The Best-Case Scenario for Every NBA Team During 2013 Offseason

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIJune 30, 2013

The Best-Case Scenario for Every NBA Team During 2013 Offseason

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    Even though the goal of every NBA team is to win a championship, the best-case scenario for the 2013 offseason differs from team to team depending upon their respective outlook.

    Being stuck in NBA limbo is the worst possible place to be. Teams in limbo are not competing in the playoffs, nor are they near the bottom of the league from a record standpoint. If your favorite team is consistently drafting in approximately the 10-22 range—like the Phoenix Suns from 2011-2012—the chances to improve are severely diminished.

    Toiling in the middle of the pack will be especially disappointing during the 2013-14 season, because valuable prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart and Julius Randle will be up for grabs in the 2014 draft.

    The Boston Celtics appear to be bottoming out by trading Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets. The Philadelphia 76ers are doing the same by trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel.

    The landscape of the NBA is always changing. Every team will have a different best-case scenario, but only a select few will deliver for a bright future.

Atlanta Hawks

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    The best-case scenario for the Atlanta Hawks has been clear since the season ended: Sign Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

    Unfortunately for Hawks fans, that pipe dream is appearing less and less likely with every passing day.

    According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Hawks are “a long shot” to get Howard even though Atlanta is his hometown. Broussard wrote that Howard was open to going to Atlanta if Chris Paul would join him, but “the recent signing of Doc Rivers as Clippers’ head coach has assured that Paul will remain in Los Angeles.”

    Unless free agency takes a dramatic turn in a different direction, the Hawks will be out of luck in the sweepstakes to sign D12 and CP3.

    Although that would be a major setback for Danny Ferry and Co., there are still some options open to Atlanta moving forward.

    Considering the roller coaster career Josh Smith has had with the Hawks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two parties part ways this summer. Smith has worn out his welcome and could find a sweeter deal elsewhere.

    The Hawks are going nowhere fast with J-Smoove, but they can still move forward by matching any contract offer extended to restricted free agent Jeff Teague. The 25-year-old out of Wake Forest had the best season of his NBA career in 2012-13, averaging 14.6 points, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He still has room to grow, but he showed flashes of being a solid point guard in the Association.

    Atlanta will also benefit from a tremendous haul stemming from the 2013 draft. The team wound up with Lucas Nogueira, Dennis Schroeder and Mike Muscala. If the Hawks’ front office thinks that Schroeder can be the point guard of the future, then they can embrace the youth movement even further by letting Teague go.

Boston Celtics

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    Doc Rivers' departure from the Boston Celtics to coach the Los Angeles Clippers was the straw that broke the camel's back. By trading away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for spare parts and draft picks, Danny Ainge has officially hit the reset button in Boston.

    As if that wasn’t hard enough for Celtics fans to stomach, there have been reports that the Dallas Mavericks are looking to acquire All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

    Washburn wrote that Ainge plans to build the team around Rondo moving forward, so the trade interest is apparently one-sided for the Mavs right now.

    In any case, with Pierce and KG out of the picture, it’s hard to imagine the Celts competing for a playoff spot next season. In fact, with Rondo still recovering from an ACL tear, Boston may be one of the teams in the hunt for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes next summer.

    The Celtics have already ensured mediocrity with their blockbuster trade, so their 2013 offseason should be spent making the incoming additions—rookies and former Nets—feel welcome.

Brooklyn Nets

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    The Brooklyn Nets have achieved more during the early stages of the 2013 offseason than most teams would even dream of.

    Adding Jason Kidd as the team's next head coach immediately following his retirement from playing was an interesting, if not bizarre, decision. But by adding Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the starting lineup, as well as former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry off the bench, the Nets could be serious contenders in the Eastern Conference next year regardless of the coach.

    Of course, having sent away MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph and Keith Bogans to acquire the Celtics stars, Brooklyn will be in the market for depth.

