NBA Free Agents 2012: Which Teams Put Themselves Back in Playoff Contention?
In the NBA, the goal of playoff teams during the free-agency period is to maintain their spot in the postseason, while lottery teams would like to move up in the standings.
With a finite number of solid players to go around, only a few teams can successfully move into playoff contention during the offseason.
Thanks to great pickups and the right decisions to hold onto restricted free agents, these are the five teams who have done exactly that.
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In one offseason, the Brooklyn Nets completely managed to transform the perception of their organization.
Not included in the free-agent signings listed above was the trade for Joe Johnson that the Nets completed at the beginning of the free-agency period.
Now, after re-signing Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams, the Nets have a solid quartet of options on the offensive side of the ball. They also added some quality depth and an intriguing foreign prospect in Mirza Teletovic.
Brooklyn is not only a playoff contender one year after going 22-44, but also a fringe title contender.
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The Milwaukee Bucks re-signed Ersan Ilyasova this offseason, which allows them to build upon the other moves they've made in recent times.
A full season of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings forming a sensational backcourt, in addition to the acquisition of Samuel Dalembert (via trade), should allow this team to truly compete for a spot in the postseason.
Ilyasova was a strong contender for Most Improved Player last season and should find long-term success as he stays with the Bucks. His rebounding skills and scoring will both have a significant impact for the team.
Milwaukee hasn't made the postseason since the 2009-10 season, but Ilyasova and company will be looking to change that.
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Nicolas Batum (Maybe)
Ending the war with the Portland Trail Blazers and adding Nicolas Batum would be a significant boost for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but just the addition of Brandon Roy alone should have them back in the hunt.
The only position at which the Wolves were truly hurting was shooting guard, and Roy gives the team a solid option there. Even if he's not the same player he was before his retirement, Roy takes the pressure off of Wesley Johnson and the other players who were manning the position.
Health permitting, this team should be in the hunt all year long. A Ricky Rubio/Roy/Chase Budinger/Kevin Love/Nikola Pekovic starting five is quite solid.
New Orleans Hornets
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The New Orleans Hornets completed a sensational offseason that started with the 2012 NBA draft by completing a sign-and-trade that sent Gustavo Ayon to the Orlando Magic for Ryan Anderson and matching the Phoenix Suns' offer sheet to keep restricted free-agent shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Those two, plus the faces of Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis, will be enough to put this team in the playoff hunt.
Gordon is one of the top up-and-coming players in the NBA. At shooting guard, a position with fewer standout players than there should be, Gordon has a chance to truly stand out.
Anderson will also have a huge impact, as he brings his perimeter shooting to the team and helps spread out defenses. His offense and Davis' defense complement each other perfectly.
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The Phoenix Suns underwent a massive roster overhaul during the offseason, trading away the unquestioned face of the franchise for four draft picks.
To replace Steve Nash, the Suns signed Goran Dragic, allowing him to return to the roster of which he used to be a part. After a breakout season in relief of an injured Kyle Lowry, Dragic is poised to take over the starting job in Phoenix and pick up where Nash left off.
He won't play at the same level Nash did, but the rest of the new additions will help pick up the slack.
Michael Beasley needed another fresh start and should be able to shoot to his heart's content with the Suns.
As for Luis Scola, he might have been one of the biggest steals of the free-agency period. The Suns picked him up after he was amnestied by the Houston Rockets, and they'll reap the benefits of his underrated game all year long.
With a starting five of Dragic, Jared Dudley, Beasley, Scola and Marcin Gortat, the Suns will surprise a lot of people.