I haven't written a post for about a week. A lot has happened. Lebron James is a Cavalier again. Heat rebounded very well. Melo decided to re-sign with the Knicks. Bulls did not break a sweat and made moves to get genuinely better. The Rockets could not land Melo , Bosh or Parsons ; while losing some good backup players (Asik , Lin). The Wizards quietly got better even after losing Ariza. Grizzlies had the biggest steal of the Offseason (Vince Carter). The Spurs got their core to stay intact. The Mavericks got a serious championship team (re-signed Dirk at discount , Tyson Chandler's back , Parsons).
Lets discuss how the overall landscape of the NBA figures to be the next season.
I mentioned before how I would love for Lebron and Melo to stay with their teams and help keep overall competitive balance in the league. Lebron did it one-up. He went to the Cavaliers , which ensured that there was an extra very good team in the East now. All the deals that have gone down have helped balance the competition more or less. A couple of new super teams could have been made but were not. The East got much better , though it is a couple of seasons away from West but it does have a couple of serious contenders now.
The Eastern Conference :
Great teams : Chicago Bulls , Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
Very Good teams : Cleveland Cavaliers , Toronto Raptors , Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.
Good teams : Detroit Pistons , New York Knicks , Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets.
The Eastern Conference will be fun , given that Derrick Rose plays and Wade holds up. The gap between Very good and great is bigger than the gap between good and very good teams right now. Future deals and trades could change things. But for now , this is how I see the teams. I expect the top 3 seeds to go to Bulls , Heat and Pacers. Cavaliers will take the 4th seed because Lebron. After that things will get trickier. With the Knicks building around Melo and the Raptors , Wizards and Hornets getting better ; one cannot predict the seeding. The Hawks will also get back some key players which makes things even better. Nets seem to be a little puzzling right now because they are the Nets. The Pistons have a great roster and made some good additions in the offseason , expect them to be serious competitors under SVG.
Overall I'm happy with the East. Bulls got elite with Gasol , Mirotic and Mcdermott coming in. Heat and Pacers lost some steps but will still be very good in the East and could realistically make it to the ECFs. Do not forget the Cavaliers also.
The Western Conference :
Elite teams : San Antonio Spurs , Oklahoma City Thunder , Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks.
Very Good teams : Portland Trail Blazers , Golden State Warriors , Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets.
Good teams : Phoenix Suns , New Orleans Pelicans , Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets.
The West remains the West. Got four elite teams. Got four very good teams that could become Elite and four good teams that could really surprise the league. Spurs , Thunder and Clippers already have great rosters. The Mavericks had a great roster and it got better. With Chandler at center , expect their team defense to become top 15 easily and if Marion re-signs , top 10 is realistic. Parsons provides the skill-set and mentality to plug holes as needed. A team first guy who is a jack of all trades.
Grizzlies addressed their perimeter problems by signing Vince Carter to a great deal both for him and the team. This one deal was the biggest steal of the Offseason , be it in terms of production vs monetary value or finding the best fit for a specific need. I really wanted to put Grizzlies in the Elite section but they're just a hair short. The Warriors , did not add value roster-wise , they did however refurbish their coaching. Hiring Steve Kerr as Head Coach who convinced Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams , both great at their specialities , to join his coaching staff is a great step forward. The Rockets just witnessed their first nightmare of Daryl Morey era. They lost on the superstar sweepstakes , not once but twice , lost depth and productive role players trying to acquire those superstars and lost their glue-guy and jack of all trades in Chandler Parsons. The only thing worse would be losing James Harden or Dwight Howard to an injury. But as long as Morey can surround Howard and Harden with shooters and above average defenders , this team will be very good. Terrence Jones is still there , who complements Dwight Howard beautifully. They signed Ariza who is an exceptional shooter and a very good defender. Still have Beverly , whose defense was crucial to Houston. Expect them to trade for a superstar and be major players for another in the coming offseason. After losing so many players , atleast they've got cap space which Morey will masterfully use now.
The Suns and Pelicans are the teams to watch next season. We are already familiar with the high octane , running and shooting Suns. With Isaiah Thomas signed on a bargain deal , expect them to run even more. With ample cap space , they will surely re-sign or match any offer that comes Bledsoe's way. The Pelicans , on the other hand , are very inriguing. They have a great first 5 after trading for Omer Asik. Jrue Holiday , Eric gordon , Tyreke Evans , Ryan Anderson , Anthony Davis and Omer Asik. Though , Gordon won't provide his contract-value but he will provide quality at SG and if he's moved , Pelicans should look for a capable SG who can catch and shoot. This roster could really stretch defenses and also bang down low. With Omer Asik , inside defense is scary good. This team could be the next Warriors of 2012-2013.
Intriguing Free Agents left :
Lance Stephenson : Enormous talent and skill-set. Under veteran mentorship , could blossom into a star.
Eric Bledsoe : Though everything points to the Suns , anything is possible. Mini-lebron lived upto his nickname last season.
Dwayne Wade : Pat Riley's trying his best to keep him in Miami. But given his health , he'll look for the best contract right now.