If you have been following my blog (and thank you to all for reading), you’ll know that I have written about Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James recently and what I thought they should do in free agency. Obviously, both my predictions were wrong. Anthony decided to stay in New York for the money instead of trying to win a title in Chicago and James went back home to Cleveland instead of making it to more NBA Finals in Miami. But now that all the dominos have fallen, it’s time to take a step back and analyze which teams have come out of this free agent frenzy stronger.
First, let’s start with the defending champions in the San Antonio Spurs. All they did was re-sign all their players, putting them right back in as the favorites in the West.
The big winner, though, may be the Dallas Mavericks. They were able to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki and add the very versatile Chandler Parsons to their roster, who will provide them with even more offense in the very competitive Western Conference.
The third team in Texas, the Houston Rockets, may have come off the weakest. They lost out on Parsons and Chris Bosh, and traded Jeremy Lin to the Lakers. Parsons and Lin are bigger because both were key parts of a team that was the fourth seed in the Western Conference last season. Replacing those guys will be a tough task no doubt.
Now I know that was very brief on the West, but honestly, most of the movement occurred in the East, leaving the conference wide open for the taking.
The biggest guy to be on the move, of course, was LeBron. After four great years in Miami that saw James win two titles and two MVPs, he decided to go back home to Cleveland, where he spent his first seven seasons of his career. In those seven years, James was only able to reach one NBA Finals, being swept by the Spurs. Two years later, James famously “took his talents to South Beach,” and the rest is history. Now he’s back in Cleveland, where he looks to take a young Cavaliers team back to the Finals. James goes back to play with a young point guard in Kyrie Irving and the number one overall pick from this past year in Andrew Wiggins, who has a very high ceiling. Couple that with Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, and this team could be very dangerous. They currently sit as the 6-5 favorites to win the Eastern Conference, according to the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, so the pressure is on them to succeed in their first season together.
Then there’s Carmelo, who decided to stay put in New York. Since Carmelo took a near max offer (5 years, $122 million), he has left very little cap room for the Knicks to work with. It’s a fresh start for the Knicks as well, as Derek Fisher was named the new head coach a month ago. Also, Phil Jackson is now the Vice President of basketball operations, which is a big step in the right direction for New York. They drafted Cleanthony Early from Wichita State, who fell to the Knicks in the second round. Even with the addition of Early, it seems that the Knicks won’t be in serious contention for the Eastern Conference this season.
With LeBron gone, this leaves his former team, the Miami Heat, in an interesting spot. They re-signed Bosh to a max deal worth $118 million over five years. They also re-signed Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, and Chis “Birdman” Anderson. They also brought in two players in Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger who could provide depth up front for the Heat. They took Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier in the draft, providing depth in the backcourt as well. Still, with all these players, they return essentially the same team, minus LeBron. Although Miami does have a solid roster, it’ll be hard for them to reach their fifth straight Finals.
With Miami not being the same team as they have been the last four years, it leaves the East wide open to a number of teams. The number one overall seed last year was the Indiana Pacers, but the loss of Lance Stephenson is a huge hit to their chances of getting the number one seed next year. The way they played down the stretch of the regular season and the playoffs was also very shaky, leaving people to doubt if the Pacers are a legitimate threat.
Then there’s the Washington Wizards, who bolster one of the youngest, most talented rosters in the NBA. Led by the dynamic duo in the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards were the surprise team of the NBA last season, making it to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, losing to the Pacers in six games. Despite the loss, they showed just a little glimpse of what the future may hold. They re-signed big man Marcin Gortat and added maybe the steal of free agency in Paul Pierce, who brings instant experience and leadership to a young team. With a solid roster and a lot of upside, this could potentially be the year the Wizards take the next step and maybe win the East.
Finally, there’s the Chicago Bulls, who are the biggest question mark of the entire group of teams. For a second straight season, the Bulls enter the season with the hopes of former MVP Derrick Rose being healthy for the entire duration of the season. That didn’t happen, of course, as Rose only played 10 games before tearing his right meniscus, ending his season. The Bulls were still able to grab the four seed in the East behind the great play of Joakim Noah, but lost to the upstart Wizards in five games. This year hopes to be different, as Rose and company look to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010-11. Chicago added Pau Gasol last week, bulking up their front line. They also drafted the consensus National Player of the Year in college basketball last year in Doug McDermott out of Creighton, who finished his career fifth all time in scoring in Division 1. He’ll provide instant offense off the bench, which is what the Bulls need desperately. Combine that with guys Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Tony Snell and a top-level coach in Tom Thibodeau; the Bulls may be the representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals next June.
Simply put, this offseason has been crazy and one of the more important ones in NBA history. Only time will tell to see who are the big winners and losers of this NBA offseason.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.