NBA Off-Season Frenzy
Even though this off-season doesn’t have the same talent that was present in the 2010 Free Agent class, there is still as much if not more buzz this year. With every team in the NBA trying to match what the Miami Heat have put together, players have been offered monster contracts and teams have seen their stars flee for the money. Today is the first official day that teams can sign Free Agents and we can see who will be contenders and who will become pretenders. The Summer league has also just started and now we can see what teams drafted game-ready talent. There are some teams that have already had huge successes while other teams have seen their teams become dismantled due to the FA player shuffle. Today I’ll be talking about the current winners and losers thus far through the NBA offseason, who is dressed for success and who will inevitably travel down the path of the bottom of the barrel teams.
Los Angeles Lakers:
As if having Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum wasn’t enough, the Lakers went out and signed arguably the best PG in the NBA for over a decade. With Steve Nash moving to LA, the Lakers now boast arguably the greatest back-court combination in NBA history. Both Nash and Bryant are without question first ballot NBA Hall of Famers, and with talented big men like Pau and Bynum, as well as a defensive specialist in World Peace (the player, not Earth’s current situation obviously), the Lakers are clearly a contender for Kobe’s sixth NBA title. The best part about the Steve Nash sign and trade is that the Lakers really didn’t have to give up much at all, just a few future draft picks and some money. I know I am extremely excited to see how this combo will pan out and as my man Walt Clyde Frasier would say, Nash will be dishin’ while Kobe will be swishin’.
New York Knicks:
There are some skeptics, but with the veteran talent that the Knicks have attracted this offseason as well as the resigning of their most formidable players, the Knicks look poised to make some noise in the Eastern Conference this season. Jason Kidd is the only PG in the NBA that can rival Nash’s success over the past decade and Marcus Camby has proven year after year that no matter how old he is he will still be able to rebound and defend (two areas the Knicks needed to address). Kidd will be the perfect mentor for Jeremy Lin whose offer from the Houston Rockets will be matched by the Knicks. New York might have lost fan favorite Landry Fields to the Toronto Raptors, but they were able to retain 3-point specialist Steve Novak and the inconsistent but indisputably talented J.R. Smith. If Amare can get his shit together and Melo can improve upon his teamwork than the Knicks will be the elite team they once were.
Los Angeles Clippers:
They are not ready to be title contenders this season, but with what the Clippers front office has done for their dismal franchise over the past 2 seasons is remarkable. They have some of the best young talent in the league with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They have one of the most dynamic Point Guards in the NBA with Chris Paul and they are coming off of one of the best season’s in their franchise’s history. The Clippers resigned the veteran, but injury prone, Chauncey Billups and also the prolific scoring veteran Jamal Crawford. With those two players, the Clippers can look to maybe win a series or two in the playoffs this year. The major question for the Clips will be whether they can retain Paul once his contract expires after this season or will Paul end up making moves like Howard. The great news for the Clips is that Griffin has agreed to a 5-year deal worth $95 million, but without a PG Griffin won’t be a threat.
They lost Ray Allen and two of their young talents, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, are coming off major injuries, but the Celtics are still looking like a top 3 team in the East with what they have put together this offseason. Without question, the Celtics had the most successful non-lottery draft out of any team. By drafting Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Syracuse’s Brazilian phenom Fab Melo, Boston has set themselves up for years of success. The best part about these two young studs is that Boston was also able to resign future Hall of Famer, Kevin Garnett, who will be the perfect mentor for both of them. If Rondo can continue to prove that he is one of the best, if not the best, PG’s in the league and Jeff Green can stay healthy, then Boston will definitely be a team to fear in the NBA.
Getting Deron Williams to resign and receiving Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks makes Brooklyn a decent team with some missing parts. A lot of NBA analysts, including myself, thought that Dwight Howard would have been sporting a Nets jersey by this morning, but trade complications are making that more and more unlikely. If Dwight was signed then Brooklyn would have been on the top of this list, but without him the Nets will be at best a 7th or 8th seed in the East. They did absolutely nothing in this year’s draft and outside of the always injured, Brooks Lopez, and Marshon Brooks, who they are currently shopping around, they really don’t have much young talent. The Nets will get more notoriety playing in the Empire State, but if they don’t show signs of instant success then they will be scrutinized worse than they ever were when they played in New Jersey.
As if they didn’t have enough talent already, the Heat have received two very talented and coveted Free Agent’s, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen. They will both be camped out on the 3-point line all game every game and you can expect this to be the beginning of Lebron’s promise for multiple championships. It pains me to say this, but Pat Riley and the Miami Heat organization have done a great job keeping important pieces while adding talented and championship hungry veterans. Allen and Lewis are huge upgrades from last season’s Miller and Jones.
It pains me that my fellow Pi Lambda Phi brother, Mark Cuban, has his team going in the wrong direction. Just two year’s removed from winning it all, the Mavericks look like they will be struggling to even make the playoffs this year. They wanted Deron Williams but he stayed in Brooklyn, they wanted Steve Nash but he went to LA, they wanted to retain Kidd but he went to New York. They lost former 6th man of the year, Jason Terry and now it looks like Dirk will be trying to do it all on his own. Cuban is a brilliant mastermind when it comes to building a winning team and I think he knows that this season is a goner. They will have plenty of available money come the 2013 offseason and you can bet that he will be targeting both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard if neither of them are locked into long term deals. Andrew Bynum is also a possibility to sport the Dallas jersey after this season.
If you lose a talent like Steve Nash, you automatically had a terrible offseason. When your replacement for him is Gordon Dragic (feel free to say who?) then you clearly aren’t where you want to be. With no talent worth mentioning, Phoenix will find themselves on the bottom of the totem pole in the West for years to come. Maybe they can be bad enough to receive draft picks like the New Orleans Hornets had this year, but unfortunately for them, there won’t be another talent like Anthony Davis to receive.
I’m not the type to kick someone while their down, but Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats are quickly becoming the biggest joke the NBA has ever seen. Already the record holder’s for the worst winning percentage in the NBA history with only 7 wins last season, the Bobcats have done absolutely nothing to improve on their talentless bunch. I will be shocked if the Bobcats can match their win total from a year ago, but who knows. Maybe Michael should suit back up because there is not one player on this team deserving of an NBA contract.
All in all this off-season has been exhilarating. I am getting sick and tired of the Dwight Howard saga that we have all suffered through for over a year now and I hope the end is near. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end with Dwight in a Lakers uniform because that just wouldn’t be fair. There are still some coveted Free Agents out there that haven’t been signed, like OJ Mayo, and I will be waiting to see who will be improving their roster for the rest of the off-season.