Since this summer was one of, if not the most anticipated and exciting offseason in NBA history, it only seems right to start out my contributions with a ranking of the best and worst team moves of the summer. I've picked what I think are the best 4 teams and the worst 4 teams and analyzed their offseason moves with a slight tilt to how I feel they will do over the next season. Like most things with the NBA, I expect to have some comments that agree and disagree with my choices. I did, however, try to provide reasons for my choices, whether they needed them or not.
1) Miami Heat
The Heat are the obvious choice for best summer moves for obvious reasons. They ended up not only with the top free agent of the summer, but also added an All-Star forward/center and resigned their franchise player. The combination of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh form a frightening trio which has brought on record breaking predictions from analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who argued that they could break the Chicago Bull's 72 regular season wins and the Los Angeles Laker's 33 game winning streak. Although this seems like a bit of a stretch, the Heat will be better this year for a very simple reason: in 2009 the Heat, with only one good player (Wade) were fifth in the East, so it only makes sense that they will improve in the standings with just three good players.
Although a lot of focus is on the new big three, Miami has done a good job at signing some quality role players to surround James, Wade and Bosh. Mike Miller and Eddie House will provide good opportunities to stretch the floor, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard can provide good veteran leadership while anchoring the play down low. It's not the best up and down line up in the league, but Pat Riley did an excellent job in filling out the roster with limited resources. I still feel like it's too early to make Miami the favorite to win the title this year, but there is no doubt that they won the summer sweepstakes with their offseason moves.
2) Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers once again were able to improve their team, even after they proved the past two seasons that they were the best in the league. The addition of Steve Blake will help ease the load on aging point guard Derek Fisher, and Matt Barnes will be a good energy guy off the bench. Even the signing of Theo Ratliff makes sense as a back up to the injury prone Andrew Bynum. Add on top of that the re-signing of Fisher, who often acts as the vocal leader on and off the court, with the retention of their main championship players (Bryant, Gasol, Artest and Odom) and 11-time champion coach Phil Jackson, and the Lakers look like the favorites to three-peat for the second time in less than ten years.
The biggest offseason move for the Lakers, however, was not made by them. Despite being the defending two-time champions, all the pressure and focus of the league has shifted from the onto the Miami Heat. This should allow the Lakers to quietly go about their business and make the Finals for the fourth straight season. Although I can't stand the Lakers, I have to say that they come in right behind the Heat for their offseason moves.
3) Chicago Bulls
Although the Bulls struck out on their main free agent targets this summer, they were still able to add about half the Jazz roster, which seems like quite an upgrade from last season. Gaining Carlos Boozer in place of Brad Miller should be a huge boost to their strength down low, whicle role players Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, and Ronnie Brewer should be able to stretch the floor and benefit from the continued development of Derrick Rose. Add on returning guys Luol Deng and Joakim Noah (arguably the ugliest player in the NBA right now) and the Bull's summer moves should finally make them relevant again, although perhaps not to the degree that other writers are predicting.
4) Dallas Mavericks
Ok, so perhaps they made the cut because they're my favorite team, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban did have a productive summer. The biggest move by far was the re-signing of former MVP Dirk Nowitzki. Although he may not be at his former level of production, he still is the most important player on that roster and can stil put up great numbers. Dallas also locked up the center position by re-signing Brendan Haywood and trading away pretty much nothing for Tyson Chandler, who will soon be slamming down alley-oops from Jason Kidd. Although they continue to get older, these summer moves guarantee that Dallas will remain a challenger in the competitive West.
Honorable Mention - Boston Celtics
The 2010 runners-up were able to re-sign two of their big three (Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), two key bench players (Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels), and their coach, Doc Rivers, while only loosing Tony Allen to free agency. I'm not so sure how the two O'Neal's (Jermaine and Shaq) will do, but if they can play better than Rasheed Wallace did this past year, which shouldn't be too hard, then the signings will look brilliant.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers, like the Heat, are also an ovbious pick for their offseason moves, but for a completely different reason. Anytime the two-time defending MVP, hometown hero and supposed savior of your franchise calls a one hour TV special to announce that he is going to leave your team, you loose that offseason. As seen by all the reports of jersey burnings and violent threats, the departure of Lebron James was a huge deal both physically and emotionally to this franchise.
To make matters worse, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sent off a tirade of a letter in which he claimed that the Cavs would win the championship before Lebron. How on earth is that going to happen when you loose your best player and fail to replace him with anyone even remotely as good? To be fair, Cleveland is not the worst team in the league and they do have some good players in Mo Williams, Antawan Jamison and Anthony Parker, but there is no way this team is making the playoffs after such a devastating offseason.
2) Toronto Raptors
The Raptors had a similar offseason as the Cavs, except that they lost both their best and second best players this summer (arguably Hedo Turkoglu was their second best player, even if he never played like he was). Although it wasn't a huge surprise that Chris Bosh decided to move on, it still severely damaged the franchise this summer, which has already lost other franchise players in past seasons. Now the Raptors are left with no team leader, overpaid role players like Amir Johnson, Linas Kleize and Leandro Barbosa, and young guys Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis. This summer has been so bad that even trade opportunities, like getting Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw, fell through. Nothing seems to be going right for Toronto this offseason, which looks like it will bring on a long regular season.
3) Minnesota Timberwolves
Oh Minnesota. Nothing in the post-KG era seems to be going right for this franchise. Their biggest blunder this summer was loosing Al Jefferson for basically nothing, and trying to replace him with Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley. Not only is that going to backfire, but it will most likely continue to aggravate their already tenuous relationship with Kevin Love. On top of that they brought in guard Luke Ridnour despite already having guards Corey Brewer, Wayne Ellington, Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio (who will probably never join the team from Europe). Although they have been making lots of moves, it seems that it will be another woeful season for the Wolves.
4) New Jersey Nets
Despite having a new Billionaire Russian owner promising huge changes, this summer seems to be a huge bust. Not only did the Nets miss out on the Lebron sweepstakes, but they ended up missing out on every other big name free agent of the summer. The biggest name they were able to get was Troy Murphy in a trade with Indiana. Add that to the disappointing free agent signings of Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar and Sean May and the Nets may not be competing for many years to come.
Honorable Mention - Phoenix Suns
I'm still not competely sure on this one. On the one hand, the Suns smartly re-signed Channing Frye and got Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress, all of whom seem to fit perfectly into their style of play. On the other hand, they lost All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, re-signed aging veteran Grant Hill and traded for disgruntled forward Hedo Turkoglu. Why would you trade for a guy who wanted the ball in his hands, when you still have one of the best point guards in Steve Nash? That seems like another bad experiment to me.