Welcome to the era of the superteam. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James all on one roster? Pat Riley may be the league's new and once again genius executive, but he's playing the league like a 13 year old on NBA2K's GM mode.
This article is sweet and uncomplicated: a brief look at where each team in the league stands post-LeBronimo. This has been one of the craziest summers in NBA history, and it's bringing in a new NBA era.
Eastern conference today. West will come later this week
The Celtics are bringing back their starting lineup more or less intact (the less part being Kendrick Perkins' injured leg) They also have their top reserve back in Glen Davis, retained sparkplug Nate Robinson (who should see a big increase in minutes this season) and signed Jermaine O'Neal to replace the retired Rasheed Wallace.
The Celtics also retained little-used Marquis Daniels, who has the potential to contribute much more than he's been given a chance to, and are reportedly close to signing journeyman shooter Von Wafer, who can provide some serious firepower off the bench. Doc Rivers will need to learn to trust both this season...something he hasn't done in the past....because the Cs have lost Tony Allen and Ray and Paul Pierce aren't getting any younger. Too many minutes has been a problem from Boston's starting wings for a few seasons now. They'll need more rest if the Celtics hope to return to the Finals.
The Heat's success took a heavy toll on the Nets. Not only did they not land their top free agent choices, they failed to land any big names while waiting for "The Decision". Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow are solid role playing vets, but hardly franchise-changers.
With that in mind, the option now is to go young and build one small step at a time, much like the Timberwolves are now doing. New owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a great combination of deep pockets and a sharp basketball mind, so expect the team to follow an upward trend. No one seems terribly confident in Favors as a started, but the team has little choice considering the roster now. In the meantime, expect the Nets to compete with the Wolves for firesale deals at the deadline this year.
This lineup is fairly speculative. Given the Knicks' system and Mike D'Antoni's history, they could opt to start Gallo at power forward, Chandler at small forward, and bring Anthony Randolph off the bench. But the listed option gives the team more balance across the board. We'll have to see.
What we do know is that the team has paid a heavy price considering it didn't land any of the top three free agents. Amare Stoudemire is a hurricane on offense (and reunited with his most successful coach and playbook) and Raymond Felton is a solid point guard, but is Stoudemire really worth $100 million? Can Felton be more than a streaky role player?
The upside is that the Knicks filled out their roster with great talent by making a sign-and-trade deal for David Lee, and New York is, as ever, a hot spot destination. Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have both openly expressed interest in moving to New York next summer....if not earlier. CP3, Melo and Stoudemire? Sounds like everyone wants in on the superteam era.
I'm guessing Nocioni will supercede Young in the starting 5 because he's the veteran of the two and able to spread the floor out for an otherwise limited starting lineup. I'm also guessing two or three of the players listed will be gone by March.
With the commitment new head coach Doug Collins has made to Jrue Holiday, as well as the teams' drafting of Evan Turner, the 76ers are a half step away from committing to an all-out youth movement. But for that final step to be taken, some big contracts will need to come off the books....most likely Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams.
Until then, this remains a team caught in no-man's land, lacking the size to be bruisers, the speed to be runners, the shooting to be gunners, and the moxy to overachieve.
The Raptors will undoubtably be a team with an ever-changing rotation this season. There will be nights when any or all of those key reserves will be starters. The team is ultimately committed to the long term youth of Bargnani, DeRozan and Davis, but still have veterans like Barbosa, Calderon and Kleiza who demand minutes.
There's no question this team will be much worse this season. They lost their best scorer, rebounder, and defender when Chris Bosh made the rather prudent decision to head south. There's talent on the roster, but the primary issue of terrible defense remains, and there's just no way the team can fill Bosh's shoes with a by-committee approach.
Credit the Bulls for not being one of the summer's big free agent players to give up when Miami ran the table. Although they seem to have a thing for former Jazz players. When Boozer ended up being the only big name to ink with Chicago, the team went about filling its roster in a more demure but highly cost-effective way. Ronnie Brewer can step into the vacant shooting guard spot and provide activity, defense, and off the ball scoring that should compliment Rose well. Kyle Korver provides the Bulls with the same thing he provided the Jazz: an ace from beyond the three point line to balance out the floor in a way no one else can. And the fact they both have chemistry with Boozer doesn't hurt either.
Of course, don't overlook Rose himself. He's demonstrated this summer a rapidly developing outside shot to go along with his already deadly slashing ability. Even with the Bulls' additions, their fortunes remain squarely tied to Rose's development, and so far so good.
It's bitter irony for Cavalier fans: the team essentially lost only one major player, yet the team's complection looks completely different because of it. The fact the team goes from the best record in the league to what projects to be one of the worst because of the loss of a single player is an indictment against the franchise and the ineptness of former general manager Danny Ferry (not that his incompetence has been any secret...)
What the Cavaliers are left with is a major major problem on the wings. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are not only old, but also the only available options. They aren't Ray Allen and Paul Pierce....this team can't survive with them playing major minutes. Antawn Jamison will likely spend significant time at the 3 this season, both to cover for the team on the perimeter and to allow the team to play JJ Hickson the minutes he'll need to play if the team has any shot at being respectable. The team has also brought Ricky Rubio's former DKV teammate, Christian Eyenga, over this season, but he's incredibly raw and likely to spend most of his time in the DLeague, even on this roster. It's a long, bitter year ahead in the Q.
