filled in the void nicely both in free agency and through the draft. With Jet as the new sixth man, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo as the bigs, they certainly have a deeper team than they did last year. Not only that, you cannot forget that combo-forward Jeff Green will also be back. The Celtics should be the Atlantic division winner this season, once again. This looks like it could be the last run for the Celtics before they blow it up and start over.
Projected Record: 49-33
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Key Additions: Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans
Key Subtractions: Gerald Green, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams
Projected Starting Lineup: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I don’t care what anyone says about the Nets. I’m not sold on anything that they have done this offseason. In fact, I’ll go out and say they’ve probably had one of the worst off seasons out of everyone because of what they’ve done. They ended up keeping Williams, which was good, but now have an overpaid and an untradeable contract in Joe Johnson, as well as overpaying for Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez for the next four seasons. This is a team that may not even make the playoffs next season. That’s right, I said it. All they really did was add Joe Johnson and role players to a team that was just terrible last season. I realize they want to open up in Brooklyn on a positive note, with a winning team, but the future is not looking very good right now if you ask me. The Nets are now one of the worst teams financially for the next several years.
Projected Record: 38-44
Team: Charlotte Bobcats
Key Additions: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Jeff Taylor, Brendan Haywood
Key Subtractions: Corey Maggette, D.J. Augustin, Derrick Brown
Projected Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, MKG, Byron Bullens, Bismack Biyombo
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I’m not really sure what to think with the Bobcats. I mean, it’s not like they could have gotten any worse than they were last year, right? But either way, some of their moves are puzzling to me. One was signing Ramon Sessions when they’re trying to develop Kemba Walker at the point. The second was going after Ben Gordon in what will be two more years of paying a 6th man all-star type money. The moves will surely improve the Bobcats, and will obviously keep them high in the draft lottery. But it could also stall the development of players like Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Biyombo for the sake of getting a few more regular season wins. The Bobcats have a nice core of Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Biyombo along with several future high lottery picks. They need to keep building through the draft, not trade and sign free agents. All in all, MKG was a great pick for them and should be a Rookie of the Year candidate right out of the gate. Other than that, there’s not much to say about the Bobcats. They have improved, but are far from making the playoffs.
Projected Record: 22-60
Team: Chicago Bulls
Key Additions: Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammad
Key Subtractions: Derrick Rose (Injury), John Lucas, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik
Projected Starting Lineup: Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Look, the Bulls aren’t in as bad of shape as most people would believe. I know that they will be without Rose for a large chunk of the season, but they still have Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah as guaranteed starters. Add in the fact that they have one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA, the Bulls are still currently a playoff team with or without Rose. Besides, they were still something like 18-9 without him last season. It’s not great, but it shows that they can still win without their MVP playing. The Bulls also didn’t add much as far as fire power to the lineup, but between Hinrich, Robinson, Teague, I think they have the point guard position covered in the mean time until Rose returns.
Projected Record: 48-34
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Key Additions: Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Tyler Zeller
Key Subtractions: Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker,
Projected Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Cavs made one of the most surprising moves on draft night by taking Dion Waiters as high as 4th overall, which is a risky move considering that they passed up Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond-two players who would have also been good picks for the Cavs. But I still see Waiters playing a big role for the team this season if he lives up to his potential. Waiters is still a big unknown to most, including myself, because as we know, he was the 6th man for the Orange instead of a starter. In my opinion, this can be a good thing because we may not have seen the best of Waiters just yet. As far as the other moves the Cavs made, they moved up in the draft to acquire Zeller from the Mavs, and also added swingman C.J. Miles who will compete for the starting SF spot. Even though the Cavs looked good for the beginning of last season, losing Jamison and Parker is big for them, but it also allows them to develop Waiters and Thompson. They will probably still be in the draft lottery next season, but the Cavs definitely have a bright future ahead with Irving leading the way.
