NBA 2012-13 Season: How Playoff Teams Can Improve Upon This Season's Failures
With the Heat looking to repeat next season, 29 other teams will look to dethrone them, especially the ones which fell short in the playoffs.
From the Boston Celtics—who were one win away from the Finals—to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who seemed prime to win an NBA Championship but fell short, there are many teams who want to be the last team standing.
This article explains how each eliminated playoff team can improve heading into next season, with some even contending for a championship.
Chicago Bulls—Draft John Jenkins
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Rose is out for eight to 12 months with a torn ACL, while Noah will definitely be ready for the beginning of the season, barring setbacks.
Before both of these devastating injuries, the Bulls had the best record in the Eastern Conference and looked like the Heat's biggest threat to a title.
With that in mind, making any earth-shaking moves to this roster might prove to be catastrophic because we do not know what this team might be capable of.
The Bulls should draft Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins with their pick in the draft and hope that Rose recovers well from his ACL surgery.
Jenkins might be the best shooter in the draft and has deep range, giving the Bulls another rotation player. In addition, this allows Chicago to try to trade Kyle Korver, therefore opening up a small amount of cap space for the future.
New York Knicks—Trade Either Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire
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This was evident throughout the season and in the first round of the playoffs, where the Knicks lost in five games to the Heat.
Both players are elite offensively but are liabilities on the defensive side of the court, a formula which has resulted in only one playoff win over the past two years.
Tyson Chandler was as good as advertised this past season, winning Defensive Player of the Year and anchoring the paint. Jeremy Lin at times looked like the point guard of the future for the Knicks and Iman Shumpert had his bright moments defensively.
Shedding either Anthony or Stoudemire's contracts will not only give the Knicks salary cap flexibility, but it will also allow for the offense to become more efficient.
Atlanta Hawks—Sign Chris Kaman
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The Atlanta Hawks seem to be one of those teams that needs to rebuilt because they have not been able to reach the Conference Finals with this current core of players.
Although they hung tough against the Celtics in Round 1, they lost the series in six games and missed out on facing a weaker 76ers team in the Conference Semifinals.
Atlanta should move Al Horford to the power forward position and sign a center like Chris Kaman if they want to contend next season.
Horford would be better suited at the 4, and Kaman is a definite seven-footer who has proven to be one of the more reliable centers in the league.
Kaman will likely ask for a two to three-year deal earning him seven to eight million dollars, so the Hawks will definitely need to shed either Zaza Pachulia or Marvin Williams, either by using the "Amnesty Clause" or by trading them.
With that being said, a starting lineup of Teague-Johnson-Smith-Horford-Kaman would definitely contend in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.
Orlando Magic—Trade Dwight Howard
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Given that they were without Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic played as well as they could against a strong Indiana Pacers team, losing in the first round, as they continue their regression from the 2009 trip to the NBA Finals.
With so many long-term deals on this roster, it is difficult for them to swing any trades that will help their roster for the time being.
In this case, it might actually be worthwhile to trade Dwight Howard, not because of his unwillingness to re-sign, but because he will likely yield a "King's Ransom."
Teams like the Lakers, Bulls and possibly even the Thunder would definitely contact the Magic for his services, that is if he is willing to sign in any of these places.
The worst case scenario leads the Magic trading Howard to the Nets, where they could get Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, two All-Star caliber pieces for starters. That's not bad for a worst case.
Indiana Pacers—Sign Ray Allen and Re-Sign Roy Hibbert
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Indiana proved this past year that they are a force to be reckoned with and will definitely be contenders for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the future.
The Pacers gave the Heat a stern test in the Conference Semifinals, before falling due to their lack of a go-to scorer in crunch time
Trading Danny Granger for Tyreke Evans and therefore moving Paul George to the small forward might be one of those high risk-high reward moves and remains a possibility.
In the case that they are unable to swing this kind of deal, signing Ray Allen for the time being would be smart because it gives the Pacers a shooting guard who is capable of starting and playing 25-plus minutes a game.
Although Indiana can offer Allen the most money, he might not want to play in small-market Indiana.
The second move they need to make is to re-sign All-Star Center Roy Hibbert, whose game has improved every season he has been in the league.