    As a best-case scenario, they’ll be able to lure solid veterans on cheap deals with the promise of competing for a championship. Some unrestricted free agent options include Matt Barnes, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Antawn Jamison and Jermaine O’Neal.

    If Brooklyn adds enough flexibility off the bench, it will be poised for a deep playoff run in 2014.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Drafting Indiana standout Cody Zeller fourth overall in the 2013 NBA draft garnered this reaction from Charlotte Bobcats fans. Needless to say, this franchise is still working toward earning the respect and admiration of the fan base.

    That isn’t to say Zeller won’t be a solid NBA player. He’s an athletic big man who runs the floor as well as some guards. However, the Bobcats still don’t have nearly enough pieces to compete, even in the weaker Eastern Conference.

    As a best-case scenario this summer, the young core of Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Zeller will work to gain chemistry under new head coach Steve Clifford.

    According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Clifford wants Walker and Zeller to practice with the summer league team “so that Walker and Zeller can start collaborating in pick-and-rolls.”

    The Bobcats won’t win many games, but at least the Walker/Zeller combo has a chance to be entertaining.

Chicago Bulls

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    The best-case scenario for the Chicago Bulls 2013 offseason is getting and keeping Derrick Rose healthy. Everything else is secondary because D-Rose is such a vital part of the Bulls’ team identity.

    Aside from figuring out Rose’s future, the Bulls have a slew of interesting options.

    After a breakout campaign last season, highlighted by an all-around solid postseason performance, Jimmy Butler will certainly be in Chicago’s long-term plans.

    In fact, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, head coach Tom Thibodeau will place Butler in the starting lineup moving forward. The defensive-minded coach said, “The way he played this year, he earned that spot.”

    Ideally, the Bulls starting lineup next season will feature Rose, Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. However, there is an outside chance that Boozer could be amnestied and Deng could be traded.

    Both moves make sense for the similar reason of saving money. Although it would take pressure off the Bulls’ wallet, neither move is a necessity. That's especially true when you consider Chicago's lineup could contend for a championship with Rose back to 100 percent.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised the NBA community by taking UNLV standout Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. Most notably, the selection shocked Bill Simmons enough to say, “I need medical help,” on the live broadcast.

    There was never a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick in this draft, so the choice doesn’t deserve too much criticism. With that said, Bennett translates best as a power forward at the NBA level, and the Cavs already have Tristan Thompson filling that role.

    As a result of that logjam at the forward spot, the best-case scenario for Cleveland will be to organize the roster. Will Thompson shift to a sixth man role? Will the Cavs go big by playing Bennett at small forward? Will the team trade Anderson Varejao for assets to free up more wiggle room for the rookie?

    There are a lot of questions that need to be answered moving forward. But regardless, the Cavaliers are a more talented team than they were a season ago.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Until it’s officially no longer a possibility, the best-case offseason scenario for the Dallas Mavericks is to sign Dwight Howard and Chris Paul to play alongside former MVP Dirk Nowitzki.

    Although joining forces with James Harden and Chandler Parsons in Houston is the best scenario for Howard as far as winning is concerned, Dallas is certainly a team in the running for his services.

    According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Nowitzki got in touch with Howard to provide his own recruiting pitch. Nowitzki said, “I reached out to him and told him we’d love to have him. That’s really about it. It’s not like we call each other every day.”

    Aside from Nowitzki and rookie point guard Shane Larkin, the Mavs don’t have much to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

    They have an outside shot at Howard, but it appears as if both he and Chris Paul will wind up elsewhere.

Denver Nuggets

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    The Denver Nuggets raised eyebrows when they decided to part ways with Coach of the Year award winner, George Karl. The move was certainly bizarre, but Denver did get ousted in the first round of the playoffs in 2013. Perhaps it was just time for a change.

    The Western Conference contender filled the empty coaching void by hiring former Indiana Pacers assistant coach, Brian Shaw.

