1. Miami Heat
This Season: What else is there to say about the Miami Heat? Back to back champs, best player in the world, underrated coach and maybe the worst “best team fanbase” in pro sports. The Heat came into the season looking to defend their title, they did that; they came in looking to go down as an all-time great team, they almost did that; and they came in with more haters than ever before, and they added more. Just another day in South Beach. A second title for the big three and a 27 win game win streak defined the season, but losing 6 out of the last 14 games hurt their chances to go down as an all-time team, though a possible three-peat would cement it.
Next Season: If Miami hadn’t won the title, I was firmly in the trade Bosh or Wade camp. If. That becomes moot now, as you just don’t break up a championship team. Just ask Marc Cuban. Miami doesn’t have a pick in this draft, so there is no hope of adding a Norris Cole type secondary role player. They could amnesty Mike Miller (1 year at 6 mil left, plus a 1 year player option for another 6 mil), but I would worry about using the amnesty when Wade and Bosh appear so close to falling into the “average” category – and have 3 years left (potentially) on max deals. Basically the Heat will have to return everybody and make another run (while footing a legendary luxury tax bill – but you can’t put a price on a championship, right?), and as of right now, they’re the favorite to win it again.
2. New York Knicks
Quick Recap: The Knicks built their offense around two things: Carmelo Anthony creating his own shot and copious, ridiculous, historic amounts of 3-point shooting (they broke the record for most makes in early April). But much like any team built beyond the arc they were streaky. Highs: Finished the season on a 16-2 record highlighted by a 13 game winning streak. Lows: Getting man handled by the Pacers to end their season a couple weeks later. If only J.R. Smith hadn’t elbowed Jason Terry and got that suspension…
What they need to do next: Financially, the Knicks are in one of the toughest positions of any team in the league. First off Melo, Chandler, and Amare make almost the entire salary cap just by themselves and two of those guys are showing signs of age (especially STAT who’s contributions have diminished so rapidly he appears to be a complete liability when he’s on the court). Second off, the Knicks were old last year. Very old. Jason Kidd’s retirement helps this but with their lack of cap space it’impossible to predict how they will get out of this jam. Will they be able to convince some team to take STAT’s contract? Probably not but who knows. At least they still have Marcus Camby’s mummy for 7 million over the next two years.
3. Indiana Pacers
Quick Recap: The Pacers surprised everyone (except the Pacers) when they took the Heat to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. I talked about them a lot in an earlier post.
MVP: Paul George. We witnessed one of the league’s young budding players bloom into a clear cut superstar this past season. With freakish athletic ability, George was able to rack up incredible stat lines throughout the playoffs. Watching him you get the feeling that this will be a recurring thing for years to come.
What they need to do next: Again, check out this article from a couple weeks ago for more in depth analysis but I’ll give you a taste, Danny Granger needs to go.
4. Brooklyn Nets
Recap: The Nets season was definitely a roller coaster. They started out 11-3, went 3-10, fired Avery Johnson, then interim P.J. Carlisemo led the nets to a 34-19 record. This team seemed to really take off when Deron Williams was playing well. Before the All-Star break, Deron was averaging 16.7 points per game and shooting 41% but after the break, those stats jumped to 22.9 and 48%. April was even better with 24.6 and 52%. Was this the Nets year? Nope, the Bulls dispatched them in 7 games. Then P.J. Carlisemo was fired. So the Nets will have 3 coaches in 1 calendar year. That’s weird/lame/annoying.
MVP: Brook Lopez 19.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.1 bpg
What do they do next?: The Nets actually have a decent foundation. Lopez is one of the better up-and-coming centers, Deron is still a top PG and Joe is a good offensive player. Plus they have Jason Kidd as the coach! Personally, I can’t wait for his jersey retirement ceremony, while he is coaching the team. Has this ever happened before? They badly need some bench scoring though.
5. Chicago Bulls
Quick Recap: They scratched and clawed their way to the 5th seed behind 48 minutes a night from Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Then, when the playoffs came around and both player’s “Check Engine” and “Change Oil” lights were on they both, without warning, ran out of gas1. Would have been really nice to have Derrick Rose…
MVP: Joakim Noah anchors their defense, sets the tone with his energy, and shoots the ball with a tornado-like spin. What else can a team ask from their center?
