5 NBA Teams That Vaulted into Contention During the 2013 Offseason

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2013

5 NBA Teams That Vaulted into Contention During the 2013 Offseason

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    The NBA is a star-driven league, and for that reason, we already have a good idea of which teams will be contenders entering the 2013-14 season.

    The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will surely be near the top of their respective conferences, but a handful of teams launched themselves into contention with moves made during the offseason.

    The easy team to point to is the Houston Rockets, as they made the biggest splash by signing Dwight Howard. However, they’re just one of a number of teams that will be next in line to compete with the best that the game has to offer.

    There’s no crystal ball that tells us who the 2014 champions will be, but the nice thing is that we don’t need one to see who has begun improving enough to contend.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    The Los Angeles Clippers have been contenders ever since they acquired Chris Paul, but they’ve been more of a second-tier team based on their postseason performance.

    Now, with Doc Rivers officially taking over the head coaching role, don’t be surprised if they take the next step toward becoming one of the best teams in the Association.

    Rivers comes to Los Angeles following a complicated series of events that took place before the draft. The trade that sent him to the Clippers finally managed to go through, and as a result, the team now has a leader who has been there and done that with the Boston Celtics.

    The other move that can’t be ignored is the re-signing of Chris Paul.

    It’s true that the team rid itself of Eric Bledsoe and Chauncey Billups in the process, but bringing back the best point guard in the game, along with signing J.J. Redick, Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins, makes the Clips very dangerous entering the new year.

Chicago Bulls

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    When it comes to the Chicago Bulls, just think about what they managed to do without Derrick Rose. They won 45 games without their best player on the floor, and they took down the Brooklyn Nets without home-court advantage in a grueling seven-game series.

    The overall showing was impressive, but now think about what they’ll do with their superstar back on the floor.

    Besides signing Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls didn’t make many significant moves during the offseason. Re-signing Nazr Mohammed to a one-year deal could prove to be a shrewd signing, considering the 35-year-old stepped up in the postseason. 

    People counted out the Bulls throughout much of the 2012-13 season, but their gritty style of play kept them in it. Now, Rose will once again show why he’s an MVP, and he’ll help lead Chicago back to contention in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

Golden State Warriors

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    Entering the 2012-13 season, it was clear by looking at the Golden State Warriors roster that they would be an improved unit. They surprised some people with their run in the playoffs, and with Andre Iguodala now on board, we could be looking at another year of improvement ahead.

    In addition to Iguodala, the Warriors signed Jermaine O'Neal, Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights, while ridding themselves of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, among others. 

    When looking at the offseason moves this organization made, you’d be remiss not to mention the losses of Carl Landry and Jarret Jack. But while the subtractions are certainly noteworthy, picking up Iguodala is huge. He’s a capable perimeter defender who has proven he can score out in transition.

    With Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Iguodala on the roster, someone will need to come off the bench. Barnes is the most likely option, but it would be a shame if the promising second-year player doesn't get enough playing time. 

    How high this team’s ceiling goes is still up in the air, but having Iguodala on board—along with a healthy Lee—will move Golden State one step closer to competing with the best of the Western Conference.

Brooklyn Nets

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    The Brooklyn Nets were the first team to really strike gold during the 2013 offseason. They took full advantage of a Boston Celtics squad looking to start fresh, and they’ve put together one of the best starting lineups that the league has to offer.

    From a talent standpoint, it’s hard to argue against what Brooklyn has. Deron Williams showed in the second half of the 2012-13 season that he’s still one of the best point guards in the game, and giving him scorers, rebounders and defenders to play with should only boost what he’s able to do as a leader.

    Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have made headlines for this franchise, but you can’t ignore the pickups of Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, either. Signing Andray Blatche, Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston on the cheap will only deepen the Nets bench. 

    Like every team on this list, becoming a contender doesn’t mean becoming a favorite. The Miami Heat are still the favorites out East, and nothing will change that until the defending champs are officially knocked off their pedestal.

    That said, Brooklyn made huge strides in becoming a challenger, and now it’s time to show it on the court.

Houston Rockets

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    If we learned anything from the 2012-13 season, it’s that compiling talent doesn’t always equal wins. That said, the Houston Rockets have finally landed their man, and they have to be considered contenders in 2013-14.

    Say what you want about Dwight Howard these days, but he’s still the best center in the NBA. Any team that adds a player of his caliber earns an immediate competitive advantage.

    The Rockets have a roster that is capable of playing an uptempo brand of basketball with Chandler Parsons, James Harden, Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin, and they also have a coach who is sensitive to the needs of a big man in Kevin McHale. That’s a combination that didn’t exist for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Other than Howard, Houston only made small moves, signing Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams and Aaron Brooks. But D12 was more than enough. 

    It’s not crazy to say the Rockets made one of the biggest leaps of the entire offseason.