Projected Record: 32-50
Team: Detroit Pistons
Key Additions: Kim English, Corey Maggette, Kyle Singler, Andre Drummond
Key Subtractions: Ben Gordon
Projected Starting Lineup: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Pistons have gotten the steal of the draft for the third consecutive year. It was Monroe two years ago, Knight last year, and Drummond this year. They are one wing player away from becoming a playoff team once again, and they should be able to draft one next year since they should be a lottery team once again. They are still a couple of years away from making the playoffs, but I like the core of their team right now with Knight, Monroe and Drummond. If there’s anything that I don’t like about the current state of the Pistons, it was resigning Stuckey and Prince last season. They are two players that probably should have been let go in order to help rebuild the team and give a young player like Austin Daye a chance to prove himself. Kim English is another player to watch out for. The guy can shoot, and is a great pick for them at 44. He should see regular minutes behind Stuckey at SG because of the lack of depth at the position.
Projected Record: 33-49
Team: Indiana Pacers
Key Additions: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee
Key Subtractions: Darren Collison, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, Dahntay Jones
Projected Starting Lineup: George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Not a bad offseason for the Pacers, but not a great one either. All that they really did was give the starting PG spot to Hill by trading Collison, signing Augustin as his backup, and then adding a little more depth with Green, Mahinmi and Plumlee. The Pacers have some really nice size to backup West and Hibbert, but look very limited on the wings. Resigning Barbosa would have been a good move for them, because it looks like they could use the extra scoring punch off the bench. Other than that, it looks like a very similar team to the one that we saw last year. Look for the Pacers to win the Central Division this year.
Projected Record: 54-28
Team: Miami Heat
Key Additions: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis
Key Subtractions: Ronny Turiaf
Projected Starting Lineup: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Who would have thought the Heat would be able to do this much with a MLE as their only free agency money. Well, it was enough to land HOFer Ray Allen and the sharp-shooting Rashard Lewis to the rotation. However, they still lack a true center which could hurt them, depending on who they play. To say that the Heat had it easy in the Finals last year would be foolish. But they just happened to match up well with the Thunder because neither team has true post players. The Heat do not even come close to the size of the Lakers, and if they match up with them in the finals, it could be a huge, huge problem for them trying to contain both Howard and Gasol in the post. Allen and Lewis were both good signings, but they already have decent shooters in Chalmers, Miller, Jones and Battier. Not focusing on adding more size this offseason may cause a problem for them in the playoffs.
Projected Record: 65-17
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Key Additions: Doron Lamb, John Henson, Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla
Key Subtractions: Carlos Delfino, Shaun Livingston, Jon Leuer
Projected Starting Lineup: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Mike Dunleavy, Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Without a doubt, the Bucks have a talented team. It’ll come down to whether or not the players will mesh well together under Skiles. They have a log jam at PF now that they’ve resigned Ilyasova, and also have Henson, Gooden, Sanders, and Udoh at PF. Unless they plan on putting Ilyasova at SF, it makes me wonder why they went after Henson in the draft when guys like Moe Harkless or Terrence Jones were there for the taking to replace Delfino at SF (who they should have kept). I think Lamb will end up being a good pick for the Bucks, who will add defense and 3-point shooting to the second unit. I think the Bucks have what it takes to possibly sneak into the playoffs next season if things click in their lineup, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t. They have improved this offseason, but nothing that guarantees them playoffs at this point.
Projected Record: 40-42
Team: New York Knicks
Key Additions: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas
Key Subtractions: Jeremy Lin, Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries
Projected Starting Lineup: Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Knicks probably had one of the most, if not the most active and interesting off seasons in the entire NBA. Obviously the biggest news was that the Knicks were not going to match the Rockets’ offer on RFA Jeremy Lin, and then they decided not to match the Raptors’ offer on Landry Fields. These are two huge losses for the Knicks, as Jeremy Lin played so well as the Knicks starting point guard, and Landry Fields being their best wing defender hurts the defense. One thing’s for sure though, the Knicks are still a dangerous offensive team, and if they continue to play the way they did under Mike Woodson ending last season, they should be a much improved team this season. Adding a pass first point guard in Kidd should serve well to the shoot-first players on the Knicks. However, if the team struggles, and Anthony and Stoudemire fail to develop some type of chemistry this year, it may require trying to move one of them, likely Stoudemire.