What they need to do next: The Bulls are a great team but I feel like they can’t get over the hump with their current group. When it comes down to it they just can’t score enough over a seven game series to beat the Heat. But can this change with a healthy Rose next year? The Heat looked vulnerable and the Bulls might be the hungriest team in the league after being paralyzed by injuries each of the past two playoffs. Bulls management has said they won’t amnesty Boozer but most think this would be the solution. He has too many games where he no shows and his go-to fadeaway high arching jumper doesn’t fall as often as it used to. It might be time to move on.
6. Atlanta Hawks
Recap: Blake Griffin: 18 ppg 8.3 rpg. Al Horford: 17.4 ppg 10.2 rpg
Those stats are pretty identical at the very least, and Horford’s actually might be better, yet Griffin is thought of as a better player. Horford also did this without an All-Star teammate or a top point guard. Josh Smith actually had a good year. When he is not hanging out on the 3-point line, he is a very tough matchup for any player. The Hawks did go 44-38 and made the playoffs where they lost to the Pacers 4-2. Typical Hawks season.
MVP: Tough decision between Smith and Horford but I will go Horford (see big Al’s stats above)
What do they do next?: It is no secret the Hawks want to bring Dwight Howard back to his hometown in the ATL. It has been increasingly reported that Dwight wants to play with Chris Paul and Atlanta has to be licking their chops at this possibility. I think the Hawks strike out with Paul, Dwight, and end up resigning Smith. Poor Horford.
7. Boston Celtics
MVP: Paul Pierce: 18.6/6.3/4.8 – 19.1 PER
This Season: The end of an era is here, sorry Boston. Whatever happens with Doc and KG and even Pierce, this Celtics team is done contending for titles for the time being. Last season saw them play off-and-on with Rondo, super well without Rondo, and then somehow lose to the New York “can’t make a jump shot” Knicks in the playoffs. A very good post-Rondo-injury Pierce was the only bright spot.
Next Season: With so much up in the air at the time of this writing, I’ll just say they need to make moves. I’ll simplify it to two important ones. First, trade Rondo. For Demarcus Cousins if you can. It doesn’t hurt to make the phone call. The Kings need a signature guy and desperately need a PG. Give them Rondo for Cousins and The Jimmer (who will be loved by the “blue collar” guys in Boston, and will thrive off the atmosphere) and start a new dynasty that way. When Cousins is on, he’s incredible – probably a top 3 center in the league. You already have the shooting to surround him in place. Maybe even try to wiggle the Kings top draft pick from them (flip picks in the first, give them a second, and throw in cash and maybe a secondary player) and draft Michael Carter Williams. In fact, a lineup of MCW-Bradley-Pierce-KG-Cousins wouldn’t be too shabby for a year. But of course, the Kings probably wont give up Cousins. Second, for the love of god keep Paul Pierce. Let him retire with honor among the Celtics greats. You don’t owe him that, but he does deserve it.
8. Milwaukee Bucks
MVP: Larry Sanders: 9.8/9.5/2.8(blocks) – 18.7 PER
This Season: Another bad trade that might set a franchise back a few years, sigh. The Bucks shipped Tobias Harris (among others) to Orlando for half a season of JJ Redick. Harris is turning into an extremely capable tweener forward, and JJ will either be overpaid by the Bucks, or on another team next season. Either way, bad news Bucks. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings had decent years, but all they could do for the Bucks was help them place number 2 in the league in offensive pace. Coming from a fan of a team that once rode the league leading pace rate right into the number two pick, that’s not a great stat to own. It’s so weird to bash a team that made the playoffs, but lets be honest – they tried as hard they could to lose the 8th spot in the East.
Next Season: Ellis and Jennings are two notorious chuckers who haven’t won anything, and both might leave. The only bright spot was Sanders, a defensive force who looks to be the closest thing Milwaukee has to a building block, which isn’t great news. They have the 15th pick and should grab an athletic wing (basically a much poorer version of the one they traded away) or a combo/scoring guard to replace Ellis and/or Jennings. Ideally, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, if he’s still on the board. The silver lining for this off-season is their cap space: Jennings, Ellis and Redick could all leave which gives Milwaukee a ton of room to maneuver. My recommendation? Let them all go, suck for a year, hopefully land Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins in the draft, and use them as bait to lure in some of the loaded 2014 FA class, since no player wants to go to Milwaukee currently.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Recap: Andrew. Bynum. Need I say more? Ok. Lets rip apart that trade. The 76ers game up Andre Iguodala (please go to the Pistons), Nikola Vucevic (averaged 13.1 and 11.9) and Moe Harkless (8.2 and 4.4) for Andrew Bynum (averaged 0.0 and 0.0) and Jason “how old am I” Richardson. Hey I hear Bynum is a pretty good bowler though! I guess they did play some games, somehow went 34-48 with a really weird roster. Spencer Hawes was their 4th leading scorer and Kwame Brown2 played in 22 games for some reason.
