NBA: The Five Most Improved Teams

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NBA: The Five Most Improved Teams

 

There has been a lot of player movement this off-season, and this article is going to be about what teams did the most to improve their team this year, over what they did last year.

1. Miami Heat

Surprise, the Miami Heat get the number one spot. They came into the off-season just hoping to get Dwyane Wade re-signed and maybe lure another big named free agent into Miami, but after it's all said and done, they've done a lot more than that.

Not only did the Miami Heat get Wade back, but as most of you guys know, they were able to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh as well. With that big three, they have three of the most talented players in the NBA right now, and assuming they learn how to work together, they very well could win the NBA Finals easily. Many people are not convinced that the three stars will be able to give up their own shots in order to share the ball with the other two, but if that does work itself out, then this team is going to have the NBA's best record without a doubt.

Not only did they add the big pieces like James and Bosh, but they also surrounded those three with very good role players. They brought in Zydrunas Ilgauskas who is a well-experienced center who's been with LeBron James and the Cavaliers for quite some time. They also got Udonis Haslem back, who will add a big body on the frontlines, and some rebounding and inside scoring. When you have players that gather as much attention as Wade and James do, you have to have a great shooter to put out there with them, and the Heat were able to do that adding Mike Miller who played with the Washington Wizards last season. There are a couple other players that they added, including Eddie House, but those are the main role players that will contribute for the Heat.

So there you go, the Heat obviously had the best off-season of any NBA team by far. Assuming the players work together rather than against each other, they should represent the East in the NBA Finals, and they should win fairly handily.

Miami Heat Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Mario Chalmers?

SG: Dwyane Wade

SF: LeBron James

PF: Chris Bosh

C: Joel Anthony

2. Indiana Pacers

Without question the Pacers were one of the worst teams in the NBA last year, but after the moves they’ve made this off-season they very well could be a playoff team. Last year they went into the season having no second option for Danny Granger, and they paid the price when Granger went down with injuries. Having no one to lead the team, the Pacers suffered through yet another horrible season, and missed the playoffs.

They knew they needed some skilled players, and especially a point guard, so most assumed they would make a trade for a point guard with their draft pick. Well there were many deals mentioned for point guards, but nothing happened and draft night came and went with the Pacers selecting Paul George with the 11th overall pick. The Pacers then turned to the free agent market to get their point guard, but options like Jordan Farmar, Luke Ridnour, and Chris Duhon all signed elsewhere. So here were the Pacers looking like they would head into the season with their starting point guard once again being the disappointing T.J. Ford…but things were about to drastically change.

On August 11th, news broke that the Pacers had at long-last acquired their point guard. Pacers fans were excited to learn that the Pacers had made a 4-team trade to acquire Darren Collison and James Posey from the New Orleans Hornets, and only gave up Troy Murphy. Granted, that leaves a major hole at power forward, but there are very high expectations that second year forward Tyler Hansbrough, rookie Magnum Rolle, and Josh McRoberts will be able to hold the fort down at the four,

The Pacers also acquired Lance Stephenson in the draft, and despite his off-the-court issues, it’s appearing like Indiana will elect to hang onto him. It sounds as if Stephenson has talked with Larry Bird, and the team has decided that they are going to stand behind him, which is a debatable decision, but talent-wise a good one.

Overall, the Pacers acquired a young stud point guard (Darren Collison), a veteran leader (James Posey), a future Tracy McGrady compared player (Paul George), and a possible pure scorer (Lance Stephenson). They’ve made a lot of moves, and they look to have put themselves into playoff consideration. Not too mention the fact that they have Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, and Mike Dunleavy around the wing, and assuming Dunleavy is healthy, you could see a breakout season from him. Roy Hibbert has improved his low-post game as well, and is looking to improve his scoring and rebounding from last year, along with his ability to block shots.

Indiana Pacers Projected Starting Lineup

 PG: Darren Collison

SG: Brandon Rush

SF: Danny Granger

PF: Tyler Hansbrough/Magnum Rolle/Josh McRoberts (unsure who will start at this time)

C: Roy Hibbert

3. Washington Wizards

 The Washington Wizards had yet another horrible season last year, mainly thanks to Gilbert Arenas getting in trouble for pointing a weapon at a teammate in the locker-room. That lead to a complete team breakdown, and the eventual trade of Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to split up the “big three” in Washington.

Over the past few seasons, Arenas has either been injured, or as last years case was, had trouble off the court. They just never were able to figure things out, but during this off-season they made a lot of moves to bring in young talent, and they look to be rebuilding the team while still trying to compete. Arenas is still around, and it is yet to be determined how much of a role he will play this season, or if they will be able to trade him before the season, but I’m not going to make this section of the article about Gilbert Arenas.

The additions that Washington made aren’t flashy names (except for one), but they are all very solid pickup. I guess I should start in the draft, where the Wizards were able to select point guard John Wall with the first overall selection. Wall will be expected to come in right away and start, and not only start but be the leader of the team. Wall has gotten comparisons to both Derrick Rose and LeBron James, and has the talent to be a major NBA superstar starting this season.