Projected Record: 47-35
Team: Orlando Magic
Key Additions: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Andrew Nicholson, Josh McRoberts, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon, Kyle O’Quinn
Key Subtractions: Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon
Projected Starting Lineup: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkolgu, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Finally. The Dwightmare is over, at least for now. But after months and months of rumours and speculation, all the Magic could get for Dwight Howard was Arron Afflalo, Al Harington, Josh McRoberts, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and some late first round picks? They couldn’t even get anyone to take back Hedo Turkolgu (a previous requirement in a Howard deal), but somehow managed to have to take back Afflalo and Harrington’s huge contracts? Are you kidding me? If someone in Orlando’s front office could explain to me how this was a better deal than what Houston was offering, someone, please, enlighten me. I’m stumped on this one. As far as the Magic’s season goes, I just hope they get luckier in the lottery than they did with this Howard trade.
Projected Record: 24-58
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions: Nick Young, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, Arnett Moultrie, Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown
Key Subtractions: Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams, Elton Brand, Jodie Meeks, Nikola Vucevic
Projected Starting Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Andrew Bynum
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: After years of being rumoured to be getting rid of Iguodala, the Sixers finally bit the dust and shipped him off to Denver as part of the Howard trade. Losing Iggy is a big loss, as he is one of the best all around players and defenders in the league. Similarly, losing Lou Williams, the team’s leading scorer, who also came in off the bench, will be another loss to the depth charts. However, Bynum, if healthy, should be able to dominate games even more so without Gasol. I think he’s going to have a huge year, and keep the Sixers in the playoff mix. Wait, it gets better. It even looks as if Bynum will extend his contract to remain with the team as well. I also expect a breakout year from Evan Turner, who will now look to fill the big void left by Iguodala.
Projected Record: 41-41
Team: Toronto Raptors
Key Additions: Kyle Lowry, John Lucas, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, Jonas Valanciunas
Key Subtractions: Jerryd Bayless, James Johnson, Gary Forbes, Ben Uzoh
Projected Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Raptors have made some pretty nice moves this offseason, and probably one of the most underrated moves by adding Kyle Lowry to take over the point. However, they still have a lot of young and under developed players on the roster like DeRozan, Ross, Davis, and Valanciunas, who all need time to adjust to the NBA and prove themselves before we start praising Bryan Colangelo for putting together a playoff team. The one thing that I don’t like about the Raptors moving forward is that they’re rushing the rebuild just to get into the playoffs, and still have a load of players who have yet to prove themselves. Them relying on veterans to get more wins, especially as we saw this past season, instead of playing their young guys is something that I’ve never been a fan of, and is the one of the only negatives I have about Casey, other than not holding all of his players accountable defensively. If there’s something that is vital during a rebuild, it’s playing your young players and/or rookies so that you can get an idea of what you have. We may have gotten rid of a quality NBA guard in Bayless, and may never know Ed Davis’ full potential, all because the Raptors wanted a few more wins. As far as me not having Valanciunas starting, if anyone has seen him during the Olympics, you know that he is not ready for a starting role or major minutes right now. It’s possible he may even play the entire season behind Johnson and Gray as he adjusts to life in the NBA. All in all, I like the moves that the Raptors have made. They finally look ready to push for the playoffs this year, and finally have a roster capable of doing so. But hold your horses. This team is nowhere close to actually doing anything once they get there.
Projected Record: 40-42
Team: Washington Wizards
Key Additions: Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor
Key Subtractions: Andray Blatche
Projected Starting Lineup: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Nene
Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I think the Wizards will be one of the league’s most improved teams next season. Wall and Beal make for a young and talented backcourt, while veterans Ariza, Nene and Okafor will add playoff experience and leadership. Beal is going to be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, and could help to change the losing culture in Washington in the near future. I think the Wizards took the wrong route by simply adding veterans instead of continuing to build through the draft, but let’s face it, changes needed to be made in order to create a better team environment. The old Wizards team was just too immature, and didn’t really care about winning. The Wizards, though they did improve, still aren’t good enough for the playoffs just yet. Maybe next year Washington.
Projected Record: 37-45
Up next will be my offseason grades and thoughts on the Western Conference teams.