While they may not have won the Lebron Sweepstakes, the Bulls had a really, really solid free agency. The Bulls are quietly building a squad that has the potential to compete for years. Rose is a budding superstar, Carlos Boozer is the force in the paint they have been missing, and Noah is a good rebounder and defender. Deng is still a decent player, and the Bulls added Kyle Korver who is coming off the best single season 3 point percentage in the history of the NBA. The Bulls were close to adding T-Mac, which would still be a good option. Get him cheap, and you have a threat from the bench that could potentially go off for a 20 point game any night. And nobody is talking about their signing of Ronnie Brewer, who is a very capable swingman, so the Bulls have quietly added some nice depth to their team. They still have a ton of cap room too…Melo to Bulls in the ’11 summer anyone?
Los Angeles Lakers:
With no major acquisitions, how can we say they are on our short list of free-agency winners? Easy, they did not lose a major contributor to their last 2 championship teams, and added a few solid role players. Steve Blake probably will not supplant Fisher as the starting point guard, but he may get more minutes than him. Blake shoots 39 percent from 3, a welcome boost to the Lakers bench. Matt Barnes is also a solid 3 point shooter, and plays tough and physical. Anybody with the nerve to get in the face of Kobe Bryant would be a great addition to the Lakers in the eyes of the Black Mamba. Theo Ratliff, while he is about the closest thing to an AARP member in the NBA, is a decent back-up for Bynum.
Look for an eerily similar picture to be taken in about a year..
With a Miami Heat practice looking more like the set from the upcoming movie “The Expendables,” (it’s so natural to draw the parallel) it is easy to say the Heat hit a grand slam in thus summer’s free agent bonanza. Critics want to shoot down these monumental acquisitions on the grounds of bad chemistry, but here’s an analogy: Say you left the the U.S. for a remote island with no connection to the outside world right after the Heat were put out 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Playoffs by the Boston Celtics. Your conclusion would be “Man, if D-Wade could get just a little help the Heat would be so much better.” On your return from the island, you see that the Heat have brought in LBJ, Bosh, and Mike Miller, and your unbiased first instinct would be to say “Well I know where the Larry O’Brian trophy is going to be for the next 6 years.” Anyone who pretends that this team won’t be great at some point should be clinically declared a psychopath. This is either going to be the greatest NBA team of all time or the most gut wrenching, money down the drain, crushing, miserable, and apocalyptic disappointment in the history of sports. It is a matter of time until Pat Riley tells Spoelstra to scoot down one seat on the bench. Spoelstra has 2 years maximum to win a championship, until the hair-gelled legend takes over. It is going to be very interesting to watch..
Above from Left to Right: LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Big Z, Mike Miller, Pat Riley and Juwan Howard.
When was the last time someone said, “Watch out for the Bucks this year!” It feels strange saying this, but they actually have a really talented team formulating. They have a very promising roster returning and look to be a legitimate threat in the upcoming season. Maybe the the most unnoticed signing was the Bucks resigning their leading scorer John Salmons. They also brought in Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden, neither of which are exactly league-altering additions, but they do bring more size, depth, and athleticism to the Milwaukee roster. The Bucks will also get back a healthy Andrew Bogut and a hopefully healed Michael Redd. Throw in Delfino and Mbah a Moute off then bench and you have a competitor. We probably just jinxed them, but someone had to sing their praises while they still could.
New Jersey Nets:
There had to be a big loser in this summer’s epic free agent scenario, and the Nets were it. If there is anyone who loathes his/her profession more outside of Byron Scott in the NBA, it’s any person who runs the Net’s P.R. campaign. How can someone generate excitement for the upcoming season? “Hey fans come out and see our big-time free agent pickup; Jordan Farmar!” To fill the seats Jay-Z will have to perform at every halftime with Dracula (Mikhail Prokhorov) as his hype-man. The Nets are young team and they did draft well, but it seems that they will remain irrelevant in the NBA standings for several more years.
You are the GM of the Boston Celtics. You went from a terrible team in ’07, tanking games in hopes you’d win the Durant/Oden lottery to a championship in ’08. When you thought your team’s window was closing, you took the playoffs by storm, finally bowing out to a superior Lakers team in Los Angeles. Now, you sre looking at a vastly improved Eastern Conference, so what are you going to do to counter the influx of talent? Add a few young, athletic players to complement your veterans? Or what about a dead-eye shooter or a proven role player who can score off the bench? Of course not. You are going to sign the two O’Neals, two players well past their prime, two big men to clog up the lane, two guys to make an older team that much older. Look, we love Shaq; he has been great fun to watch and listen to on and off the court for most of his career; the most marketable big man ever. But we do not see how this makes the Celtics better; they did re-sign all their free agents, but getting Shaq in the off-season stopped being a big deal after the Heat got him. But for Shaq, this is another team, another opportunity to produce more nicknames. ESPN sneakily stole epithet of “The Big Shamrock,” but we await to see what the big man will christen himself. And as if it needed a little more flavor to it, Opening Night 2011 just got that much more interesting.