6 NBA Teams with the Most Work to Do During 2014 Offseason
It wasn't long ago that a Chicago Bulls-Los Angeles Lakers matchup would have been a realistic prediction for the NBA Finals. Now, those two franchises are on the outside looking in, and they (like many others) have significant work to do during the 2014 offseason.
Chicago and L.A. are easy teams to highlight when it comes to organizations seeking changes; however, they're not the only squads with a tough summer ahead. Their respective decisions involving Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol will spark plenty of rumors, but numerous franchises find themselves in a similar position seeking improvement.
Consider a few honorable mentions:
The Detroit Pistons must shop a nearly untradeable Josh Smith while deciding if Greg Monroe is worthy of a maximum contract. Then there's the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves, who will woo their stars or risk losing them for good.
Even the Indiana Pacers could qualify, as they've exposed themselves as vulnerable throughout the postseason.
Yes, there are plenty of teams with needs, but as the narrative goes year after year, a handful have more pressing concerns. Consider Chicago and Los Angeles two of them, but they're not alone in the summer of 2014.
Give the Brooklyn Nets credit for their turnaround during the 2013-14 campaign. To start the season, they were nothing but punch lines for fans and punching bags for opponents, but all that changed when they went 34-17 after the turn of the calendar.
Brooklyn ended up winning a grueling seven-game series against the third-seeded Toronto Raptors, and it earned the matchup it wanted in Round 2 against the Miami Heat. Unfortunately for the Nets, that's where the story came to an end. They were never the championship team they were supposed to be.
Better yet, will the 29-year-old return at all? B/R's Howard Beck has discussed the possibility of trading the star, placing Joe Johnson and a hopefully healthy Brook Lopez at the helm moving forward.
Also at the point guard position, we have to ask: Will Shaun Livingston leave in the offseason? The same question can be applied to Paul Pierce. Will he depart for greener pastures and, if he does, will Kevin Garnett retire as a result?
Brooklyn isn't getting any younger and, unfortunately for fans, it's not getting any better. This team can't sit still this offseason, as it's presumably all down hill from here if the roster stays as is.
In Cowley's report, he states:
Despite general manager Gar Forman insisting that a decision to seek amnesty on the last season of Boozer's contract 'doesn't have to be made until July,' sources indicated at the end of the Bulls' season that a decision already had been made and that Boozer wouldn't be returning.
The timing of this is far from surprising. Boozer is coming off of his worst season since his rookie year, and even if the amnesty provision never comes into play, B/R's Dan Favale points out that, "The Bulls will absolutely explore trade scenarios first, hoping they can capitalize off his (marginal) value as an expiring contract rather than pay him millions to leave."
As much attention as Boozer has gotten and will continue to get, Chicago must focus on talent acquisition. We can surmise that Taj Gibson will fill Boozer's shoes in 2014-15, but with numerous pieces coming off the books, boosting the team's anemic offense becomes a priority.
As Bulls fans found out this past season, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Derrick Rose. We all want to believe that a heroic comeback is on the horizon and, while it might be, finding another scoring piece as insurance has become a necessity.
Carmelo Anthony has been linked to Chicago for a while now and, while it would take some serious roster maneuvering to pull off a top-tier acquisition, this offseason is the time to decide if another star is the right solution.
The coachless Cleveland Cavaliers must—and I mean absolutely must—get it right in the 2014 draft.
This is an organization that has yet to recover from the departure of LeBron James. After taking Kyrie Irving No. 1 in 2011, the team drafted Tristan Thompson No. 4 the same year, Dion Waiters No. 4 in 2012 and Anthony Bennett No. 1 in 2013.
With the exception of Irving, none of the aforementioned prospects has lived up to the hype. Even Irving, the team's prized point guard, is coming off of a season that saw him underwhelm at times with inconsistent basketball.
Put some of that on the floor general, as Kyrie's points per game, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage all dropped. It's important to recognize, however, that management hasn't put him in a situation to succeed, with regards to finding Irving star teammates.
As far as 2013-14 was concerned, the Bennett experiment was a failure. The Andrew Bynum experiment was unequivocally also a failure.
