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.
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..
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 have the young super star paired with very solid role players. This team will compete throughout the season in the east.
The Knicks missed out on Lebron James and Dwyane Wade but they manage the sign Amar’e. Sure, some might say they over-paid, but they had to. It was vital for them to get at least one big signing, and this will 100% help them out. Getting 2 role players and 1 super talented young gun by letting David Lee go was a great move. There was no way that Lee was going to resign with the team, and they were able to add much needed depth. Raymond Felton was an underrated addition. His shooting numbers have been improving and with his strong build and quick feet, he should dominate in D’Antoni’s upbeat system. The questions lie at Amar’e. Can he produce long term? Will he be as good without Nash? We’ll have to wait and see. The Knickerbockers are a better team than they were a year ago. They drafted 2 players that they expect to help the team. Fields WILL help this team, and Rautins WILL hit some 3 pointers. They didn’t want any projects. Thats why they didn’t draft Lance Stephenson, they have a project with Anthony Randolph. One thing is certain, the Knicks are a much better team, and definitely a playoff team.
Tune in next week for the Losers!