It’s time for the highly anticipated, “Stepien Rules Evaluation Of All 30 NBA Teams and What They Have/Have Not Done This Offseason So Far”.
Or as we've succinctly titled it here: Offseason evaluations of all 30 NBA teams.
We’ll go top-to-bottom, East to West. Ready? Let’s do this…
The Western Conference
Oklahoma City still has two top-10 players in the league and that will always keep you relevant, but after that it gets a little hazy. They let Kevin Martin walk and now look very thin on the bench. Here’s hoping Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson are ready to share the load. Kendrick Perkins continues to defy the odds and start – and play meaningful minutes – for a genuine title contender. Serge Ibaka has a lot of work ahead of him this coming season, however, for me, the West is theirs to lose.
The San Antonio Spurs should have won the NBA Championship. They were up five, with like less than half a minute to go, and then shit happened. Did they panic and try maneuver their resources and expiring deals to nab say, an Andre Iguodala type player who could give them a shot to contend once more? Nope. They stood pat. They kept Manu and Splitter, and brought in Marco Belinelli (who’s a nice fit) and Jeff Pendegraph. They lost Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair. The Spurs will still win 50 games, after that your guess is as good as mine.
The Denver Nuggets took some major, major steps in the wrong direction. That is all.
The Los Angeles Clippers had the best offseason of any NBA team. They re-signed the best point guard in the NBA, they hired a top-five coach, they surrounded those two with capable wing shooters/ defenders, they already had a legitimate second (super)star alongside Paul, and they drafted a real good player in Reggie Bullock. Two words that will define the Clips this season; DeAndre Jordan.
The Grizzlies added another defensive big who is an above average guy to spot minutes behind Gasol and Z-Bo (Koufos), they kept their perimeter stopper in Tony Allen and Mike Conley is only getting better. Why they hell they fired Lionel Hollins I will never know.
The Golden State Warriors are pretty damn relevant right about now aren’t they? I’d be ALL IN on them if it weren’t for the fact that we’re one ankle away from them being in the lottery.
Speaking of the lottery…the Los Angeles Lakers turned Nash-Kobe-MWP-Pau-Dwight into Nash-Whatever Happens With Kobe-Nick Young-Pau and his Trade Value-Chris Kaman. Three things that should have happened in LA but didn’t; a) They should have dealt Gasol this summer, I’m sure the Cavs would have been interested at some point b) they should have had a discussion with Kobe, explained how things are working out and they should have amnestied him, given him the whole year off to rehab, then signed him to a 4-year $40m deal, where the last two years have an option of him being head coach or something I dunno and c) THEY SHOULD HAVE TANKED. YES YOU HEARD ME! Why not have a starting five of Nash-Meeks-Young-Jordan Hill-Robert Sacre? Why not lose 65 games a season – scratch that, THIS season, and get a shot at nabbing Wiggins/Parker/Randle/Harrison? Worst case scenario they miss out on the three first guys, and nab their starting point guard for the next twelve years. Then you have Kobe coming back and ready to kill the whole league, you have a shitload of cap space in free agency, and you’re the Los Angeles Lakers and you play in Los Angeles and you’re the Lakers. To me, that route just makes more sense than winning 40 games and being bounced in round one in four.
The Houston Rockets are gonna pan out one of two ways: they’ll get everyone to buy in to what they’re doing and how they’ll play, all the pieces will align and Dwight Howard will be 2011 Dwight and they could quite possibly steamroll the West. OR Dwight gets fed up of not being center of attention on a basketball team in a football town and well, you know, retires and tries his hand at football. Its Dwight Howard, he just turned down $118 million dollars, everything is in play.
The Utah Jazz…erm, thinking…thinking…looking for a nice way to say something…got it…what better way to suck and get a high draft pick than by playing all your young and not-so-ready guys 36 minutes a night AND having Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins to back them up?
The Dallas Mavericks. The 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks who defeated the Miami Heat of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the NBA Finals. Fast forward 24 months and now we have “The Dallas Mavericks…sign Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert and Jose Calderon” for a combined $61 million dollars. Ouch. I wouldn’t film Shark Tank, I’d jump in the Tank.
The Portland Trailblazers and their impressive summer means nothing if their star forward doesn’t stop blowing kisses at other NBA teams.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be the 7th seed in the Western Conference next season, Kevin Love will be an All Star.
The Sacramento Kings actually had a really damn good summer. They lost Toney Douglas and Tyreke “still living off my rookie season” Evans, and replaced them with Carl Landry, Luc Mbah a Moute, Grevis Vasquez (a wonderful addition), Ray McCallum and potential superstar Ben McLemore. Then you remember it’s the Kings and you talk yourself out of it in eight seconds.
The Pelicans passed up on the greatest defensive big man frontcourt in the past 15 years by not hanging onto Nerlens Noel, they let solid big Robin Lopez walk and have three guards who all need the ball to be effective making $3.9 billion dollars over the next few years. BUT, they have a generational talent in Anthony Davis who has no ceiling at all. When you have that, you’re always open for anything.