That was the flashy pickup that I mentioned earlier, now we’ll take a look at the other solid moves. On the same night that the Wizards were able to pick John Wall, they made a trade to acquire a veteran combo-guard, Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich will add a great shooter in the back-court, as well as a seasoned veteran to mentor Wall. The Wizards basically got Hinrich for free, just taking his salary on to give Chicago more room to go after free agents. Also acquired for basically nothing was big man Yi Jianlian. Selected by the Bucks in the first round of the draft a few years back, Yi has had a very disappointing NBA career thus far. Many believe that is due to the high volume of jump shots he has taken, rather than sticking in the post, and when shooting perimeter jumpers, not spotting up for threes. If he can mature along with the entire young Wizards team, he could turn into a very solid role player for the Wizards.

Fellow youngsters Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee look to improve upon solid seasons last year. Blatche had to take over as team leader after Arenas was suspended and both Butler and Jamison were traded, and he took on the role very well. He was almost a walking double-double, and learned how to use his size in the post, something that will more than likely be used extensively this year. McGee on the other hand is a very athletic center, who has made huge strides in his offensive post game, after mainly being a defensive stopper last season.

Overall the Wizards have a very good shot at being a dark-horse team to make the postseason coming down to the last couple weeks in the season. Assuming they stay out of trouble off the court, and they stay healthy, they could surprise a lot of people.

Washington Wizards Projected Starting Lineup

 PG: John Wall

SG: Gilbert Arenas

SF: Josh Howard

PF: Andray Blatche

C: JaVale McGee

4. Chicago Bulls

 The Chicago Bulls headed into the off-season having enough cap space to sign a max contract, and were able to free up enough to offer two. Obviously they were going hard after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, but they weren’t able to get any of those three. It looked as if Wade was interested, and then he signed in Miami. Then LeBron and Chris Bosh followed suit. So what was Chicago going to do after missing out on their top three targets? They turned to another big name free agent, Carlos Boozer, and were able to sign him for less than a maximum contract.

What does the Boozer acquisition mean for the Bulls? Well, they finally have a pair of big men in the front court that both love to rebound. Noah and Boozer aren’t the biggest guys out there, but what they lack in size they make up for in heart and determination. They will both battle for rebounds, and dive on the floor after loose balls. Also, Boozer is going to add a low-post scoring presence that Chicago hasn’t had in quite some time. Heading into the off-season, that was a point of need for the Bulls, and Boozer will most certainly take  up that role.

The Bulls made some other moves besides Boozer, and one of the main ones was bringing in knock-down shooter Kyle Korver. Korver will add a dangerous three-point shooter, who proved his worth with Utah as well. Interesting that this off-season the Bulls brought in three former teammates from a couple years back. Chicago also signed Ronnie Brewer, and he will add a defensive presence as well as hustle and determination, and a little bit of scoring. So if you remember back to the Utah Jazz team of two years ago, you’ll see that Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer were all teammates in Utah, so they already have a chemistry on the court together.

Overall the Chicago Bulls made great moves to build around Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. They have young big man Taj Gibson as a backup as well, and while they aren’t very strong at the shooting guard position, I think they have a good enough all-around team to compete in the playoffs.

Chicago Bulls Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Derrick Rose

SG: Ronnie Brewer/Kyle Korver?

SF: Luol Deng

PF: Joakim Noah/Carlos Boozer

C: Carlos Boozer/Joakim Noah

5. New Jersey Nets

The worst team in the NBA last season, and almost the worst team in NBA history, there were obvious needs in New Jersey. They needed a solid big man in the front court to pair alongside Brook Lopez, and they need some help shooting, and in the back-court. The Nets got all of those needs this off-season.

They started off on draft night acquiring talented big man Derrick Favors with the 3rd overall pick. Favors has been compared to Dwight Howard because of his freakish athleticism and ability to block shots, which will help the Nets immensely. Alongside Brook Lopez (assuming they play together), it will be a very dangerous move for opponents to drive into the lane against the Nets.

New Jersey wasn’t done with their off-season. In fact, they weren’t even close to being done. During free agency they filled needs by signing Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and Jordan Farmar. Farmar will add a very solid backup point guard, as well as a winning attitude coming from the Lakers who just won the NBA Finals. Adding in Morrow will add a great perimeter shooter, as well as another young player who has a winning attitude. He wasn’t able to win much in Golden State, but I can promise you that he was trying his very hardest out there. And last but not least, Travis Outlaw will be a huge pickup. Outlaw showed me in his time with Portland and the Clippers, that he can be a very effective mid-range jump shooter, and he also loves to take it to the bucket and finish in traffic.

The Nets then made another move, also being part of the August 11th four-team trade. They traded guard Courtney Lee to the Rockets, and received back Troy Murphy from the Indiana Pacers. It will be interesting to see what New Jersey does with Favors and Murphy, but I think it’s obviously that Murphy will be the starter with Favors learning from being one of the first off the bench. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Favors start in situations where they play a team like Miami, so that he can stick with the quicker Chris Bosh.

Overall, the Nets made moves that turn them into a possible playoff team. They still have Terrence Williams, and they also have Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, so they look primed to make a run. Assuming they all stay healthy, don’t be surprised to see New Jersey in the post season next year.

New Jersey Nets Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Devin Harris

SG: Terrence Williams

SF: Travis Outlaw

PF: Troy Murphy

C: Brook Lopez

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