You could even say that Luol Deng experiment collapsed on its own head, as the former All-Star never got comfortable and is far from a guarantee to return.
Now, Cleveland has a chance to get it right with free-agent money and, yes, another No. 1 pick. Deng, Spencer Hawes and Anderson Varejao could all find new homes this summer and, if that ends up being the case, the Cavs will recruit free agents to play alongside the first pick in the draft.
For the Dallas Mavericks, priority No. 1 is simple: Bring back Dirk Nowitzki. It's widely assumed that the big man will return, but coming up with the right salary will be the task at hand.
Once a number is reached—a number Nowitzki admits he doesn't expect to be near "Kobe's deal," according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News—Dallas has to decide if it wants to retain Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Devin Harris. If it does, it must find a way to do so while improving such a porous defense.
In 2013-14, the team was eighth in scoring, yet just 20th in points per game allowed. Furthermore, the Mavericks were 22nd in defensive efficiency, per ESPN.com, and they gave up more than 103 points per contest in the playoffs.
Boosting the defense is a concern for Dallas, but it will likely approach free agency with caution. It's 2015 that will feature franchise-shifting talent—something the team has tried to land the past few seasons.
Despite missing out on players such as Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and LeBron James since 2010, Mark Cuban believes the Mavericks have what it takes to attract stars. Following Howard's move to the Houston Rockets, Cuban stated, "Any young superstar looking to make a move, if you're that good, then the right organization gets all the right pieces around you," per ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
Cuban believes he can get the right pieces around a top talent, but he's yet to get the actual superstar. The team needs to focus on defense in 2014, but the blueprint may be comprised of one-year deals, as a separate Sefko report indicates that the Mavs could be in the running for LeBron when he opts out "just because of Cuban."
Los Angeles Lakers
Few teams, if any, have as much work to do as the Los Angeles Lakers. Consider the following:
L.A. has no head coach. It's coming off of its worst season in franchise history, and post-Kobe Bryant life is approaching more rapidly than any avid fan wants to admit.
On top of all else, this team has just five players on the books: a recovering Kobe, an oft-injured Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall with a team option and Nick Young with a player option.
Chances are, the rebuild in L.A. will go well past this summer. That said, Bryant put it best when he stated, "Oh yeah, let's just play next year and let's just suck again," per ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
First and foremost, this organization must make decisions regarding its current roster. Will it try to bring back Pau Gasol? How much is Young worth if he opts out?
Then, of course, there's the draft. For the first time since 2009, the Lakers will land a first-round pick, and for the first time since 2005, they'll have a top-10 selection (No. 7).
When it comes to free agency, there's no telling which route Mitch Kupchak will go. With 2015 slated to have franchise players galore, we could see him sign a plethora of one-year deals this summer.
Then again, if the general manager gets restless while waiting, he could make a play for someone right away via a trade. If he could land Kevin Love, it would expedite the rebuilding process, giving this team something to play for right out of the gate in 2014-15.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a busy, busy summer ahead.
By now, we know that the Sixers have two top-10 selections in the upcoming draft. They own the No. 10 pick, courtesy of the New Orleans Pelicans, and they own the No. 3 pick, courtesy of their own putrid play.
What casual fans may not realize is that Philly also has five more picks to its name. All five additional selections reside in the second round, meaning there will be a whole lot of prospect evaluations taking place—not to mention a whole lot of trade discussion.
Moving past the draft, we'd be remiss not to look at free agency. The chances of a superstar seeking out Philadelphia are slim, but the team will have money and playing time available—two strong features of a decent free-agent landing spot.
Speaking of playing time, the 76ers' coaching staff must begin to scheme for the addition of Nerlens Noel. This will be a bigger concern in training camp, but considering this team was 19th in scoring and 30th in points allowed this past year, Noel's role becomes an important factor while evaluating needs in the draft.
The Sixers won't contend for a title in 2015, but odds are they'll be significantly better than they were in 2013-14. Worst-case scenario is that they continue losing games, but they're far more entertaining to watch on a nightly basis.
To most fans in Philly, that's a win. And while it's a long road ahead for this young group, it all starts with putting in the hours throughout another eventful offseason.
*Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and all contract information is courtesy of HoopsHype.com.