By Cody Williams @TheSizzle20 on July 27, 2014
When the best player in the NBA decides that he wants to go back home and change the name on the front of his jersey, it’s obviously going to shake up the league a bit. Free Agency has done quite a bit to change the landscape of the league for the 2014-15 season. With most of the big moves already made, how does the NBA stack up right now before the seemingly inevitable Kevin Love trade changes things once again.
The Sixers submitted an unabashed tanking effort last season that saw their first-round pick not play a single game. That’s likely going to be the case again this year as it’s Philly tanking part two (Electric Boogaloo).
There’s no doubt that the Magic have a lot of young, explosive talent on their roster. However, they’re still a couple of years away from making any noise and still need to develop a firm identity in as a team in this league.
The Jazz weren’t great last year and got Dante Exum in the draft for their efforts. With the team re-signing Gordon Hayward and basically standing pat otherwise, it seems like it’ll be another dismal year for Utah.
With Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and rookie Marcus Smart, the Celtics are going to have a tough defensive backcourt. However, it still feels like this team has a trade loaded in the chamber. Until that time, though, this season isn’t going to be very fruitful in Boston.
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash taking up such a large part of their cap-room, the Lakers never stood too much of a chance this offseason and for next year. Julius Randle will be a breath of fresh air, but the Lakers are still going to be in a transition phase this season.
There are still some dominoes left to fall for the Pistons, or so it would seem right now. However, even if they bring back Greg Monroe and are under the tutelage of Stan Van Gundy, this team’s roster is a bit clunky still, likely leading to another season of failures.
Call me crazy, but the Bucks could be a sleeper this season that could possibly make some noise. They have young talent throughout the roster, have made solid signings, and now have a seemingly good coach in Jason Kidd. They might still miss the postseason, but they are a dark-horse to keep an eye on in my perspective.
With Isaiah Thomas out and no real moves of consequence made this offseason outside of Rudy Gay electing to stay, it’s hard to see the vision of the Kings at this point. They’ll show flashes like always, but it’s hard to see them making any real noise consistently.
Obviously the Wolves will likely move down in the ranks if they do indeed trade Love, but he’s still with them for now. Minnesota with Love could easily be a playoff-team if all goes well, but things never seem to go that well for this team.
New York has quietly had a productive offseason, even if they gave up Tyson Chandler in the process. With a quality point guard in Jose Calderon, Carmelo Anthony returning, and budding youngsters throughout their roster, the Knicks could rebound a bit this season.
Denver is one of the hardest teams in the league to peg. It’s hard to predict how they’ll respond to Brian Shaw in his second season and also hard to see how they’ll fare when fully healthy. All in all, that uncertainty makes it hard to consider them a playoff-team.
The Pelicans undoubtedly are talented top-to-bottom, but they struggled to stay healthy last season. Hopefully that’s not the case around an obvious star-in-the-making this season in Anthony Davis. If it isn’t, they could be quite dangerous.
The Nets are now without Paul Pierce, but it’s hard to deny they still have loads of veteran talent in place. With a hopefully healthy Brook Lopez returning, the Nets are another team that it’s hard to judge how successful they’re going to be.
Given the fact that LeBron is now gone and how Dwyane Wade has been declining, you have to expect a major decline from the Heat as well. Luol Deng could be a help to them, but this team is obviously not going to be in the title picture again this year.
The Grizzlies are still going to be the grit-and-grind team that we’ve come to know and appreciate in this league. However, they haven’t taken any huge steps forward just yet and it’ll be interesting to see what their ceiling is going forward.
Indiana was a team that often struggled to score last season, especially as they faltered late in the season. Their defense is still going to be lethal, but with Lance Stephenson—their second-best offensive player—now gone, this team could be in for a fall from grace.
The Hawks proved in the postseason that they have a ton of talent and can be a force in the NBA. With a healthy Al Horford getting back in the lineup, the Hawks could be a team to watch this year, though no one will still be talking about them really.
If Phoenix can retain restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, the Suns are going to have one of the most dangerous young backcourts that the league has seen in quite a while with him, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. Considering their success last year, you have to put the Suns down as a force to watch.
Toronto was one of the big surprises last season and they did their job in retaining Kyle Lowry this offseason. If this team can continue to improve, they will once again be one of the better teams in the East.
The Hornets could be a sneaky force in the East this year. The young team led by veteran Al Jefferson showed major promise last season and they now have Lance Stephenson and other role players to help keep them on the rise. Charlotte has a viable shot at one of the top-four seeds in the East this year.
Houston has clearly taken a few steps back this offseason with more players leaving than they’ve had coming in. With Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik all gone and Trevor Ariza coming, the Rockets swung and missed this offseason. They’ll still be quality, but not nearly as good as they could’ve been otherwise.
The Wizards are one of the most exciting young teams in the league and have added veteran leadership this offseason. As Washington and their youth moves forward and grows, this team is going to make noise in the East, without question.
It’s not hard to love what the Mavs have done this offseason. Bringing in a defensive center in Tyson Chandler while also adding a bevy of offensive talents like Chandler Parsons, the Mavs could very well take another big leap forward this year in the twilight of Dirk’s career.
The Warriors are one of the teams praying to get Kevin Love in a deal. If that happens, they’ll be a major contender in the West. Even without Love, though, this team is one with high upside that could be in for a highly productive year.
Portland spent the offseason making more improvements to their bench, their biggest weakness. With more depth on the horizon and with the talent in their starting lineup, the Blazers could be a team taking the next step this year.
The potential of the Bulls this season is enticing to say the least. They’ll have a healthy Derrick Rose back in the lineup, they now have Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, and have an offensive talent in Doug McDermott now on their roster. Chicago could very well be on the path back to dominance.
Though the Thunder haven’t done much at all this offseason, this is still the team that has Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, right? If yes, then they are going to be just fine.
The Clippers have been considered pseudo-contenders for a while now, but they’ve still had some glaring weaknesses. With Spencer Hawes addressing the biggest of those weaknesses in frontcourt depth, this team can drop the “pseudo” and just be contenders now.
Andrew Wiggins is in-tow, Anthony Bennett has a chance at redemption, and Kyrie Irving is a budding star. Oh yeah, they also added that LeBron James guy in free agency, who I hear is pretty good at basketball.
Let’s stop trying to predict the Spurs’ demise and just accept the fact that they’re a machine. Even if their aging big-three declines, they still have Kawhi Leonard growing into stardom and many more weapons. You have to put the defending champs at the top of the rankings, no doubt about it.
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