5 Teams That Had a Better 2012 Offseason Than the L.A. Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have had a very nice offseason to this point. The Lakers made a great move to open up the championship window again by acquiring Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns. Becoming the Lakers' first premier point guard during the Kobe Bryant era, Nash will create more opportunities for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Also, the Lakers added a valuable bench piece in Antawn Jamison. Jamison could be a dynamic contributor for a deep playoff run by the Lake show a year after scoring 17.2 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even with those acquisitions, the Lakers' offseason wasn't quite as good as those of a few other teams. The Hornets stepped things up with two excellent first-round draft picks and a brilliant trade acquisition. The Indiana Pacers reworked their backcourt and re-upped a key front-court player.
Following is a list of teams that had even better fortune than the Lakers this offseason.
New Orleans Hornets
The New Orleans Hornets have transformed their roster more than any other NBA team. The Hornets drafted Anthony Davis with the top overall pick, and then picked up Austin Rivers with the No. 10 pick.
New Orleans was able to get the guy who was assumed to be taken No. 1. By getting Davis, the Hornets picked up someone who has impressive defensive traits. He has the traits that many players wish they had—a crazy wingspan. Davis' arms will allow him to pile up blocks and rebounds from the start.
His offense will take time to develop, since he doesn't have great strength or a diverse offensive repertoire.
He will be able to overcome what he lacks physically being able to do by, at least, somewhat effectively battling for rebounds and being pretty good at blocking shots.
Austin Rivers will be an exciting rookie to watch. The Hornets are trying to fit him in at point guard. This doesn't seem like a great idea. Still, however they use him, whether as a Russell Westbrook-esque point guard or a regular scoring guard, Rivers will make his presence felt.
The Hornets ensured that they'll upgrade their scoring ability by acquiring Ryan Anderson from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Gustavo Ayon. Anderson was the Magic's No. 2 scorer with 16 points per game. He's a solid three-point shooter, having shot 39 percent from three-point range in the past season.
Another major step to make the Hornets relevant offensively was the re-signing of Eric Gordon. Gordon could be a 20-points-per-game scorer as he was in 2010-11 for the Clippers, but he may end up short as he shares shot opportunities with Rivers and Anderson.
The Hornets made major moves to make their squad competitive. They could compete for a playoff spot in the crowded West this season. If not then, they'll be in it next season. Under its new ownership, this team will be competitive for at least a few years.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers upgraded through acquisitions and letting players go.
The Trail Blazers let go of a slightly underwhelming point guard in Raymond Felton. Felton was able to hold the post as the starter after Brandon Roy announced he wouldn't play in 2011-12 due to knee problems.
Felton was unimpressive running the point, but it's hard to expect much from someone who has generally had a mediocre career as a starter.
They also let go of Jamal Crawford and Hasheem Thabeet. Crawford was one of their major free-agent acquisitions in the 2011 offseason. He was supposed to be a major scorer off the bench but ended up further showing his age.
Despite scoring 14 points per game, Crawford's field-goal percentage dropped 3.7 percent to 38.7 percent and his three-point shooting figure dropped 3.3 percent to 30.8 percent (four percent below his career mark).
Portland let the Oklahoma City Thunder have a crack at Thabeet—the failed No. 2 pick of the 2009 draft. Playing for his third team, Thabeet found his way into significant playing time when he was traded to Portland.
The UConn product played more than 10 minutes in each of the last five games of the season, starting three. That was the first time he started since the Memphis Grizzlies tested him out in 2009, and then, threw their hands in the air in disgust.
Having wrung their hands of the 7'3" Tanzanian center, the Trail Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard to place someone respectable up front. Leonard has all of the physical traits a team wants in a center—size, length and speed. Leonard can do damage on offense and works fairly well on the boards.
Also, in the draft, the Trail Blazers filled another major hole by drafting Damian Lillard. Lillard isn't a prototypical point guard. He scored more often than he sought to pass while at Weber State. Still, he's a very efficient point man who is capable of making plays for others. His scoring ability is unquestionable.
