5 Dangerous NBA Teams That Are Flying Under the Radar This Offseason
This offseason in the NBA has been eventful to say the least. Some big time free agents shopped the market, and there were some huge trades that shook things up.
Everyone knows that Houston won the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and that Detroit showed Josh Smith the money. We all know that Brooklyn made the formidable trade to bring in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce just so they can lose to the Heat (but that's an article for another time). Everyone is aware that the Clippers brought back Chris Paul and a plethora of other helpful role players.
Every offseason there are big headlines, but there are also many terrific moves that go unnoticed. While the world was distracted with Dwight's decision and other big moves, some teams have quietly been improving their team.
Here's a look at five under-the-radar teams that have made smart moves and are sneakily heading in the right direction.
5. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers did not have the best season, but they did see some great performances from some promising young players. Damian Lillard exceeded expectations and ran away with the Rookie of the Year award.
Portland had a nice, young core but they had the worst bench in the league in a handful of statistics. The Blazers have been busy adding more role guys to help improve their bench in order to make a run at the playoffs this year.
The Blazers started in the draft, taking guard C.J. McCollum out of Lehigh with the tenth overall pick. Then they went to work during free agency period.
They traded a couple of picks and the rights to overseas players to the Houston Rockets for forward Thomas Robinson. Robinson was the fifth overall pick in last year's draft, and still has a ton of potential which has been evident in the Summer League in Las Vegas so far.
They also sent away a few picks and the rights to Jeff Withey to obtain center Robin Lopez. Lopez gives them some much-needed size in the paint.
Portland also singed some key contributors to be part of its second unit. They signed Dorell Wright, who should be a great sixth man backing up Nicolas Batum. They also added a veteran backup point guard in Earl Watson.
The Blazers finally have some nice pieces to complement their starting five. They should be a much-improved team this season.
4. San Antonio Spurs
It's hard to imagine the Spurs being under the radar, yet they have quietly been making all the right moves without the national spotlight.
The Spurs moves have been overlooked because most of them were just bringing people back. They re-signed both Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. These moves are more important than people think.
The Spurs' championship window is closing as the "Big Three" gets older. Tim Duncan is 37 years old, and Tony Parker and Ginobili are also north of 30. Keeping both Ginobili and Splitter is essential if the Spurs want to earn another ring with this core, a feat that they were so close to this season but fell just short.
The Spurs brought in sharpshooter Marco Belinelli. Belinelli will fit into Coach Gregg Popovich's system quite well. Expect to see him contribute a lot this season, especially from behind the arc.
The Spurs also added Livio Jean-Charles from France and DeShaun Thomas from Ohio State on draft night.
San Antonio has been making key moves this offseason in hopes of getting back to the Finals, and this time finishing the job.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have been a trendy pick to sneak into the playoffs the past couple seasons in crowded Western Conference. So far, the Wolves have not been able to make the postseason due to a handful of injuries to their key players. Last year Kevin Love sat out with a broken hand, and the year before Ricky Rubio tore his ACL.
Could this be the year the Wolves finally crack the West's top eight?
The Wolves finally have all the pieces in place to make a run at the playoffs. They have stars Love and Rubio, a proven coach in Rick Adelman, and this offseason they added some role players to round out the team.
On draft night, the Wolves added four players to the team, among them forward Shabazz Muhammad and center Gorgui Dieng. These guys could contribute this season coming off the bench.
Minnesota re-signed forward Chase Budinger and brought in guard Corey Brewer. Both of these guys are athletic wings that can shoot the three.
The Wolves also did a sign-and-trade with OKC to bring in Kevin Martin. Martin is a constant scoring threat and will be a nice offensive weapon for Adelman to utilize.
The Wolves still need to worry about free agent center Nikola Pekovic. They have been in deep talks about renewing his contract, and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune reported that President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders is confident that Pek will return.
If the Wolves can finally stay healthy and bring back Pekovic, it seems as if they can make a legitimate run for a playoff spot in the West.
2. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks played better than expected last season, but went home after a first round loss to Indiana. It was no mystery that Josh Smith would not return. Now, the Hawks have the task of replacing their leading scorer.
On draft night, the Hawks were wheeling and dealing. They were trading draft picks around, and in doing so acquired Jared Cunningham from Dallas. They drafted Lucas Nogueira, Dennis Schroeder and Mike Muscala. Of these four guys, Nogueira and Schroeder have potential to become everyday starters in the near future.
In free agency, Atlanta signed Paul Millsap, a reliable veteran and talented scorer in the low post. A few days later, they signed Elton Brand, another proven guy in the post, to back him up.
The Hawks roster is shaping up to be a legitimate contender for a playoff run. With new coach Mike Budenholzer coming over from San Antonio, Atlanta can surprise a lot of people this season.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans organization is going under many changes this offseason. The team will trot out next year with a new look, a new name and, more importantly, a new roster filled with talent.
The Pelicans got started on draft night. They traded away their first round pick Nerlens Noel and next year's first rounder for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and the 42nd pick, which turned out to be point guard Pierre Jackson from Baylor.
But the Pelicans weren't done. They acquired Tyreke Evans and Jeff Withey in a multiplayer deal with Sacramento and Portland. New Orleans now has two All-Star caliber players in its starting backcourt, not to mention Eric Gordon is coming back from an injury.
The Pelicans also signed center Greg Stiemsma and brought back forward Al-Farouq Aminu to be key role players coming off the bench.
New Orleans may have enough pieces to snag a seventh or eighth seed in the crowded West. They have a tremendous backcourt with Holiday and Evans, and they still have a handful of young players who are continuing to develop. That handful includes last year's first overall pick Anthony Davis.
Next year could be a good year for the Pelicans.