Philadelphia 76ers: Trade Andre Iguodala for Rudy Gay
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The 76ers completed a successful season, where they fell to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the Conference Semifinals.
Like Indiana, Philadelphia lacks a go-to scorer, who can close playoff games and ultimately lead them to the latter stages of the playoffs.
While Andre Iguodala is a bona fide All-Star due in part to his outstanding perimeter defense, the 76ers should look to trade him to the Memphis Grizzlies for their own small forward, Rudy Gay.
Gay is one of the better scorers in the league and will provide instant-offense, fulfilling one of Philadelphia's major needs. This deal also benefits the Grizzlies, who are looking to improve their perimeter defense, while also shedding Gay's monstrous contract.
At the end of the day, this move puts the 76ers into the top-five teams in the East and possibly give them a chance to win the Atlantic Division, if the Celtics do not re-sign Kevin Garnett.
Boston Celtics—Sign KG and Chris Kaman
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The Boston Celtics came the closest this postseason to defeating the NBA Champion Miami Heat, falling in a highly-contested seven-game series. At one point, they even held a 3-2 advantage against Miami.
Boston has a difficult choice to make heading into this offseason—rebuild the team completely around Rajon Rondo or go after a championship for one last season.
Since Dwight Howard decided to opt-into his contract, the Celtics should definitely pursue the latter.
The Celtics need to re-sign Kevin Garnett in this situation, as he almost averaged 20-10 in the postseason. In addition, they should sign Chris Kaman, who is one of the more reliable centers in the league, as I have stated before.
Drafting two rotation players with the 21st and 22nd picks will also be crucial, so look for the Celtics to target players like Royce White, Andrew Nicholson and Jared Sullinger.
If KG retires, the Celtics will probably begin the rebuilding process, with these aforementioned moves likely not happening.
Utah Jazz—Let Young Pieces Grow Behind Veterans
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Utah shocked many people by making the playoffs this past season as the eight-seed because this team was so young across the board.
With that being said, if the Jazz want to contend in the future, they should just let young players like Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward grow behind the veterans currently on the roster.
While this team might not contend for a championship in the next two to three years, if their young core plays to their potential, the Jazz might be one of the top young teams for years to come.
In fact, a frontcourt of Kanter and Favors might develop into one of the scarier duos in the league.
Dallas Mavericks—Sign Deron Williams
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After beating the Miami Heat and being crowned NBA Champions last season, the Dallas Mavericks were mediocre this year, falling to the Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder in a sweep.
This is likely due to Mark Cuban electing not to re-sign either Tyson Chandler or J.J. Barea, both of whom were major role players on the championship team.
If the Mavericks can free up enough cap by using the "amnesty clause" on Brendan Haywood or by trading Shawn Marion, they will likely be able to sign Deron Williams—one of the top point guards in the league.
Dallas has long been rumored to be a destination for Williams because the All-Star is from Big-D. In addition, the Mavericks will definitely contend for a championship with Williams on the roster.
If the Mavericks can retain Jason Terry and Jason Kidd also, Dallas might even be the favorite coming out of the West. However, just getting Williams will put them in the conversation.
Denver Nuggets—Draft Perry Jones III and Re-Sign JaVale McGee
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Denver is one of those teams that seems to always make the playoffs, but fails to make a sizable impact during the postseason.
This past season, the Nuggets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in a heated first-round matchup with the series going down to the waning moments of Game 7.
The Nuggets do have a strong young core of Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Arron Afflalo, However, it seems like this team needs to either take a risk or sign a bona fide superstar if they want to make the next step.
This "risk" might come in the form of Perry Jones III. While the Baylor forward might not play inspired basketball at times, he is so immensely talented and will definitely flourish in the right system with the right coach.
George Karl might be able to get to him, and if he can, the Nuggets might have their hands on a future superstar.
The Nuggets do also need to re-sign McGee, who played very well in the playoffs against Andrew Bynum.
Memphis Grizzlies—Draft Jeffrey Taylor and Sign Ray Allen
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Coming into the season, I thought that the Memphis Grizzlies were the best team in the league. However, everything fell apart when Darrell Arthur was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, as the Grizzlies lost their frontcourt depth.