    Although the coaching situation has been solidified, changes to the roster could be on the horizon.

    Andre Iguodala decided to opt out of his contract this week, becoming an unrestricted free agent in the process. He’ll join teammate Corey Brewer in the free-agent pool.

    Ideally, the Nuggets would bring both players back. Iguodala and Brewer are two of the league’s best perimeter defenders, which is an asset that can’t be overstated in today’s NBA. Brewer is a valuable piece, but he’s likely earned a payday somewhere else that Denver can’t compete with.

    Nuggets CEO Josh Kroenke told Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, “We are fully aware of Andre’s intentions and he’s well aware of how much we want him back.” Kroenke added that Iguodala “is a huge priority for our organization.”

    The Nuggets clearly want to re-sign him, but you never know what can happen in free agency.

    Denver needs to bring Iggy back to the fold and add some glue guys to solidify the roster. The Nuggets will continue to be a Western Conference playoff contender if they do so.

Detroit Pistons

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    The Detroit Pistons have missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, but their best-case scenario this offseason is to remain patient.

    Short of landing an All-Star caliber player like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, spending money on free agents this year doesn’t make much sense for Detroit. Yes, they have a lot of cap space, but they also have a nice young core shaping up with Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight.

    The Pistons added even more youngsters to that trio by picking up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva in the 2013 draft.

    Trading for Shawn Marion’s contract or signing free agent shooting guard O.J. Mayo at this time would simply set the franchise back.

    The Pistons are on the right track to return to the Promised Land. They can’t afford to clog the roster with one (or multiple) bad contract(s).

Golden State Warriors

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    The Golden State Warriors made an improbable playoff run in 2013 by riding the hot hand of budding superstar Stephen Curry. If David Lee hadn’t torn his hip flexor in the postseason, there’s no telling how far Golden State could have gone.

    Golden State proved to be a feel good story in 2013. Now the front office needs to make sure they can repeat success on a year-to-year basis.

    The best-case scenario for the Warriors is to re-sign unrestricted free agents Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.

    Throughout the season, both Jack and Landry were receiving consideration for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Jack finished third in the voting, while Landry received a second place vote and a third place vote.

    What made Golden State so dangerous in 2012-13 was its depth. The Warriors had numerous players who could come off the bench and put their stamp on a game at any given moment. Keeping that rhythm has to be the biggest priority going forward.

    Remember, regardless of whether the Warriors manage to bring Jack and Landry back, they’ll have Brandon Rush available in the playing rotation.

    Rush played in just two games (26 minutes) before a torn ACL ended his season. His addition next year will provide Golden State with a huge boost.

Houston Rockets

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    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the Houston Rockets’ best-case offseason scenario is adding Dwight Howard (and Chris Paul, but that’s less likely) to one of the youngest and most promising teams in the entire NBA.

    Nothing is ever set in stone with Howard. In some cases, that’s true even when the ink is dry. Nevertheless, the Rockets appear to be the front-runner for the big man’s services.

    According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, not only are James Harden and Chandler Parsons recruiting Howard to sign in Houston, but NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, head coach Kevin McHale and team management have all joined the cause as well. As far as recruiting pitches go, that’s pretty impressive.

    While some Los Angeles Lakers fans still feel that they can bring Howard back because of the money the team can spend, Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld explained why the money theory may not mean all too much:

    Houston is also a great place to live, especially if you’re a professional athlete, since there is no state income tax. There’s also no millionaire tax like there is in L.A. When you consider that most superstar players opt out of a five-year deal after the fourth year anyway to test free agency and secure a new long-term deal, the fifth year and extra $30 million that the Los Angeles Lakers can offer to Howard are pretty insignificant. Factor in Los Angeles’ state income tax, millionaire tax and exorbitant cost of living and Howard isn’t leaving much, if any, money on the table at all.

    That’s a terrible revelation if you’re a Lakers fan, and a huge plus if you cheer for the Rockets.

