NBA’s top 10 most improved teams
10. New Orleans Hornets
Offseason moves – Drafting rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, trading Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor and signing Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez.
The Hornets went through an abysmal season after trading Chris Paul in the 2011 offseason. They received Eric Gordon, Al Farouq-Aminu and Chris Kaman, the latter having moved to Dallas this offseason. The Hornets picked up the number one draft pick and drafted Kentucky’s Davis, who appears to be the next center. Drafting the shooting guard Rivers was also a big pickup, since his game is more suited for the NBA than it was at Duke. Success won’t be instantaneous, but it seems possible.
9. Los Angeles Clippers
Offseason moves – Re-signing Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups, signing Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford and not re-signing Chris Paul.
The re-signing of Griffin gives this team a high ceiling of potential, the signing of Crawford gives them more creative ability on offense and the re-signing of Billups gives the team even more veteran leadership. Signing Odom immediately improves their lack of depth and size, and will prove to be an integral factor. But, they lost Nick Young in the offseason and were unable to re-sign Paul. This brings great uncertainty and will likely exhaust funds to keep Paul in Los Angeles.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Offseason moves – Signing Andre Kirilenko and Brandon Roy and not signing Michael Beasley.
Ricky Rubio sustained a serious knee injury near the end of last season at the most inopportune time; the Timberwolves were in the playoff hunt. This put a lot of pressure on Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, so the Timberwolves signed veteran defenseman Kirilenko to suture the weakness at small forward. They also brought in Roy, who retired in 2011 and is only making a return for this upcoming season. They did not re-sign Beasley, whose inefficiency has trumped his talent for the majority of his career. This team, once healthy and has developed chemistry, makes a serious case to be most improved in the near future.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
Offseason moves – Trading for Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson and Nick Young and not signing Elton Brand.
The 76ers have the opportunity to improve this season and the strength of that statement is dependent on the strength of Bynum’s knees. The inclusion of Bynum fixes the weakness the 76ers had at center and provides them with a better half-court offensive game, as well as defensively. Players such as Richardson and Young will help Jrue Holiday as a point guard. The amnesty of Brand will have an effect on this team, but only time will tell as to whether it is a positive or negative effect.
6. Miami Heat
Offseason moves – Signing Ray Allen.
The induction of Allen on the Miami Heat solidifies the Heat as the favorite for the NBA Championship in the 2012-13 NBA season. Miami lacked a shooter that could come off screens and hit three-pointers, and catch-and-shooting is Allen’s specialty. However, his health has been in question since struggling with injuries in the 2011-12 season. The Heat also did not address their weakness at center, which may put pressure on Chris Bosh, who also had injury issues in the playoffs.
5. Atlanta Hawks
Offseason moves – Trading for Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris, signing Lou Williams and trading away Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams.
The Hawks were an odd team. They rotated four All-Stars throughout the majority of the last few seasons, but yet underperformed in the playoffs. Fans were bewildered, but their general manager decided to trade Johnson and Williams. This move opens much needed cap space and they did not get bad players in exchange. Harris may be able to realize his potential in Atlanta, Williams is a proven scorer and Morrow is one of the NBA’s best shooters. Alongside Josh Smith and Al Horford, this team may make an impact in the NBA as early as this upcoming season.
Offseason moves – Trading for Andre Igoudala, trading away Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington and signing Anthony Randolph.
As a sixth seed in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Lakers were expected to handle the Denver Nuggets easily. In turn, the young players that the Nuggets had, as well as Andre Miller, played their way to a Game 7. They lost, but their ceiling was heightened for the 2012-13 season. Javale McGee worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason and Ty Lawson is one of the fastest rising point guards in the NBA. The trade for Igoudala is perfect for Denver’s fast paced offense, and gives them much-needed defense at small forward. These moves come at a cost though, as Afflalo and Harrington were traded to Orlando.
3. New York Knicks
Offseason moves – Trading for Raymond Felton, re-signing Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, signing Jason Kidd and Corey Brewer and not signing Jeremy Lin.
Even with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks performed horrendously in the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat. The player who pushed them to a playoff spot, Lin, was out with a knee injury. Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis also endured serious knee injuries, while Stoudemire injured his hand off the court. The Knicks made a slew of moves in the offseason including not signing Lin and bringing in two point guards in place. Kidd provides steadiness and veteran leadership, and Felton returns after having his best season with New York in 2010-11. The signing of Brewer temporarily fills the defensive void left by Shumpert. With Stoudemire also working with Olajuwon, the Knicks should be in the same position they were in last season – in the playoffs.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Offseason moves- Trading for Joe Johnson, re-signing Deron Williams and Kris Humphries.
The Nets is a desirable place for players to go. This was proven by the re-signing of Williams and Humphires. They nearly traded for Dwight Howard, which likely would have resulted in moving integral pieces such as MarShon Brooks and Brook Lopez. Their front line is completed by Gerald Wallace, who looks to put his injuries behind him. The Nets have enough firepower to make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Offseason moves – Trading for Dwight Howard, signing Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison and not signing Andrew Bynum.
The Lakers have had holes at point guard for years, and Steve Nash looks to be the fix in order to win that elusive championship that has escaped him. Bynum, who has had issues with coach Mike Brown was traded. In turn, the Lakers get Howard, the premiere center in the NBA. The signings of Meeks and Jamison are important as well, because they heavily improve the Lakers shooting and give them depth. The Lakers have put themselves in the front season to get to another NBA Finals, and the uncertainty of Howard after this season is dwarfed by the bright lights and high expectations of Los Angeles.