At the end of the day, they fell to a talented, but maligned Clippers team in seven games, in a series they definitely should have won.
When healthy, the Grizzlies can hang with anyone. Yet, injuries seem to often catch up with them.
Even if this is the case, drafting Vanderbilt's Jeffrey Taylor would be a plus for Memphis because he seems to do so many things on the court well.
Taylor will absolutely become a solid rotation player, something that Memphis needs for a stretch run.
With the impending loss of O.J. Mayo, signing a cheaper and possibly better Ray Allen would add not only a top-flite shooter to the team, but also a necessary veteran influence.
Los Angeles Lakers—Trade Pau Gasol
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For the second straight season, the Los Angeles Lakers were blown out in the Conference Semifinals by the eventual Western Conference champion. Last season, it was the experienced Dallas Mavericks, this year it was the young and upstart Oklahoma City Thunder.
Like the end of last season, the blame rested on Pau Gasol, rightfully or wrongfully so. The Thunder are a better team compared to the Lakers, even if Gasol plays up to his potential.
However, it does seem like this current core of players has run its course. Since Andrew Bynum seems untouchable, Gasol is the only trade piece, which can allow for the Lakers to continue contending in the future.
One possible destination for Gasol might be Memphis, where he can team up with his younger brother Marc. Another could be the 76ers, who have Andre Iguodala to deal.
In any case, Gasol will likely garner pretty strong interest from teams, but his value has certainly depreciated. LA might have to settle on a trade, if they truly want to part with their Spanish big man.
Los Angeles Clippers—Sign Ray Allen
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Like their Los Angeles counterparts, the Clippers were blown out by a small-market team in the Conference Semifinals.
Even still, this season does feel like a success considering Chris Paul could not spend a full offseason with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and that Chauncey Billups was out for the postseason.
The Clippers lack a true 2-guard, who can play alongside Paul and prove to be a consistent scorer and defender. Nick Young was lights-out at times, but still struggles as a defender.
This is where Ray Allen comes into play. The 36-year-old shooting guard is looking to win a championship and will definitely be a welcome addition.
If Allen decides to join the Clippers, Los Angeles can still re-sign Billups and bring him off the bench, giving LA a second distributor and a solid scorer for their second unit.
In any case, the Clippers will go as far as Chris Paul takes them, but adding Allen would possibly put them in the top three teams in the conference.
San Antonio Spurs—Sign Kevin Garnett
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For a second straight season, the San Antonio Spurs ran into a younger and more athletic team, that caught fire and ran them out of the building. Instead of being the Grizzlies in the first round, it was the Thunder in the Conference Finals.
No disrespect to the San Antonio Spurs, but they are an aging team that needs to win now, with age catching up to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili respectively.
While this signing is a definite longshot, the Spurs should try to lure Kevin Garnett away from the Celtics.
According to numerous reports, if Garnett plays next season, it will be in Boston. However, if Boston decides to rebuild and Garnett feels like he has something left in the tank, why not San Antonio?
Joining Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, Duncan, Ginobili, and a bevy of strong role players, the "Big Ticket" would bolster the Spurs' frontcourt and defense.
If the Spurs can pull off this signing, look for them to be the best team in the West.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Trade Russell Westbrook for Rajon Rondo
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I know that this might be considered an extreme overreaction to the Thunder losing to the Heat in five games, but I think that a Westbrook for Rondo deal would benefit both teams.
We all know that Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league and when he is hot, can put up 40 to 50 points against anyone. Yet, Russell Westbrook seems to take away shots from him every game instead of feeding him the ball.
Rondo is your guy if you need a pure point guard, who can distribute the ball extremely well. In addition, he comes up big in playoff games and plays exceptional defense.
Westbrook will bring the rebuilding Celtics a building block for the future. He has the potential to be a top point guard in the league, but might be better suited to play the shooting guard position.
While many fans and pundits are saying that the Thunder are very young and have plenty of time to improve, it is going to be difficult for them to re-sign both Ibaka and Harden. In truth, keeping the core together looks impossible.
If the Thunder make this move, they will be the favorites to hold that Larry O'Brien Trophy next year and the year after. The question is whether they will mortgage their future for the present.