MVP: Andrew Bynum’s hair stylist. Ok fine, Jrue Holiday 17.7 ppg, 8.0 apg, 1.6 spg
What do they do next?: The one positive about Bynum’s lost season is that they might be able to resign him for a more cap friendly deal, rather than the max deal everyone thought he’d get last year. The Holiday, Bynum, Thad Young foundation is a good one in the East. They just can’t let Bynum control the contract talks and demand a ridiculous contract. Also, maybe it is because I can’t stand O$U, but Evan Turner just makes me never want to watch a 76ers game3.
10. Toronto Raptors
MVP: Rudy Gay: 19.5/6.4/2.8 — 17.6PER
This Season: Another year, another losing season north of the border. The Raptors were able to grab a small amount of relevance with the Rudy Gay deal, but in the end most analysts agree the move was tuurrable (Barkley voice). Though their need for a signature player has been great since Chris Bosh left, Gay was the wrong player at certainly the wrong price. He is a bigger version of Demar Derozan – a player they already have – and has never won anything in his life. And at 18 and 19 million the next two years? No thanks. They kept Andrea Bargnani, who should have been traded, and got rid of Jose Calderon and his $10 million expiring contract. With a losing record, and a losing trade, this season has to be considered a failure for the Raptors.
Next Season: That being said, they did play better than the previous two years, and even ended the season on a 5 game win streak. Their offensive numbers for the season were horrible – not placing in the top half of the league in any meaningful category – but their chemistry should continue to develop. Unfortunately, they added Gay and lost cap space (so much so they wont be able to sign a meaningful free agent) and they don’t have a first round draft pick (thanks Kyle Lowry!) so even though I predict they will be slightly better next season, they will still be a bubble team, and because of their roster, they will be stuck on that bubble for the foreseeable future.
11. Detroit Pistons
Quick Recap: Remember when the Pistons made six straight Eastern Conference Finals? Well since then we have had five straight years below .500, 30 or less wins in each of the last four, zero All-Stars, zero major impact rookies, and no relevance among NBA fans. It’s been rough. This year was no different. In fact, I can sum it up with one stat: Kyle Singler and Jason Maxiel both started over 70 games this year. Yuck.
MVP: Even though he was hurt, you have to go with Andre Drummond. When he was on the court the Pistons were a different team. He’s also, in my humble4 opinion, the only TRUE building block this team has. Sorry Greg “Soft Serve Ice Cream” Monroe and Brandon “DeAndre Jordan’s Testicle Holder” Knight.
What they need to do next?: The Pistons have the 8th pick this year and have quietly amassed a TON of cap space to go with it. However, GM Joe Dumars had this same opportunity in 08-09 and, instead of signing good players, overpaid for Ben Gordon and Charlie V, gave Rip Hamilton a terrible 3-year extension and essentially locked the Pistons in a financial cage and swallowed the key. He cannot mess up like that again, his job depends on it. Here’s a scenario I would love to see happen (and that’s also semi-believable): Start by amnestying Villanueva to free up more money (and also because he stinks). Then out bid everyone for Paul Millsap (possible because he’s not a max deal player). Then here’s where I probably lose you. Offer the trade of Monroe-Stuckey-8th pick for Rondo-Lee. I think they would consider it. Rondo is coming off an ACL tear and won’t be happy that Boston is clearly dumping everyone plus the Celtics are desperately trying to get rid of Lee’s contract. Ainge used to have an interest in Stuckey (who’s really only in the trade to make the money right), Monroe is a solid young player and then the 8th overall pick to select a PG for the future. The Pistons would still have a little money left over to go get a lower tier FA small forward and/or possibly JJ Hickson. A lineup of Rondo-Knight-???Budinger maybe???-Millsap-Drummond makes the playoffs in the East easily.