No team exemplifies "caught in no man's land" more than the Detroit Pistons. Their roster is a patchwork of extremes....three former NBA champions still playing great basketball, surrounded by two expensive, underutilized role players, a struggling point guard, and a bunch of kids who aren't ready to make major contributions.
If this team really wants to get anywhere, it has to move Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. The team cannot win now, making their contributions fairly meaningless to the team, and they take minutes from the core of the Pistons' young talent: Gordon, Villanueva, Jerebko, DaJuan Summers and Austin Daye.
The Pistons must most certainly decide what to do with Villanueva. He's talented and skilled and seems ideally suited to start next to a scoring, passing big man like Monroe (similar to how Gordon's undersized shooting would seem a great fit to Stuckey's oversized point guard game) Yet the Pistons not only can't decide where his place is in the rotation, they can't decide if he should be in the rotation at all. There's a lot of potential for success using some unconventional, talented lineups, but the club seems stuck in yester-year, unable to part with veterans who keep the team from rebuilding like it needs to.
By contrast, we have the Indiana Pacers, who are adamantly trying to rebuild but can't find any takers for their veterans. TJ Ford, Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Foster and Troy Murphy are all being shopped around to make way for Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and Tyler Hansbrough, but the team hasn't been successful in unloading any of them.
The team is also desperately searching for a point guard. Since they won't play TJ Ford at all, they're currently left with just AJ Price, who's best suited to a backup role. Then there's the glut of talent on the wings, the lack of big men, the undefined system, and Danny Granger's ever-questionable health.
The Bucks have a solid roster put together. An expensive, low ceiling roster, but solid nonetheless. The team picked up some solid role players in Maggette, Gooden, and CDR, and made a key move to retain John Salmons. And of course, Brandon Jennings figures to get better.
The two big question marks are, obviously, the healthy of Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd. I'd think it unlikely Bogut will be ready for the start of the season, meaning lots of Drew Gooden early on. Redd might not be back ever...if he's not, the Bucks will need to learn to play on a "smaller" floor, since they don't have a deadeye shooter from three otherwise. But if Bogut can return healthy by New Years, expect the Bucks to be in the playoffs and a respectable out against whoever they match up against.
Joe Johnson, contract, etc etc etc. Plenty's been said about that and plenty remains to be said later, but that's a discussion for another place.
What is relevant here is that bringing back Johnson means the Hawks have the exact same team they did last year. Good, but far from great. The team remains undersized, understaffed, and lacking a clear system. There are several small issues that remain....Mike Bibby's age, Marvin Williams' underachieving, and the lack of size in the post....that will once again add up to a major problem for the Hawks when the contenders are in town.
New head coach Larry Drew is going to have to find some way to glue this roster together. On paper, the pieces don't fit. If the team can somehow devise a system that balances out the floor and shares the ball effectively, then maybe the Hawks can start climbing again. But it's not a very high ceiling regardless.
The Bobcats lost a key player in Raymond Felton, and the defensive potential of Tyson Chandler as well. The roster has it's core duo of Wallace and Captain Jack intact, and retained Tyrus Thomas, who fits in very well, but what's after that?
Much of how well this team does will be contingent on how much Brown learns to trust DJ Augustine and Gerald Henderson. Both are young an developing: two things the Brown hates in players. But both are going to be needed if the team is to build on last year's playoff breakthrough...the Cats just don't have the firepower to match the big guns without them.
Miami wins. It's that simple. There are teams that wasted multiple seasons for a shot at signing just one of the top three agents, and in the end, the Heat got them all.
But also don't overlook what Riley has been able to do after "The Decision". He signed Mike Miller, a perfect compliment to this team, for a bargain price. He retained Udonis Haslem. And let us pause a moment to thank him for that, since those contracts are what ultimately led us to getting Beasley. He also kept James Jones, a solid swingman who can spread the floor, and brought in veteran big men Zydrunas Ilgauskus and Juwan Howard.
Miller is the big pickup, of course. He can shoot, rebound, and facilitate, meaning he can basically do anything the team will need him to do. He'll also spread the floor out and provide insurance against an injury. For having basically a shoestring budget to work with, Pat Riley has put together a stellar supporting cast for his new big three.
Ironically, the Magic made basically no moves this summer, yet should still be considered just about Miami's equal. All it will really take is some small adjustments to the rotation.
Orlando made up for the loss of Matt Barnes with the addition of Quentin Richardson, who brings a different dimension to the team but will ultimately play the same role. They also drafted Daniel Orton, who can provide some nastiness in the paint as well as offer the team flexibility should they decide to make a roster change using the attractive contracts of Gortat and Brandon Bass.
Speaking of which, Chris Paul has listed the Magic as his #1 destination should he be traded. CP3 and D12 on the same team....think about that.
The Wizards do in fact have a promising collection of young talent. John Wall, of course, as well as the emerging games of Blatche and McGee up front, and the high-scoring Nick Young as well. Kirk Hinrich fits in well as a veteran who can mentor the young guns and steady the ship, and Josh Howard should be productive if healthy. If only they could do something about Arenas...
The truth is Arenas, the player, fits pretty well with the club. He can clearly still score the rock, and his health was returning before last season's legal troubles. The question is identity. Is this still his team? Or will Saunders hand it to Wall immediately? Hard to say, but either way, Arenas does need to be on the floor.