NBA Free Agents 2012: 5 Teams with a Lot of Work Left to Do

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2012

NBA Free Agents 2012: 5 Teams with a Lot of Work Left to Do

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    Someone must have told the Phoenix Suns it was time for a change.

    Arguably, no organization has had a more productive offseason after a flurry of moves that will make or break this club's chances for the foreseeable future.

    The Suns came to terms with point guard Goran Dragic, agreed to bring small forward Michael Beasley on board and claimed amnestied power forward Luis Scola. 

    Each of the moves was relatively affordable, but they'll combine to decide the direction the Suns take over the next few years. If Dragic can repeat the performance he displayed as a temporary starter for the Houston Rockets last year, he'll make for a wise investment.

    If Beasley can deliver on his unmistakable promise, he'll make for a lucky gamble.

    Whatever Suns fans think of their team's maneuvering, they should at least take some solace in the fact that no one is getting complacent. There's work still to be done, but a number of teams have far more topping their to-do lists.

    Here are five clubs who aren't even close to wrapping up what should be busy summers.

Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks have come a long way from the quagmire that had them stuck in postseason mediocrity for the last four years.

    Yes, the overachieving club made it to the Conference Semifinals in three of those four, but it looked nowhere close to making it one step further. With Joe Johnson's exorbitant four-year contract now the Brooklyn Nets' problem, new general manager Danny Ferry has some breathing room and a fighting chance of making this roster better.

    He's already taken the first swing by signing Georgia native Lou Williams away from the Philadelphia 76ers, a move that could assure the Hawks of a legitimate sixth man for years to come.

    Still, the work isn't done yet.

    In addition to Williams, who's functionally an undersized two, the Hawks have starting point guard Jeff Teague and recently-acquired Devin Harris creating something of a bottleneck in the backcourt.

    Teague is the team's most valuable trade asset outside of Al Horford, but it's a bit hard to imagine the Hawks remaining content to trot Harris out as the starting point guard every night–unless the shoot-first Lou Williams is expected to handle a chunk of the minutes there.

    While the Hawks have gone a ways in solving their roster problems, chances are there's more wheeling and dealing ahead.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks appeared resigned to avoiding the unpredictable fate that awaits the Houston Rockets.

    After having missed out on Deron Williams, the Mavs returned to a more sober strategy of building a team that at least has a fighting chance. With head coach Rick Carlisle at the helm, a fighting chance isn't such a bad thing.

    This summer was beginning to look pretty bleak with the losses of free agents Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, but Dallas turned things around pretty quickly when Williams agreed to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets. The organization acquired point guard Darren Collison via trade, signed free-agent center Chris Kaman and claimed power forward Elton Brand off waivers.

    If the Mavericks didn't make another move, you could argue they're already in better shape than they were last year.

    Nevertheless, they don't have an ideal replacement for Jason Terry, and there's still a need for a perimeter scorer with more athleticism and consistency than Vince Carter.

    If the Mavs can find a way to bring in free agent O.J. Mayo, they'd be in pretty good shape. Otherwise, they'll have plenty of work to keep them busy.

Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets have shaped their entire offseason around an all-or-nothing endeavor to land a superstar, and ESPN's Marc Stein and Chad Ford have reported that their efforts to acquire Dwight Howard are as serious as ever.

    It's curious behavior, to say the least, from a team with whom Howard has shown no interest in inking a long-term deal.

    If the Rockets fail in their pursuit, fans will be asking some questions.

    They traded starting point guard Kyle Lowry for a draft pick, allowed up-and-coming Gordan Dragic to depart via free agency and amnestied Luis Scola–all to acquire the assets and cap space needed to get Dwight.

    This club has a number of promising young pieces around which it can build, but it will be building and rebuilding for a long time if this summer doesn't reach some kind of climax.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Content to let free agent O.J. Mayo walk after just four years of mixed success, the Memphis Grizzlies appear set to reprise their role as the better-than-advertised underdogs.

    Only this time, they'll deserve the "underdog" label a little bit more.

    Yes, Memphis has a young core who will benefit from another year together, but they look perilously close to becoming the Western Conference's Atlanta Hawks–a team that was good enough to surprise some people, but never good enough to go all the way.

    If the Grizzlies want any chance of improving upon the seven-game ousting they suffered at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers in this year's first round, they need to get creative.

    And, they need to be prepared to take some risks, even if that means breaking up and otherwise promising starting unit. 

Orlando Magic

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    Other than sending power forward Ryan Anderson on his way in a sign-and-trade to the New Orleans Hornets and re-signing point guard Jameer Nelson, the Orlando Magic are stuck in neutral.

    Untill the Dwight Howard situation resolves itself, general manager Rob Hennigan's impending rebuilding project will remain a series of endless contingency plans. Once Howard is dealt, the rest of the pieces will begin falling into place.

    Whenever that happens, expect the Orlando's front office to be abuzz with activity.

    It doesn't have to make things happen overnight, and it would be unwise to even attempt such a feat.

    Still, it will definitely remain busy assessing additional trade opportunities and looking for the kind of free-agent additions who'd fit nicely into the organization's presumptive youth movement.