Now that the National Basketball Association has gone into its summer rest time, I wanted to take a look at the five winners during NBA draft/free agency. These teams are arranged by who I feel put themselves in the best position going forward.
The first team on this list is New Orleans. Their mascot may be a bird that is no more fearful than you local house cat but they have certainly upgraded their roster. Jrue Holiday (granted on a bad team), established himself as a point guard with the ability to put the ball in the basket and get his teammates involved. As much as I love Grevais Vasquez, who helped lead me to fantasy glory, Jrue Holiday is a really good upgrade. Add to that Tyreke Evans, who has his faults but can be an electric player who can score and distribute the ball. That is a major upgrade at a position that is, in my opinion, the deepest in the NBA. Evans will at least make the great Small Forwards sweat on defense and if he gets rolling, can score in bunches. My projected starting 5 of: Davis, Anderson, Evans, Gordon and Holiday doesn’t give them a ton of defense but they should be a much, much more competitive team this upcoming season.
The lone team from the Eastern Conference on this list would be Cleveland. Through the draft the last couple of years, they have built up an extremely impressive roster. Kyrie Irving is a star in the making. Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson are very good complimentary players. Not a lot is known about Anthony Bennett other than his much documented injury, which is why people were surprised when Cleveland picked him #1 overall. However, his college numbers, courtesy of CBS sports, are extremely good for a freshman: 16.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg while shooting 53% from the field and 37.5% from 3-pt range. This is all while playing in an underrated conference, the Mountain West and having a shoulder injury that limited him as the season went along. Once healthy, he has tons of upside while not having the same pressure that most high draft picks receive due to Cleveland already having its star player (Irving). Their pickup of Andrew Bynum was an awesome move. When healthy, he is one of the top 5 centers in the NBA. Suddenly, this team is looking extremely deep. You can roll out Varejao, Thompson, Bynum and Zeller, which make for a very deep front court. The addition that is getting lost in the shuffle is Jarrett Jack. He was electric for Golden State during their playoff run and will be an awesome veteran backup for young Irving. It’s also good insurance as Kyrie is starting to gain a reputation as injury prone. This team won’t compete for the championship and will be a lower playoff seed next year due to the stacked division they play in. However, this team is definitely on the rise!
P.S. Start to imagine how good this team would be if LeBron James opts-out and comes home...
The next team is the Portland Trail Blazers. Last year, they hit a home run when they drafted their point guard of the future in Damian Lillard. This year, they picked (sniped) CJ McCollum before the Timberwolves giving them a really nice, young scorer off the bench. They went out and signed Robin Lopez, who will be a much better defender than JJ Hickson and clog up the lane. They also went out and signed Dorell Wright, who will provide another shooter off the bench. I am not sure how well this team can defend as a unit but with a starting 5 of Aldridge, Lopez/Meyers, Batum, Matthews and Lillard, they are extremely young and could be very, very dangerous. They are definitely on the right path in the coming years.
I will just get the obvious one out of the way, which would be the Houston Rockets. They got a difference-making player in Dwight Howard who will significantly upgrade that position. Nothing against Asik, who is a solid player but Howard will be an obvious upgrade in all aspects of the game. They still don’t really have a power forward, which is their one weakness. Houston has some young, talented players at that position but Howard’s defensive presence will allow them time to fill that hole. No matter what you think of Howard as a person, he’s a game-changing basketball player. With a core of Howard, Parsons and Harden, this team will be extremely good and may even be the team to beat out west.
Number five would be the LA Clippers. A team led by Chris Paul will, generally, always be competitive. He is the best pure point guard in the NBA (probably not the best overall point guard as I have Derrick Rose ahead of him when healthy). Outside of Howard, the biggest free agent signing was getting Chris Paul to re-sign. He is outstanding at making his teammates better and plays a big hand in Blake Griffin looking like he belongs in the NBA.
Quick Rant: Please tell me what people see in Blake Griffin. You go on ESPN.com and other sites and experts still are saying that he is the best PF currently in the NBA or will be in the future. Please explain to me how this is possible?? He still can’t shoot, he still doesn’t play very good defense. I get that he’s a fantastic athlete but outside of that, what is there?? Personally, I have Kevin Love (when healthy), Tim Duncan and Aldridge all significantly ahead of him for the title of Best Power Forward. End Rant.
Back to the Clippers. They went from a team who was athletic and fun to watch to a legitimate contender because they finally got what they were lacking: shooting. Chris Paul, Crawford and Bledsoe are not known for their shooting. They are penetration scorers for the most part. JJ Redick, while I am not huge on him, is an excellent shooter. Mullens and Dudley are both solid shooters and with Collison, will provide much needed depth. They got much more balanced this off-season as well as gained some championship pedigree in coach Doc Rivers. He will be by far the best coach Chris Paul or Blake Griffin have ever had and the laughing stock formerly known as the Clippers are set to dominate LA for the foreseeable future.
As always, please feel free to comment below. There are teams that I left off this list (Timberwolves) that may be talked about later. I am always open to your ideas and I cannot thank you enough for taking time to read my articles. I love writing and I love sports so doing this is a treat. You’re all making this possible so if you have any topic that you would be interested in, please let me know. Also, I may venture into fantasy basketball writing. I have been playing it for years now and I love it. Let me know if there are a lot of fantasy b-ball players out there because if people like it, I’ll write it.