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Aside from your Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, there are a few other teams that made some significant moves in the off season.
10) The Denver Nuggets brought in Andre Iguodala, a defensive superstar, to a team previously devoid of a stopper to take on the likes of Kobe Bryant of Kevin Durant. They surround him not with an offensive force to match, but instead with several mini-forces to put the biscuit in the basket.
Ty Lawson led the team with over 16 points per game and may not have quite hit his ceiling yet. Danilo Gallinari can light it up on any given night. At 6'10" he can be as difficult as a cover as Durant of DIrk, though his game is still very immature. Speaking of immature, Javale McGee is a big X-Factor here; if his production ever matches half of his athleticism, he will be one of the three best centers in the league. Kenneth Faried has only begun to scratch his potential as well.
It is a long shot, but the team has the potential to challenge the big boys in the Western Conference.
9) The Philadelphia 76ers brought in the game's second-best center. If I didn't hate every other off season move they made, I would count them as a challenger to the Miami Heat.
In my opinion, Nick Young is a huge downgrade to replace fan favorite Lou Williams as the leader of the bench mob. The team turned Elton Brand into Kwame Brown. Given, Brand was a free-agent bust, but still is ten times better than Brown, even at this stage in his career. It isn't like you save money by using the Amnesty Clause on Brand, so essentially the team is paying $20 million for the services of Brown this season. It would have been better to just eat the mistake of Brand and get the most out of him. Plus, his game actually complements Bynum's fairly nicely.
There are two players that will essentially seal this team's fate. The first obviously is Bynum, especially in regards to both his health and maturity. His talent has never been in doubt. The other is Evan Turner, who will be expected to replace the production of Iguodala.
He took some positive steps last season, but his shooting percentage regressed to just 36 percent. Remember, he was a late bloomer at Ohio State, as he did not fully blossom until his third season. This will be his third in the NBA, so it is now or never for 2010's number two overall pick.
8) The Houston Rockets made a lot of moves that I deem questionable at best until I see the production on the court. They cleared a huge amount of cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard, which eventually proved to be fruitless.
They essentially turned Kyle Lowry, a very good player, into Jeremy Lin. I knew Lin was not the star he pretended to be for six weeks in New York, but if the preseason is any indicator, he could be much worse than we all thought.
Houston has a lot of intriguing young players, though they just traded one I really liked (Jeremy Lamb) in the James Harden deal. Royce White has serious talent, but it remains to be seen if he has the mental/emotional capability to handle the NBA. Omer Asik's preseason indicates he might be an absolute beast on the boards as a starter.
The trade for Harden will probably indicate whether Houston competes for the eight seed in the Western Conference, or is one of the worst teams in the league. He needs to be a lead scorer for a team that is devoid of other big-time scoring options.
That is a scary proposition, considering he was the third option as the Sixth Man for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
7) The Dallas Mavericks were also big losers in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, while they also struck out on Deron Williams. However, don't count the 2011 NBA Champs out just yet.
Chris Kaman is a huge upgrade at the center position. When healthy, he can average a double-double with a couple of blocks per game. Elton Brand was also an inexpensive addition to the bench and could be a nice role player.
The team also brought in O.J. Mayo. Mayo brings a lot more to the table in terms of tangibles than Jason Terry, but less in the way of intangibles. Mayo's talent is unquestioned, and sometimes players just need a new situation to maximize their ability. He also can play more minutes than Terry as a true shooting guard.
Don't be surprised if Mayo finally fills the potential the Memphis Grizzlies saw when they traded Kevin Love for him in 2008. Plus, the addition of Mayo means fewer minutes for Vince Carter, which is always a good thing.
I also like the addition of Darren Collison as the team's new point guard over the ancient Jason Kidd. Of course, the most important asset will be that of a healthy and fit Dirk Nowitzki, rather than the version that tried to play its way into shape last season.
A title defense after a one-year hiatus? Unlikely. A much more competitive playoff appearance? Mark it down.