Indiana Pacers

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    A clear offseason priority for the Indiana Pacers is re-signing veteran forward David West. There is, however, another scenario for Indy’s offseason that, though unlikely, makes a lot of sense.

    Indiana may not be a marquee destination when compared with Los Angeles, but if the Pacers were to add All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the roster, I’d argue that they’d be championship favorites.

    Even without a free-flowing, consistent offense, the Pacers managed to push the Miami Heat to the brink of elimination in the playoffs. Although they fell in seven games to the eventual champs, it’s clear that Indy gives Miami a lot of problems. Add one of the best penetrating, play-making point guards to Indiana’s promising young roster, and you have a serious championship contender.

    The problem is that Indiana doesn’t have much cap space to work with. Danny Granger is set to make more than $14 million next season, and the Pacers can’t rid themselves of that contract via amnesty clause because they already used it on James Posey. If they were, however, to dump Granger’s salary via trade, while convincing West to take less money in order to recruit Paul, there’s an outside chance it could work.

    Is it a pipe dream? Yes. But is it also the best-case offseason scenario for a team agonizingly close to a championship? You bet.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Upgrading the head coaching position from Vinny Del Negro to Doc Rivers was not only great for the Los Angeles Clippers from an X’s and O’s standpoint, it was also ideal in terms of giving Chris Paul incentive to stay in L.A.

    The addition of CP3 instantly changed the Clippers franchise from laughingstock to playoff contender. After finishing with a 32-50 record in 2010-11, they sport a 96-52 regular season record with Paul.

    Oddly enough, though, the Clips haven’t won a single second round playoff game since CP3 joined the team. In fact, Paul has only won three total second round playoff games in his entire career. Although that shouldn’t have any impact on the Clippers’ desire to re-sign Paul, it’s certainly worth noting moving forward.

    The newest top dog in the Battle of L.A. will need to add more pieces around Paul in order to compete with Western Conference juggernauts. Matt Barnes, Chauncey Billups, Ryan Hollins, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf are all free agents this summer. Bringing those guys back or replacing them with more talented role players is just as important as re-signing Paul.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    I’m not the only person who finds it incredibly odd that the Los Angeles Lakers—one of the most storied franchises in all of sports—have to plead for a free agent to stay put. Even more strange is that the campaign doesn’t appear to be working, at least according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.

    The top priority in L.A. is clearly to re-sign Dwight Howard, but where do the Lakers go if he leaves for Houston, Dallas or Atlanta?

    This is pure speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers turn their sights to Josh Smith if D12 moves on. Mitch Kupchak and Co. have to keep Kobe Bryant reasonably happy. A season-opening starting lineup of Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol isn’t going to cut it.

    If Mike D’Antoni is going to be the coach next season, adding J-Smoove makes some sense. He’s an athletic forward that can play multiple positions and get out in transition.

    Even a Lakers lineup with Smith would be put to shame by the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns days of old, but Kupchak needs to have a Plan B.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have been on the doorstep of a championship, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump.

    Trading Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors and parting ways with Lionel Hollins as coach were two moves met with mixed reviews, but the best way to approach this offseason for Grizzlies fans is to trust John Hollinger and the rest of the team’s front office.

    Hollinger, the basketball analytics guru turned Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations, clearly has a vivid picture for the future. The front office decided to deal Gay, and the franchise made its first Western Conference Finals appearance with the revamped roster. Lionel Hollins didn’t embrace the Gay trade or the analytics movement in the front office, so he was shown the door.

    It’s true that Grizzlies fans have no choice in the matter, but trusting Hollinger’s new wave way of running a pro basketball team should be easier than trusting Donald Sterling or the Maloofs.

    The best-case scenario for Memphis is clearly to bring back Tony Allen. He's arguably the league's best perimeter defender, and would be a huge asset to any team.

    Trading Darrell Arthur and second-round pick Joffrey Lauvergne to the Denver Nuggets for Kosta Koufos should prove to be one of the more underrated trades this offseason.

