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The 10 NBA Teams That Improved Most During 2013 Offseason

Brendan BowersContributor IISeptember 20, 2013

The 10 NBA Teams That Improved Most During 2013 Offseason

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The 10 NBA teams that improved the most during the offseason each upgraded their roster in multiple ways. 

    In some cases, these teams acquired significant pieces through free agency who will fill an immediate need in 2013-14. 

    Other improvements include building through the draft, along with simply welcoming the healthy return of critical players who were lost to injury a season ago. 

    These teams are listed according to the net improvements achieved through the combination of these moves this summer. 

No. 10: New Orleans Pelicans

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    Jrue Holiday emerged as an All-Star during the 2012-13 campaign on the strength of averaging 17.7 points, eight assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers. 

    This year Holiday will be wearing the newly rebranded colors of the New Orleans Pelicans. 

    He will join a core of Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson that looked formidable together at times while all three were healthy last season. This group will also be aided by the athletic infusion of former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.

    After assuming the role of franchise point guard for the Sacramento Kings, Evans will be asked to reinvent himself as a professional with the Pelicans. While he may end up coming off the bench as New Orleans' sixth man, Evans will certainly be moved off the ball in favor of Holiday. 

    The way he responds to his new job description will be critical for New Orleans' chances of winning on a consistent basis, but there's certainly reason to be bullish on Evans' prospects. 

    There's also reason to believe that Anthony Davis is capable of taking a major step forward in 2013-14, and maybe even Austin Rivers can too. 

No. 9: Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers' starting five led the NBA in scoring with 79 points per game last season, according to Hoopsstats.com

    They were dynamic enough collectively to warrant a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs had the Portland second unit not also finished last in scoring with 18.5 points on a nightly basis. 

    To improve that reserve unit, in support of All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, the Trail Blazers added Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez, rookie C.J. McCollum and former All-Star Mo Williams.

    While Williams only appeared in 46 regular-season games for the Utah Jazz due to injury last year, when healthy, he is still a player capable of starting for at least 10 of the 30 NBA teams. 

    His leadership of Portland's retooled second unit improves this team dramatically, while Williams is also capable of spending time playing alongside Lillard. 

    Based on the improvements made to the second unit specifically, expect Portland to play itself back into the postseason out West. 

No. 8: Chicago Bulls

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    Joakim Noah anchors the defensive attack inside for the Chicago Bulls with unrivaled toughness and intensity.

    On the strength of his energy and leadership, the Bulls advanced to the second round of the 2013 playoffs without the former MVP Derrick Rose.  

    Rose is expected to return in 2013-14, however, and instantly makes Chicago a threat to win the Eastern Conference.

    Nate Robinson's offense will be missed from a season ago, but the Bulls addressed a need this summer by also acquiring the veteran Mike Dunleavy.

    For a Bulls team that ranked 25th in the league with a collective field-goal percentage of 43.7 percent, Dunleavy will provide spacing for Rose, Noah and the rest of the Bulls with his shot-making ability from the perimeter.

    The Bulls also added rookie Tony Snell along with veteran free-agents Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic to fill out their roster.

    While the majority of improvement will directly relate to how effective Rose can be in his return, the moves quietly made this summer were a net positive for Chicago heading into 2013-14.

No. 7: Golden State Warriors

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    Harrison Barnes emerged to average 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds during the 2013 playoffs for the Golden State Warriors. 

    While he's certainly capable of playing starters minutes this season, it's likely Barnes will move to the second unit in favor of free-agent Andre Iguodala

    As Barnes projects to lead the Warriors' reserve group with his unique combination of strength and athleticism, Iguodala will improve the Warriors' defensive toughness on the perimeter immediately. 

    He will also plug into coach Mark Jackson's system on the offensive end to help Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson maximize their scoring opportunities from the outside through ball movement and his high basketball IQ.

    On the interior, David Lee and Andrew Bogut's health will be critical, and the loss of Carl Landry will be felt early. To combat Landry's departure, however, the addition of Marreese Speights inside should provide solid contributions.

    The loss of Jarrett Jack may hurt at times as well, but the Warriors will certainly resemble an improved unit collectively as we inch toward the All-Star break. 

No. 6: Los Angeles Clippers

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    There seems to be no better extension of Doc Rivers as a coach-on-the-floor than his new point guard Chris Paul.

    While there will be a learning curve associated with Rivers' first season in Los Angeles, the move made by the Clippers to pry their new head coach away from the Boston Celtics expects to pay major dividends. 

    After posting the best regular-season record in franchise history, the Clippers will be ultimately measured by extending a playoff run that ended prematurely in 2013. To assist Paul, Blake Griffin and others in making that push, a series of roster-improvements led by the acquisition of J.J. Redick will be at Rivers' disposal. 

    Redick will immediately step into the backcourt alongside CP3 and stretch defenses with his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter on a consistent basis. To a lesser extent, the newly acquired Jared Dudley will do the same for the second unit. 

    To provide additional backcourt depth, the Clippers also landed Darren Collison, who once backed up Paul as a member of the New Orleans Hornets before starting 182 regular-season games for the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks over the last three seasons. 

