NBA Power Rankings: Teams That Have Improved the Most in the Offseason
When a perennial title contender barricades a free agent in his own home, you know it was a crazy offseason.
Rebuilding teams inched closer through the draft, some of the top teams in basketball stayed pat, and others ramped up their efforts in what became an arms race unparalleled in America since the Cold War.
The fast-approaching NBA season should be a great one thanks to a wild free-agency period, interesting trades and a relatively deep draft.
Here's a look at which teams improved the most this offseason.
Teams that got worse, did nothing or only got a bit better are toward the bottom, while the heavy hitters who stole the show rank near or at the top. By considering what teams lost, whom they picked up and what they did through the draft, this ranking was carefully constructed.
30. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers easily had the worst offseason in basketball, as four of their five starters from a season ago left over a span of about a week. One of them was the best free agent to switch teams over the summer.
Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and, of course, LaMarcus Aldridge will be wearing different uniforms this season, and the Blazers are set to go from a 51-31 contender in a stacked Western Conference to a lottery team.
The real loser in all of this is point guard Damian Lillard, who signed a maximum five-year contract with what is suddenly a rebuilding franchise. The hard 180-degree turn of the franchise was unforeseen and is really unfortunate, as the Blazers appeared to be building something great for their loyal fans, who have endured career-ending injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden in recent years.
New additions Mason Plumlee, Gerald Henderson and the massively overpaid Al-Farouq Aminu won't amount to much as replacements this season, and the Blazers are back to square one in the West.
29. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets are lucky they don't have a legitimate fanbase because if they did, it would be pretty angry right now.
The risk-taking, pick-trading, money-blowing tandem of general manager Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov came home with Andrea Bargnani as their big offseason addition.
Sure, they re-signed Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, but after buying out former All-Star Deron Williams and dealing away Mason Plumlee, it's hard to say that the Nets got better. They also lost key rotation players Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson.
Taking a flier on Thomas Robinson was a low-risk, high-reward move, and trading for Rondae-Hollis Jefferson on draft night signals an organizational change of heart.
No longer are the Nets attempting to win now.
After they put all of their chips in (along with about 727 first-round draft picks), Brooklyn appears to be folding. Blockbuster trades for Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn't pan out as they had hoped, so the Nets just tried to get a little younger and creep below the luxury tax ahead of this season.
It certainly won't translate to wins, but those are overrated anyway, right?
28. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz finished 13 games better last season than the year prior, showing results from a strong rebuilding process.
They continued to build through the draft when they selected versatile Kentucky big man Trey Lyles with the No. 12 pick.
Lyles, whom Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein sometimes overshadowed at Kentucky, will be able to be eased into the rotation. He will presumably play some minutes off the bench behind Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert as a rookie.
The Jazz weren't players in free agency, meaning that the only way they will improve is if their young players develop further. Of the 16 players currently listed on their roster, 12 are age 25 or younger, displaying the fact that the Jazz are bursting with young talent.
Last season saw Gordon Hayward set a career high in scoring with 19.3 points per game, and this year's breakout candidate is point guard Trey Burke.
Utah will continue to slowly get better as its young players figure the league out and develop. The season-ending injury to Dante Exum is unfortunate, but this can still be an improved team in 2015 without him.
27. Golden State Warriors
In short, the NBA champion Warriors will be entering this season with one change to their roster. And that's OK.
When you're the top dog, everyone else is attempting to catch you, and the Warriors took an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality this offseason.
After re-signing restricted free agent Draymond Green and trading away David Lee as a favor so he could see more playing time, the Warriors' lone addition this offseason was UCLA product Kevon Looney with the No. 30 draft pick.
With their young core of All-Stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, along with the improving Green, the Warriors didn't have to get crazy this offseason. It's hard to improve on a 67-win season anyway.
The Warriors will still enter the season with championship expectations, and they have the roster to fulfill those goals yet again.
26. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls will enter the season with the same exact roster from a year ago, plus the addition of first-round draft pick Bobby Portis.
The Bulls didn't have any glaring needs in free agency and managed to re-sign Jimmy Butler to a max contract, so it wasn't a lost offseason.
The key to Chicago's championship aspirations is still health. With a strong roster that appears to have depth at all positions, the Bulls will need their stars to stay on the court and their youngsters (Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Portis) to develop further.
The Bulls have one of the deepest teams in basketball and focused more on keeping it that way by bringing their role players, such as Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks, back.
Still, their big change was at the head coach position, as they officially moved on from Tom Thibodeau to Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg.
Whether Hoiberg translates to more wins and postseason success or if he has some sort of healing capabilities for Derrick Rose's knees remains to be seen.
25. Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban usually has a few tricks up his sleeve and rebounds nicely after missing out on a big free agent.
After all, it seems like it happens every summer when the Mavs swing and miss at the big names in free agency. This offseason was different, however, as DeAndre Jordan's change of heart came too late for the Mavericks to competently fill his position.
Jordan, of course, verbally agreed to sign with the Mavs, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Tim MacMahon reported, before he decided maybe Chris Paul and Blake Griffin weren't so bad and ultimately stayed in Los Angeles. They wound up with JaVale Mcgee, according to Stein.
So how much worse did the Mavericks get?
They replaced Rajon Rondo with castaway Deron Williams, Monta Ellis with Wes Matthews and his torn Achilles, and former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler with McGee.
Even Dirk Nowitzki is shaking his head.
The Mavericks will still be a solid team, but in the tough Western Conference, there's no guarantee they'll reach the postseason.