    Severing ties with anyone named “Joffrey” is a solid move in my book.

Miami Heat

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    Following back-to-back NBA championships, there truly isn’t much that the Miami Heat need to improve upon.

    The only true area of concern is rebounding. The Heat finished dead last in that category during the regular season, grabbing just 38.6 rebounds per contest. They should certainly look into re-signing Chris “Birdman” Andersen following his resurgent year, as he helps them in the rebounding department while hustling his rear end off.

    To further shore up the rebounding issues, Miami could add size by targeting Ronny Turiaf, Samuel Dalembert or J.J. Hickson.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    The Milwaukee Bucks are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are free agents this summer, and while bringing back both guards is an option, where does that leave them?

    The Bucks simply aren’t a championship caliber team. You’d need two hands to count the number of NBA teams that could beat them in a seven-game series. And even with an outrageous dream scenario in which the Bucks bring back Jennings and Ellis, while simultaneously landing Josh Smith, the chances they improve next season are slim.

    When you think of teams in NBA limbo, the Bucks are in the conversation. They aren’t good enough to compete in the playoffs, but they aren’t bad enough to land difference makers in the draft.

    Milwaukee should move forward by signing either Jennings or Ellis (not both). Then they can focus on signing breakout defensive star Larry Sanders to a contract extension.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves did a great job trading back in the 2013 draft. By dealing Michigan point guard Trey Burke to the Utah Jazz, Minny was able to add Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng—two promising young players with some upside.

    Minnesota certainly can't rest, though, because Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko are all free agents. They’ll have the final say regarding Pek, because he's a restricted free agent.

    Logically speaking, Pekovic has to be the biggest priority. The breakout center’s low post game was a nice complement to Kevin Love (in the short amount of time they got to play with each other), and the T-Wolves don’t have other options at the 5.

    Kirilenko should also be targeted because of his ability to stack the box score in a variety of different categories. His stingy defense is invaluable.

    If nothing else, the Timberwolves brass has to be curious about what could have been if they had their roster healthy for the entire season. Next year, Minnesota may finally be playoff bound.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    With the addition of All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, the new-look New Orleans Pelicans have already aced the 2013 offseason.

    Contrary to every pre-draft projection, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel fell into New Orleans’ lap at No. 6. The Pelicans scooped him up and traded him to Philly for one of the league’s best young point guards. Not only did they get a proven young player, but they also won’t have to worry about Noel’s health and weight concerns moving forward. All in all, those are big wins for New Orleans.

    The remainder of the offseason should be spent filling out the roster by deciphering which of their five free agents will return. Additionally, the Pelicans must find a way to instill some confidence in Austin Rivers.

    With Holiday (23), Eric Gordon (24), Ryan Anderson (25), Anthony Davis (20) and Robin Lopez (25), the Pelicans have a very promising young team. Of course, the health of Gordon and Davis will be a major X-factor.

New York Knicks

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    Financially, the New York Knicks are in an extremely sticky situation. They’re more than $20 million over the salary cap, and only eight players are under contract for next season. That’s a massive problem for a team hoping to contend for a title.

    It certainly doesn’t help that Amar’e Stoudemire is making more than $21.6 million next season, but the Knicks are stuck with that contract like a mosquito stuck in tree sap.

    In a perfect world, the Knicks would be able to sign 2013 Sixth Man of the Year award winner, J.R. Smith. That will be extremely unlikely given New York’s money issues and Smith’s value on the open market.

    Perhaps the Knicks will manage to keep restricted free agents Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni, but other teams may look to pry them away as well.

    Developing team chemistry between Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony this summer seems to be the best bet, because New York’s title chances are contingent upon their play out on the court. That is, of course, if STAT can avoid injury.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The 2013 NBA offseason should be the least of Oklahoma City’s worries, because the Thunder already managed to cripple their chance at a dynasty.

