This summer of free agency has been pretty hectic, complete with surprise sign-and-trades and plenty of movement around the league. As more "superteams" pop up around the NBA, the Miami Heat's chances of winning back-to-back titles depreciates.
From Steve Nash's move to Los Angeles to Deron William's decision to stay in Brooklyn, this has definitely been an exciting offseason. The Heat have made some moves of their own, including the acquisition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
The winners of the 2012 NBA Championship will definitely come back strong next year to defend their title, but these eight teams will give them a run for their money.
It's pretty obvious the Brooklyn Nets are having one of the best offseasons in the NBA. Not only did they retain the hottest free agent in the league not named Dwight Howard, but they also picked up a fantastic role player.
I'm talking about Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. It looked like Williams was going to leave to join his hometown Dallas Mavericks, but the Nets were able to convince him to stay in Brooklyn. With the addition of Johnson, the team is definitely going to be a problem.
The pairing of star point guard Williams with All-Star scorer Johnson is already enough to propel Brooklyn back into Atlantic Division threats. The Nets have a good mix of experience and youth, which will take them far next season.
The move to Brooklyn from New Jersey was a smart move because it gives the team a fresh start in a new city. With all the hype surrounding the team, the organization is hungry. They were go-getters in the offseason and will keep the same mindset once the 2012-13 season begins.
While Miami still has an edge over Brooklyn, expect the Nets to give the defending champions tough competition.
We all know the story. The Oklahoma City Thunder were the Western Conference champions last year. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company led their team to the Finals, where they ended up losing to the Miami Heat.
However, don't forget that was only their first appearance. In addition, the average age of OKC's roster is 26.4 years old. The foursome of Durant, Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka is all under 24 years old.
So far, the Thunder haven't made many big moves in the offseason. The only new addition who will make an immediate impact is Perry Jones III, who was selected No. 28 in the draft. OKC has also signed center Hasheem Thabeet and undrafted forward Hollis Thompson. No significant players have left Oklahoma City yet either.
The team is young, hungry and dominant. Now that they've experienced what it feels like to be within reach of a championship and lose, expect them to come back next season stronger than ever. In the NBA, champions don't happen overnight. They use the pain from past failures to evolve.
The Miami Heat need to watch their back, because OKC is on track to win it all very, very soon.
The Los Angeles Lakers have the tools necessary to make it back to the NBA Finals. In addition to Bryant and Nash, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol make up a dominant frontcourt.
The Lakers have won multiple titles in recent years, so they know what it takes to make it back to the Finals. Just as it seemed like their window was finally closing, the team added Steve Nash and immediately became a contender. Of course it will take time for the players to mesh, but if Bryant and Nash find good chemistry, they have the potential to be lethal.
Although the Lakers still lack depth, there is still plenty of room to bring in new talent. If everything comes together, the Heat will have their hands full with Kobe and crew.
When the offseason began, the Boston Celtics didn't quite know what would happen next. Will the Big Three break up? Who will the Celtics acquire to help Rajon Rondo lead the next era in Boston? Well, fans finally have answers.
Despite the loss of Allen, the Celtics are still poised to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals. They have arguably the best point guard in the league, veteran experience, hungry youngsters and head coach Doc Rivers. When Avery Bradley returns from injury, the Celtics will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.
The Celtics were Miami's fiercest competition in the East last season. It is likely that next season will be the same.
Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies were a good team. After this offseason, the Grizzlies will be a great team.
Memphis' front office made one of the smartest moves this summer when they inked a deal with Jerryd Bayless. The backup point guard will be filling two voids on the team.
First, it's only a matter of time before O.J. Mayo departs from the Grizzlies. Bayless is an exciting replacement for Mayo. He averaged 11.4 points per game and shot 42.4 percent beyond the arc in Toronto last season. He's very capable on running the bench and playing the sixth man.
Secondly, the Grizzlies desperately needed a backup point guard behind Mike Conley. Last season, the team would lose direction when Conley was on the bench. Bayless will instantly solve that problem.
Put Bayless along with Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay, and the Grizzlies have a pretty nice lineup.
Many fans thought the Grizzlies had potential to be a dominant force in the West last year. Now, they have what it takes to not only be a serious contender, but to also disrupt Miami's quest to win another title.
The Knicks have been somewhat of a disappointment for the last two seasons. After being ousted from the playoffs in an embarrassing fashion twice in a row, the Knicks will have another chance to redeem themselves next season.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are both superstars in their own right. Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler is a dominant force in the paint. After going down in the 2012 playoffs with a torn ACL, breakout star Iman Shumpert is expected back on the court in January.
Although Jeremy Lin's future with the Knicks is uncertain, the addition of Jason Kidd makes the young point guard basically disposable. Kidd's 2,559 steals total is easily the highest among active NBA players. He's a veteran who will only help the team improve all around.
While the Knicks are nowhere near perfect and definitely need more work, the recent offseason moves will elevate their status in the East. If Anthony and Stoudemire can finally figure out how to play together, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could have a serious problem on their hands.
The San Antonio Spurs will be just as good as they were last season, which was pretty good. The team has been pretty quiet during the offseason, but that doesn't mean they didn't make meaningful moves.
The Spurs re-signed All-Star forward Tim Duncan, as well as Danny Green and Boris Diaw. Plus, they still have the best coach in the NBA with Gregg Popovich.
San Antonio didn't do anything unpredictable, but then again, they didn't need to. Duncan and Manu Ginobili are still incredibly productive, while Tony Parker is steadily becoming a top guard in the league. It only makes sense for the Spurs to keep the team they had and try again.
The Spurs are a fundamentally great team with big players who make big plays. Any team with those assets will challenge the Heat.
Last season, the city of Los Angeles turned into Lob City. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were entertaining, but the team failed to achieve much postseason success. Next season, we can expect the Clippers to significantly progress and become a legitimate threat to the defending champions.
Veteran point guard Chauncey Billups was the backbone of the Clippers, but his season unfortunately ended early due to injury. The Clippers re-signed Billups, and added two former Sixth Men of the Year, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom. Griffin also inked a massive five-year, $95 million contract extension with the team.
Crawford and Odom will provide an immediate impact to the team's offense. Griffin will continue to draw double-teams, opening the floor for Paul and Crawford's perimeter shooting. After his nightmare with the Mavericks, Odom will come back ready to play on a team that uses him properly.
Yes, the Clippers still have holes to fill. No, they aren't better than the Heat right now. However, they are putting together a very good team, one that could make a decent run in the playoffs.