Re-signing Nic Batum was a major move. The Trail Blazers have seen the type of scoring potential Batum has. He'll likely step it up in the next couple years as he continues to grow his shooting repertoire.
Re-signing J.J. Hickson assures that they'll have some degree of depth up front. Hickson is a very capable player all-around. He'll become more effective than he was in the last couple years as the Trail Blazers don't need to use him as much as the Cleveland Cavaliers did.
Terry Stotts was an interesting hire. I had expected them to stick with Kaleb Canales, who had a calming effect after he became the interim head coach.
Despite Stotts' unimpressive record as head coach (110-168), he's received plaudits in Portland. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian noted via Twitter, LaMarcus Aldridge praised Stotts' offensive prowess.
LA on Stotts: "Dirk said he’s an offensive genius. He played a very big part of the offense changing the year they won the championship."— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) August 8, 2012
Stotts can be glad that he has the Trail Blazers' biggest star on his good side already. That's just what Stotts needs to start out well. If he can get things rolling on offense like he did in Dallas, then, this will be a very competitive bunch.
The Indiana Pacers had three things that they absolutely needed to do during the offseason: re-sign Roy Hibbert and George Hill and figure out what to do with Darren Collison.
The Pacers executed each objective quite well. Roy Hibbert might not quite be worth a max contract, but he does so many things well that it's hard to get too upset about the dollar amount. He's a solid center all-around. His combination of size, length and mobility is remarkable. He's grown to become a terrific shot-blocker.
The moves that he shows off inside are wonderful.
George Hill isn't a showstopper, but he plays very well in his role. He scores well and hits three-pointers.
The deal sending Collison to Dallas shipped off a replaceable point guard in exchange for a solid defensive helper in Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi is a solid rebounder, averaging 4.7 rebounds per game and 9.1 per 36 minutes.
Finally, they added D.J. Augustin to install a real starting point guard in the lineup. Augustin had 6.4 assists per game last season, 1.6 more than Collison. His assist percentage was 38.9 percent, 14 percent more than Collison.
Having re-upped two important players and adding a true point guard will help the Pacers drive deeper in the playoffs than this past postseason.
The Atlanta Hawks had a big offseason by both adding a guy and getting rid of a few.
The Hawks were able to make it a solid offseason in part by unloading payroll in preparation for a big move. They dealt Joe Johnson to unload a ridiculously large contract. Johnson's value declines as he grows older. At age 31, the Hawks wouldn't have expected him to score 20 points per game.
In the deal, they received Anthony Morrow, who's a talented shooter. Morrow is a spectacular three-point shooter, having shot 42.6 percent from three-point range for his career.
Kirk Hinrich's $8 million contract ran out, and the Hawks let the aging point guard walk. Hinrich had become ineffective on defense and was no longer helpful facilitating the offense.
The Hawks were able to replace Johnson's scoring by signing Lou Williams. Williams averaged 14.9 points per game and 20.5 per 36 minutes. He averaged 1.4 points more per 36 minutes than Johnson in 2011-12.
By letting Hinrich and Johnson go and acquiring Williams, the Hawks became younger and improved their offensive ability. They remain a playoff team with Williams' scoring, Morrow's three-point shooting and the tools that Jeff Teague brings in his next year with the Hawks.
The Miami Heat's offseason came down to one acquisition—the signing of Ray Allen. Signing Allen helps seal the team's chances of winning the title next season.
Allen brings what the Heat were missing last season. He posts plenty of points. He averaged 14 points per game. He's a solid three-point shooter who takes a good amount of shots from downtown. Allen shot 45.3 percent from downtown.
As well as he's done late in his career, Allen will be able to keep up his impressive level of play. He'll be able to spark the Miami offense when needed, spacing the floor more the team did before. That will allow the Heat to diversify offensive looks more and key in on another championship run.
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