The Phoenix Suns got themselves a stud in Eric Bledsoe, drafted two good rookies in Alex Len and (potential sleeper) Archie Goodwin and they’re about to give us a full season of the Morris Twins. On the flip side, they could be one of the three worst teams in the entire league next season. So, yeah.
The Eastern Conference
The Miami Heat are about to start their last season as the Big Three. Mark my words. Enjoy it while it lasts South Beach!
The New York Knicks should have a film crew following them 24/7 from the start of training camp right up until they lose to the Bulls in round one. JR Smith and Metta World Peace is a “Melee at the Garden” in waiting, Carmelo has the option to BOLT if they fail yet again, and if Tyson Chandler gets hurt you could see the Amare-Bargnani combo rolled out for extended minutes. Yikes.
The Indiana Pacers. The 2014 Eastern Conference Champions Indiana Pacers. They got rid of four guys who did very little for them last season and replaced them with Luis Scola, CJ Watson, Chris Copeland and the return of Danny Granger. And they gave Frank Vogel a new deal. And they have Paul George. They’re gonna be awesome. Buy your tickets for the Pacers bandwagon while ya can!
The Brooklyn Nets are the biggest question mark in the league for me. Will KG and Pierce get a new lease on life in new surroundings? Will Deron Williams keep up his form from the end of last season? Can Brook Lopez assert himself as an All Star? Can anybody find Joe Johnson? Will anybody really believe it isn’t Lawrence Frank running things from the sideline? I have them third in my final standings in the East, which means they’ll see a crew in Wine and Gold come playoff time, more on that in a second.
The Chicago Bulls get Derrick Rose back. But which Derrick Rose? If it’s the pre-injury Derrick Rose, then watch out. If it’s the post-injury, not so relentless Derrick Rose then the Bulls won’t be contenders I’m afraid.
The Atlanta Hawks will miss the playoffs next season for the first time in a long time. Funny thing is, they may actually be a better team than last season too.
The Boston Celtics should implore Rajon Rondo to stay home all season. They should let Jeff Green shoot so many times he wins the scoring title. They should play Kelly Olynyk every second humanly possible. If they’re ever in with a shot at winning a close game, three minutes left, Brad Stevens should go with a crunch time lineup of Courtney Lee-Jordan Crawford-Kris Joseph-Kris Humphries-Fab Melo. Ping pong balls baby, PING PONG BALLS!
The Milwaukee Bucks. Possibly the three most depressing words in the whole NBA.
The Philadelphia 76ers took a lotta steps in the right direction, and could have TWO lottery selections next June. But this season is gonna be rough; and the Evan Turner situation is very hard to make a call on.
The Toronto Raptors finally ended the Andrea Bargnani era, now it’s the Rudy Gay-DeMar DeRozan era. Make of that what you want.
The Detroit Pistons are an enigma, a big giant question mark in the East. Can Josh Smith fit in alongside Monroe and Drummond? Can Brandon Jennings suppress his shoot first mantra to be a pass first facilitator? They spent a whole lotta money on two guys who might not necessarily complete the puzzle, but they figure to improve on last season and I expect them to nab a playoff spot on talent alone. Defensively, they could be incredible with a Smith-Drummond inside one-two punch.
The Washington Wizards will have a healthy John Wall next season. At the start of next season, at least. A healthy Wall, an improving Beal, Nene, rookie addition Otto Porter and a slew of role players will get Washington to the business end of the NBA season in good shape. They’ll be round one roadkill for a powerhouse team; but this is the start of something bigger in D.C.
The Charlotte Bobacts added two really good, skilled big men in Cody Zeller and al Jefferson. They maybe reached a little for Zeller and maybe (definitely) overspent on Jefferson, but it’s a step in the right direction. If they get a big Year Two leap from MKG the Bobcats may avoid another season of historic irrelevance.
The Orlando Magic are going to be pretty bad, but I think it’s by design and I think they’re ok with this. They have three lovely building blocks in Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic, so the priority here should be to let those three guys develop and play heavy minutes while trying to attain a high pick next summer to complete the retool of the roster.
The Cleveland Cavaliers. I saved the best for last. The improvement I’m expecting and demanding from this Cavs roster next season is nothing short of gigantic. We’ve had enough of the lottery, we’ve had enough of the losing records, we’ve had enough of the blowout defeats. It’s time. I wanna see Kyrie put it together for a full season. I need to see Dion be the dominant force we all know he can be – on both ends. I hope to see TT continue his rapid development. I pray Andy can stay fit and healthy and pick up where he left off before he got hurt. I want to see Anthony Bennett dunk on people’s heads and show why he was worthy of the No. 1 pick. I look forward to seeing Jarrett Jack FINALLY give us a steady hand off the bench (and the small ball possibilities with him are amazing by the way). I just want Andrew Bynum to be the Andrew Bynum he was for Mike Brown in LA because if he is that guy then get ready. The sixth seed is what I expect, and a damn good series against the Nets is what I demand. People are going to be surprised by the Cavaliers this season, because if everything falls into place, if all the parts click and health is on our side (which it is f***ing bound to be after the last couple years) then this Cavs squad is gonna make some noise. Its time.