    Reggie Bullock is a rookie selected with the 25th pick overall by Los Angeles who looked impressive at the Vegas Summer League with his NBA body and ability to be productive. While DeAndre Jordan may still need some help up front, the Clippers will also be aided by newcomer Byron Mullens who averaged 10.6 points a season ago for the Charlotte Bobcats. 

    The Clippers went from a fringe-contender in the Western Conference to a team capable of now playing for a chance at a championship.

No. 5: Detroit Pistons

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    I'm not exactly sure how Josh Smith fits alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe on the Detroit Pistons' front line. I'm also not sure if Brandon Jennings will be able to take a major step in improving his career field-goal percentage of 39.4 percent either.

    What is undeniable, however, is that Smith and Jennings will now combine with Drummond and Monroe to make the Pistons extremely athletic and really exciting. 

    Each of those four players are capable of scoring 20 points on a given night, and there expects to be some major highlights emerging from Motown because of that. 

    An underrated move in Detroit this summer, which should help new coach Mo Cheeks significantly from a locker-room standpoint, is the return of Pistons legend Chauncey Billups.

    If Billups can help Jennings play the point guard position more efficiently through his leadership and presence at practice, the Pistons could sneak up on teams not expecting as much in terms of wins and losses this year. 

    There is no doubt that the talent improved in Detroit this summer. If Cheeks, Billups and the rest of the Pistons roster can make that talent work collectively, the future could be bright for many years to come in the D.

No. 4: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    There isn't a No. 1 overall pick who appears to be more under the radar than Anthony Bennett as his NBA debut approaches. 

    The changes made by his Cleveland Cavaliers this summer were dramatic. To an extent, the collection of moves have overshadowed the anticipation of pairing Bennett alongside Kyrie Irving and company for the first time.

    Joining Bennett on the list of new Cavaliers is free-agent Andrew Bynum, along with Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and newly rehired coach Mike Brown.

    To support the brilliance of Irving, Brown will now have a stable of bigs at his disposal that includes Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and the returning Anderson Varejao, to go along with the potential of Bynum. 

    While executing Brown's help-side defensive system that puts a premium on defending the rim collectively, this rotation of bigs will represent a significant improvement over what was available in Cleveland last season for Byron Scott.

    On the perimeter, Jack also expects to not only help Irving and Dion Waiters' growth in the backcourt, but also provide a reliable scoring and play-making option in that department. 

    Though there will certainly be questions surrounding the health of Bynum, who may be sidelined for all the preseason, there is also reason to believe this group could find themselves in the 2014 playoffs.

No. 3: Brooklyn Nets

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    The Brooklyn Nets didn't win the offseason, but they certainly improved their roster dramatically.

    Paul Pierce averaged 18.6 points per game last season and has another 16-17 point-per-game run left in his 35-year-old tank.

    Along with Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry have also made the trek from Boston to the house Shawn Carter built to play alongside Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.

    While rookie head coach Jason Kidd may not currently employ that one preeminent superstar, Andrei Kirilenko has since joined the long list of better-than-average players in Brooklyn. 

    If Kidd can make the pieces work during his first season on the sidelines, the massive tab Mikhail Prokhorov will be covering—estimated at approximately $180 million with taxes and penalties—could send his Nets as far as the Eastern Conference semifinals.

    While Brooklyn may not have improved enough to actually contend for the Eastern Conference title, it's reasonable to suggest they belong among that four or five-team discussion at the moment.

No. 2: Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers completed their Danny Granger-less season one game away from the NBA Finals.

    This summer, they welcomed the Pacer who led all others in scoring with 18.7 points per night during the 2011-12 campaign all the way back from injury.

    Granger immediately improves Indiana by adding offensive depth at the wing position alongside superstar Paul George. He also offers coach Frank Vogel the option of starting either Granger or Lance Stephenson opposite George, improving the second unit with the other player by default.

    To round out a Pacers bench that ranked 29th in scoring with 24.1 points per game, according to Hoopsstats.com, Indiana also acquired C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland and Luis Scola.

    While Watson projects to be an improvement behind George Hill at the point guard spot, Copeland and Scola will provide significant help up front in support of a group that re-signed David West to start alongside Roy Hibbert.

No. 1: Houston Rockets

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    General manager Daryl Morey and his Houston Rockets landed the biggest single prize of the summer when they inked free-agent Dwight Howard to a max contract. 

    Howard's presence alone dramatically improves a permeable defensive unit in Houston that served as a collective turnstyle to the rim at times last season. 

    Besides adding Howard, however, the Rockets were also able to hold onto the core group that surrounded All-Star James Harden in 2012-13. Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik will be a year better and improved even more by the defensive attention that will now be paid to Howard and Harden primarily.

    Despite the assumption that he'd be moved to make way for Dwight, Asik will enter the year as an underrated counter-punch to Howard's knockout ability inside. The unique combination of two centers who each averaged double-figure points last year will create new scoring opportunities for coach Kevin McHale to explore. 

    While Harden projects to be a top-five scorer again to lead the way, the Rockets also filled out the bottom of their roster by adding veterans Ronnie Brewer, Reggie Williams, Omri Casspi and Marcus Camby.

    After finishing as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the work put in this summer should have Houston competing for a conference title by season's end.

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