    By trading superstar shooting guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets last summer, OKC may have slammed the door shut on its title hopes. In exchange for the bearded one, the Thunder netted Kevin Martin (now an unrestricted free agent), Jeremy Lamb (an unproven rookie), Steven Adams (this year’s first-round pick at No. 12 overall) and two more non-lottery picks. As Bill Simmons would say, OKC traded for a pupu platter.

    Instead of re-signing Martin, who had his ups and downs in OKC, the Thunder should move forward with Lamb and Reggie Jackson (who played admirably while filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook).

    They’ll admittedly be putting a lot of pressure on Lamb to perform. However, considering that OKC is more than $9 million over the salary cap, bringing Martin back doesn’t make much sense.

    Using this offseason to groom Lamb, Jackson, Adams and Perry Jones will be imperative, because all four young players will have added responsibilities next season.

Orlando Magic

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    According to Ramona Shelburne, Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN, the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers have been engaged in trade talks centering on Arron Afflalo and Eric Bledsoe.

    The article points out that while Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is a fan of Bledsoe and would like to coach him, the fact remains that keeping Bledsoe as a super-sub behind star point guard Chris Paul is a luxury the Clips can’t afford for the long haul. As a result, trading Bledsoe for valuable assets makes sense for the Clippers.

    At the same time, it’s an absolute no-brainer for the Magic.

    Having just spent the No. 2 overall pick on the uber-athletic Victor Oladipo, moving the defensive-minded Afflalo should be a priority to give the rookie playing time. If Orlando can net Bledsoe to place beside Oladipo in the backcourt, all NBA fans will benefit.

    A Bledsoe/Oladipo tandem would immediately become the most athletic backcourt in the NBA (by a wide margin). If the Magic can convince the Clippers to pull the trigger on a deal by sweetening the pot, they’ll be the most exciting rebuilding team in the league.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Having traded Jrue Holiday, the best player on the team last year, for Nerlens Noel and the New Orleans Pelicans' first-round pick in 2014, the Philadelphia 76ers are officially rebuilding.

    I don’t dislike the trade for the Sixers. In fact, both sides seemed to get a sweet deal for different reasons (even if Philly appears obsessive toward big guys with knee problems).

    During the 2013 offseason, the Sixers biggest priority is signing Andrew Bynum.

    That may not seem like a best-case scenario by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact remains that if Philly lets Bynum walk in free agency, they’ll essentially have given up Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless for nothing in return.

    And hey, at least if Bynum sits out another year due to injury, the Sixers will be in the running for Andrew Wiggins in 2014.

Phoenix Suns

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    Much like the Detroit Pistons, the best-case scenario for the Phoenix Suns 2013 offseason is to be patient.

    Most Suns fans are running out of patience (for good reason) following a year in which the team finished dead last in the Western Conference with a 25-57 record—the worst record since the inaugural 1968-69 year.

    Nevertheless, spending valuable cap space on players who will take the Suns from bad to mediocre would be a terrible decision at the moment. If anything, the Suns need to bottom out for a franchise-changing draft pick. Doing so likely means trading 29-year-old center Marcin Gortat.

    Logically speaking, the Polish Hammer was sent packing the moment the Suns drafted Maryland center Alex Len with the fifth overall pick. Gortat is set to make more than $7.7 million this season, and seeing that his contract expires in 2014, he serves a dual purpose to suitors.

    Gortat can bring a valuable interior presence to a team competing for a championship ring or playoff spot. And, because he’s in the last year of his contract, he’s valuable in the sense that he frees up cap space for a team in 2014 (a potentially huge free agent year).

    The Suns need to be careful about any contracts they take back in a potential Gortat deal, but if they can get valuable assets for him (like draft picks), the Suns will have had a successful offseason.