12. Washington Wizards
Recap: The Wizards season could be described as incomplete but promising. The incomplete grade is due to the countless injuries. John Wall played 49 games, Bradley Beal played 56 and Nene played 61. They even traded for Leandro Barbosa, who had a torn ACL! They went 29-53 and somehow won the 3rd pick in the draft lottery5. Of the only 25 games that Wall and Beal played in together, the Wiz Kids were 16-9. That’s a relatively small sample size, but that looks like a playoff team in the East. Wall looks to become one of the top point guards in the league if he can stay healthy and Beal shot 62 of 129 (48%!) from beyond the arc in the 2013 calendar year. Watch out NBA!
MVP: John Wall 18.5 ppg, 8.4 apg, 1.5 spg
What do they do next?: The biggest need for the Wizards can actually come from the draft and Otto Porter is a great fit at SF. He doesn’t need to score to impact the game, which is perfect on this team. Depth is also very important, as the bench consisted of Kevin Seraphin, A.J. Price, Cartier Martin, and Jan Vesely (who is only relevant because of his smokeshow of a girlfriend).
13. Cleveland Cavaliers
Quick Recap: The Cavs haven’t played any meaningful basketball since Lebron left but this season, more than others, should give them hope. Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson took their games up a notch (one a little more than the other) and Dion Waiters showed signs of being a good young shooting guard.
Team MVP: Uncle Drew of course! Kyrie Irving is a legitimate superstar now. Very few people in this league have his handles or scoring ability and none of them are only 21 years old.
What they need to do next: Keep developing Dion Waiters, nail the 1st overall pick (again), and hope and pray Lebron wants to take his talents back to Cuyahoga County. Regardless, after next season when they have cap space and can throw out a lineup with Irving-year 3 Waiters-1st overall pick (I would go with Benny Mac, his supposed shy tendencies would go perfect with Irving’s obvious alpha dog mentality) hide behind Irving’s stardom)-year 4 Thompson-and big name FA is something to get excited for. Especially since the Heat’s reign on the East will be over by then.
14. Charlotte Bobcats
Recap: This might be the hardest thing I have had to write. The Bobkittens tanked again, winning 21 games, but the tanking gods frowned upon them and gave them the 4th pick in the draft. I’m supposed to write something positive but I honestly am struggling to find a positive part about their season. Ok here. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a promising player who looks like he will be in the league for a while, if he finds a jumper. That is all I got, sorry Charlotte fans. (Are there such thing?)
MVP: MVP and Charlotte are about as synonymous as Timberwolves and a well-run front office6. I guess we will go with Kemba Walker, partly for the name (actually mostly for the name) and partly for the 17.7ppg 5.7 apg 2.0 spg
What do they do next?: Get talent. Their most common starting lineup was Kemba, Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens, Kidd Gilchrist, and Bismack Biyombo. Do you want any of those players on your starting 5 right now? I don’t. They could use an upgrade at any position maybe besides point guard and small forward.
15. Orlando Magic
This Season: I’ll save my words for the “next season” section with Orlando. All in all, an expectedly terrible season had more bright spots than I would have guessed going in. They stole Harris from the Bucks and received Aaron Afflalo, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic for a guy who was leaving anyways. So essentially every important player for Orlando’s future was brought in via trade this past season. It’s as impressive as it is shocking as it is depressing.
Next Season: With the second overall pick they have many options. Draft Noel (and store him for the year essentially), McLemore, Oladipo or Burke. Or, trade the pick and add a decent player and a lower lottery pick to help bolster the roster. The problem for Orlando is there are no franchise changers in the draft OR free agency this year (unless you count Howard and CP3, which I don’t for ORL). And with the exception of Phoenix and Charlotte, no team could use a signature player like the Magic. In my opinion, their best bet is to, like Milwaukee, suck all year and go for broke in the loaded draft and free agent class next year. No matter what moves they make this coming season they most likely wont contend – not even for the weak 8th seed in the East – and giving that core another year to develop and grow together would be great.
1. Sweet pun bro!
2. Stephen A. Smith voice
3. Although his buzzer beater against U of M is one of my proudest moments watching the Buckeyes.
4. My blog is called “youshouldthinkthis”. None of my opinions are humble.
5. Poor Bobcats
6. Sorry Drew