8 NBA Teams That Improved the Most Through 2012 Free Agency
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The NBA free-agency period is more or less over, as the top free agents have all been gobbled up, and all that remains now is a handful of old dudes, green guys and players who are iffy on a chance to get a roster spot, save one or two Leandro Barbosa types still hanging around out there.
Basically, the guys you see on teams' rosters right now are the guys who will be on the rosters in October, barring trades and injuries, which are of course always possible.
So with the free-agency period come and gone, it's safe to ask the question that always arises via free agency: Who won?
Let's take a look at who improved their team the most from the standpoint of what they had to work with and what their expectations were. For our purposes, only free-agent signings and sign-and-trades will be used, as those are the basis of free agency.
Also, we're taking a look at players added, not re-signed, as it makes sense that a team can only improve (for the most part) by adding different players.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
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While the moves the Los Angeles Clippers made are risky and slightly boneheaded, it's hard to look at them and see a team worse than last season.
I can't imagine both Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford having seasons that sully themselves and the uniforms they wear yet again.
Meanwhile, the Clippers also went out and picked up a veteran guy to teach them all how to play some hard-nosed defense and be a cool dude in the locker room in Grant Hill.
While these moves don't make the Clippers into title contenders, they certainly don't make them any worse.
7. New Orleans Hornets
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While the only true free-agent pickups the New Orleans Hornets made were signing Roger Mason and adding Robin Lopez in a sign-and trade, they went through with a (different) sign-and-trade deal for Ryan Anderson that has been scarcely talked about in terms of how much it will end up impacting their team.
With the Orlando Magic hell-bent on rebuilding via blood and fire, they went through with a sign-and-trade with the Hornets for Gustavo Ayon, turning a guy who averaged six points and five rebounds into the 2012 Most Improved Player Award winner who averaged 16 points and eight rebounds.
Who better to pair with the defensive and post-minded Anthony Davis than a stretch-4 who can drop some rain from outside with regularity?
6. Dallas Mavericks
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While I've been critical of the Dallas Mavericks and what they've done in terms of putting together a team after being spurned by Deron Williams, I've got to admit that they've made wise choices.
Dallas picked up Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and O.J. Mayo via free agency, with only Mayo's deal extending past next season.
Kaman and Brand both signed deals that will come off the books before the 2013 offseason, meaning they'll have more cap space for an attempt to sign Dwight Howard.
Mayo, meanwhile, signed a deal that will put him in modest money for the next two seasons and didn't take the Mavericks out of the Howard sweepstakes.
Compared to what could have been in this Dallas lineup, the Mavs aren't too bad moving forward.
5. Phoenix Suns
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From what everyone thought the Phoenix Suns would look like to what they ended up looking like, the Suns had a pretty darn good offseason.
Sure, they lost Steve Nash, and it's pretty near impossible for them to improve after that, but the team they put together is at least interesting. Heck, I'll admit it: This is one team that I can't wait to watch play some basketball.
First of all, Phoenix absolutely stole Luis Scola, paying him just $4.5 million a year for the next three years. A scrappy, tricky player like Scola can be worth double that when he's really feeling it.
Hell, the same can be said for Michael Beasley, who ended up with an $18 million deal over three years.
The prized move of their offseason, however, was re-acquiring Goran Dragic, who should fill in nicely as their new point guard.
Phoenix now has a team full of valuable pieces; it just has to figure out how to put them together.
4. Miami Heat
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The Miami Heat did two things this summer. First they picked up Ray Allen, and then they took a chance by signing Rashard Lewis, who had just been released by the New Orleans Hornets.
Obviously the big news here is that one of last year's best three-point shooters is now a member of the Heat, and depending on how his body is feeling, he can be a little bit more than just a three-point shooter.
Even though Allen was running the court like the Tin Man before Dorothy oiled him up when the playoffs came around, he showed early in the season that he could still put the ball on the deck and play some defense if his body would let him.
The Lewis signing is nothing more than a "wait and see" signing. If he can play and produce, terrific. If not, who cares?
3. Boston Celtics
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The Boston Celtics made the guys surrounding their core younger, which should be good enough for the time being, extending the title window for the Big Three sans Ray Allen.
What the Celtics did this offseason was go out and get Jason Terry, an improvement over Allen in that Terry can create for himself without a play being called specifically for him. They also added middling players in Courtney Lee and Jason Collins, both of whom should find a nice role in Boston.
Beyond that, they re-signed guys who were sort of a part of their team last year in Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, so we'll give them partial credit for those guys. Green is a big man who can stretch the defense and has shown the ability to really come alive at times, while Wilcox makes his money hustling and playing hard.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
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The Minnesota Timberwolves had an extremely busy offseason, adding players left and right with wanton disregard for the little detail of whether or not the guys they were signing were in the NBA or not.
In fact, with the exception of Greg Stiemsma, every player the Timberwolves added was either in Russia or at home last season, but they still had a heck of an offseason.
Minnesota picked up two incredibly risky wing players, both of whom have every possibility of working out, in Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy. Roy of course retired before last season with knee troubles, and Kirilenko spent the previous season winning the Euroleague MVP with CSKA Moscow.
The other piece to the puzzle that they added was Kirilenko's Russian national team companion Alexey Shved, a smart 2-guard with point guard skills and some interesting abilities.
So long as the injury bug stays away, which might be a big reach with Roy on board, this team should end up in the playoffs.
Above everything else, Minnesota showed that it's actively trying to make this team better, which can't be a bad thing for its fans or the big dude that rebounds for it.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
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The Los Angeles Lakers, of course, made the move of the offseason when they shipped away what will be a bunch of late draft picks for a few years of Steve Nash. Some call it rash, some call it brilliant, so it's probably somewhere in between those two.
What the Lakers got is a level-headed 38-year-old who is still one of the five best point guards in the league with almost no signs of decline from 2011 to 2012, which is nothing short of stunning.
Beyond that, Los Angeles had but one other pickup in Antawn Jamison, finagling a minimum deal for a guy who scored over 17 points a game last season.
While Jamison is old and not much one for defense, he fills the role on offense that Lamar Odom left as the stretch-4 off the bench who can not only shoot the ball, but do so in clutch situations.
The Lakers may not be as powerful as they were in 2010, but they can certainly win themselves a title with the right steps from here on out.
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