    Of course, waiting to deal Gortat until the trade deadline when teams are truly desperate for a change could be a better outlook.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    A hailstorm of trade rumors ensued after Jason Quick of The Oregonian speculated that All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was unhappy in Portland and wanted to be traded. Quick wrote, “Not that I believe general manager Neil Olshey is looking to move the star power forward. But I believe Aldridge wants out.”

    As it turns out, according to a June 29 article by Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, Aldridge hasn’t asked to be moved.

    The star forward said in an email interview, “I haven’t demanded a trade.”

    He added, “I’m looking forward to who we sign in free agency to make us better,” according to Freeman's article.

    Although blind speculation makes for a good story, it appears as if Aldridge wants to remain in Portland next season (barring a change in circumstances).

    So what player should the Trail Blazers front office target to appease Aldridge by making the team better?

    Well, Chris Paul isn’t an option because Damian Lillard has solidified his place as the Trail Blazers point guard. Dwight Howard is deciding between the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks, so he’s out.

    Josh Smith could be a possibility, but Portland already spent big bucks last summer on Nic Batum.

    Portland probably won’t make a big splash in free agency this summer, but they need to improve the league’s worst bench.

    Not only did the Trail Blazers second unit score the fewest points of any NBA team, but it also recorded the fewest minutes, according to Hoops Stats. The coaching staff didn’t have anyone it could trust off the sidelines, which led to a gigantic workload for Aldridge and Lillard.

    The best-case scenario for Portland is to make the bench at least average compared to last season.

Sacramento Kings

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    The Sacramento Kings have already experienced offseason successes at the top of the totem pole by adding new head coach Mike Malone, new general manager Pete D’Alessandro and new assistant GM Mike Bratz, as detailed by Doug Brockwell of Yahoo! Sports.

    Additionally, the Kings lucked out in the 2013 NBA draft by landing talented shooting guard Ben McLemore seventh overall. The Kansas Jayhawk’s draft slide prompted two-time NBA champion LeBron James to say via Twitter, “They sleeping on Ben McLemore. Just watch.”

    Getting an endorsement from the best player on the planet is not too shabby.

    The Kings are moving in the right direction, but the biggest question mark remaining is the fate of restricted free agent Tyreke Evans.

    Since winning Rookie of the Year in 2010, Evans has been on a statistical decline for three straight seasons. He’s also had minor nagging injuries throughout his career, a negative aspect that kept him out of 17 games this past season.

    Sacramento already decided to extend a one-year qualifying offer to Evans, according to Zach Harper of CBS Sports. This allows the Kings to see what the market is for Evans. If he receives a contract offer, they can either match it or let him walk.

    The former Memphis star needs a change of scenery in the worst way, but I doubt the Kings will let a guy with so much talent walk away for nothing.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Following a run to the NBA finals, in which the San Antonio Spurs finished one game short of yet another championship, the NBA dynasty can’t afford to get sentimental.

    As heartless as it may seem, the best-case scenario for the Spurs this offseason is severing ties with two-time All-Star Manu Ginobili.

    The Olympic gold medalist from Argentina enjoyed a seven-year stint as one of the league’s most efficient and skilled shooting guards, but the past two seasons have highlighted his decline.

    In 2011-12, Ginobili shot an impressive 52.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three-point range. Despite that, he played just 34 of a possible 66 games due to injury.

    Last season, his shooting percentages took a nosedive to 42.5 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc. Again, he missed 22 regular season games due to injury.

    The eleven-year NBA veteran is arguably the greatest second-round pick of all time, but he hasn’t aged as gracefully as teammate Tim Duncan. He’ll turn 36 years old in July, and it simply doesn’t make sense for the Spurs to re-sign him if they plan to make another title run.

    San Antonio should re-sign Tiago Splitter and give Ginobili’s minutes to Gary Neal, Cory Joseph and Nando de Colo moving forward.

Toronto Raptors

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    The 2013 offseason for the Toronto Raptors needs to focus on new additions and young players.

    Namely, Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay need to develop chemistry, because they’re going to be the leaders of this young team. Meanwhile, opportunities must be opened up for Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross to have success.

    The two rookies, Valanciunas and Ross, had their ups and downs. Valanciunas had a much better year than Ross, but he missed 20 games due to injury. Ross shot an uninspired 40.7 percent from the field, averaging 6.4 points in 17 minutes per game.

    With a year of experience under their belts and the added advantage of knowing exactly what their roles will be, those two should (and need to) improve next season.

    Of course, the most obvious offseason issue that needs to be addressed is Andrea Bargnani. The 27-year-old Italian had some nice years in the past, but he never lived up to the hype of being a No. 1 overall pick

    Additionally, Bargnani has played in just 66 of a possible 148 games over the past two seasons. As an injury-prone big man who doesn’t rebound (4.8 rebounds per game average in his career), the negatives outweigh the positives.

    Thankfully, the Raptors have not yet utilized the amnesty clause. Bargnani is due $22.25 million over the next two seasons. That makes him a worthy (or perhaps unworthy) amnesty candidate.

Utah Jazz

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    There are plenty of options for the Utah Jazz to explore during the 2013 offseason. With DeMarre Carroll, Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson all entering unrestricted free agency, the Jazz need to analyze every option.

    Utah already answered a very important question by getting its point guard of the future in the 2013 draft. By trading up to acquire Michigan’s Trey Burke, the Jazz got the best point guard in the draft class. He’s an undersized winner with the ability to penetrate to the bucket as well as knock down the three-ball.

    Moving forward, though, it makes sense for the Jazz to bring Mo Williams back for another season. Thumb surgery kept him sidelined for a sizable chunk of the year, so there’s reason to believe he’ll be better when healthy. He can embrace the role of sixth man, tutoring Burke as the rookie gets acclimated to the NBA.

    Also, as a DeMarre Carroll fan, I think it’s a no-brainer for the Jazz to bring him back. He’s a tenacious defender who’s backed up by advanced statistics. When Carroll was on the court for Utah last season, the offensive rating of opponents was 102.9 points per 100 possessions. When he was on the bench, the offensive rating of opponents jumped to 108.6 points per 100 possessions. Statistically, Utah was a better offensive team when Carroll was on the court as well.

    The most important decision, however, will be what to do with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

    That frontcourt tandem has been holding down the fort for three straight seasons, but it’s time for Utah to embrace the youth movement. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have been waiting in the wings for a while now (three seasons for Favors, two seasons for Kanter). Both are capable of starting in the NBA, but the Jazz shouldn’t completely destroy the great frontcourt depth they’ve had for years.

    As a middle-ground option, the best-case scenario for Utah would be to re-sign Jefferson and let Millsap walk. This way, Jefferson can play center beside Favors (who slides in as the starter), while Kanter provides bench depth and gets more minutes with Millsap out of the picture.

    Utah’s 2013 offseason will be busier than most.

Washington Wizards

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    The Washington Wizards came up big in the 2013 NBA draft by adding Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr. Their draft day delivery earned them an “A+” grade from Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Adam Fromal.

    Perhaps the biggest need for Washington was addressing the small forward position, and they got a promising starter in Porter and a solid backup option in Rice.

    The Wizards offseason has been great so far, but to reach “best-case scenario” status, they’ll need to address the second unit.

    A.J. Price is a below-average backup point guard, so it’s no surprise that he struggled while filling in as the starter when John Wall recovered from injury. Price shot just 39 percent from the field, and could be out the door as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    Backing up rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal was Garrett Temple. Again, injuries sustained by the starter meant bad things for the Wiz. Temple shot 40.7 percent from the field and had a Player Efficiency Rating of 8.82. He’s a restricted free agent.

    In the backcourt alone, the Wizards could target Sebastian Telfair, Eric Maynor, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, D.J. Augustin, Anthony Morrow, Daniel Gibson and Marco Belinelli, among other options.