24. New Orleans Pelicans
After signing franchise player Anthony Davis to a $145 million extension, the Pelicans then failed to improve his supporting cast.
In fact, the contract for Omer Asik (five-years, $60 million) is so awful that the Pelicans' offseason can still be marked as a failure, even though they secured Davis for the long term.
There's no doubting that Davis is a star, and after they made the postseason last year, it was assumed the Pelicans would attempt to improve their roster. Instead, they wound up signing Alonzo Gee and Kendrick Perkins, neither of whom will propel the Pelicans into title contention.
To be fair, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are really solid pieces, but Eric Gordon is little more than an oft-injured scorer, and Asik is an offensively challenged big. It's hard to see how the Pelicans got better, and it seems they missed a prime opportunity to do so.
23. Boston Celtics
A surplus of draft picks and cap space hasn't translated to much thus far for the Celtics, who still lack a big-time prospect and star free agent.
The Celtics used their cap space to absorb David Lee's contract, which was a solid move since Lee is a double-double threat when given playing time.
Still, the Celtics appear to already be loaded with big men, making the trade a little less impactful. Lee will likely be battling Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and newcomer Amir Johnson for playing time.
To be perfectly honest, this Celtics rebuild is taking far longer than imagined, and they don't really have a clear direction at this time.
Boston reached on point guard Terry Rozier with the No. 16 pick this year, just one year after selecting fellow point guard Marcus Smart at No. 6. It also has Isaiah Thomas already at the position and Avery Bradley capable of playing there.
For a marquee team with the prestige and assets Boston has, the Celtics shouldn't have such a surplus of mediocrity at so many positions. They overachieved last season, and Lee only makes them marginally better.
22. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies needed a scorer. The Memphis Grizzlies did not get a scorer.
Instead, they picked up Brandan Wright and Matt Barnes, and will rely on Jeff Green to score on the outside, even though he was disappointing in 45 games with Memphis last season.
Wright and Barnes will likely both come off the bench for the Grizzlies, playing hard-nosed defense and adding rebounding, two things the Grizzlies had in bunches.
While they picked up Jarell Martin and Andrew Harrison in the draft, the Grizzlies failed to boost their roster much. The subtle changes with Wright and Barnes won't suddenly make the Grizzlies favorites in the West but will instead make them a candidate for yet another unfulfilling playoff exit.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers
Although the Cavaliers kept notable free agents LeBron James, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova in the fold, others remain unsigned, prompting them to rank No. 21 on the list.
Tristan Thompson was a huge asset for the Cavs in the playoffs, averaging 9.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in Love's absence. J.R. Smith, for as much of a character as he is, instantly upgraded the Cavaliers bench after coming over from the Knicks. Both players remain unsigned right now, which means the Cavs may lose two solid rotation players from last year's team that reached the NBA Finals.
The free-agent signing of veteran point guard Mo Williams was a solid move, as it became clear during the postseason how much the Cavs lacked point guard depth. Kyrie Irving now has a reliable backup, but it's hard to see how the Cavaliers improved if they don't bring back Thompson and Smith.
With that being said, the defending Eastern Conference champs didn't require much improvement.
James essentially carried the team to the Finals by himself, after injuries to Love and Irving decimated the Cavs' roster. Nobody knows what would have happened had they been healthy, and the Cavs are still favorites to come out of the East again.
20. Denver Nuggets
After selecting Emmanuel Mudiay with the No. 7 pick in the draft and trading away point guard Ty Lawson, the Nuggets showed great faith in their rookie.
He comes full of question marks, but apparently the Nuggets liked what they have seen enough to deal away the proven veteran.
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the New York Knicks were considering Mudiay at fourth overall, but he eventually dropped a few slots in the draft. Despite his great size (6'5", 200 lbs) at the position, concerns over his competition in China likely scared potential suitors off.
The star in the Chinese Basketball Association is Stephon Marbury, who was bought out by the Knicks in 2009.
Besides swapping Lawson for Mudiay, the Nuggets are essentially the same team heading into 2015-16. It's hard to see how Mudiay—who needs to work on his jump shot—will have a better year than Lawson this season, so the Nuggets must rely on better health in order to be an improved team.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves got better simply by winning the lottery.
Still, there's something to be said about drafting the unanimous best player on the board and having future Hall of Fame big man Kevin Garnett around to tutor him.
Karl-Anthony Towns, whose polished offensive game and solid rim-protecting ability should allow him to make an immediate impact, is set to become a star in the league. Even though this makes for an odd situation with oft-injured but highly priced center Nikola Pekovic on the roster, adding Towns was a clear-cut victory for the Wolves.
There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, but Minnesota has to be ecstatic with adding Towns to its young core of Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and Adreian Payne.
The Wolves are definitely a team on the rise in the West.
18. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks enjoyed a stunning 2014 season in which they won 22 more games than the year before, finishing the season atop the Eastern Conference.
They likely overachieved, however, and appear set for a bit of a drop-off after losing free agent DeMarre Carroll to the Toronto Raptors.
I've never been Carroll's biggest fan, but there's no denying that he had a very solid season as a "three-and-D" guy for last year's Hawks.
The Hawks made a nice deal at the draft to acquire Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks, although his skill set isn't necessarily the same as Carroll's. Hardaway Jr. plays little defense but thrives in transition and actually hit one more three-pointer than Carroll last season.
He will give the Hawks a different look on offense, but essentially swapping him for Carroll doesn't necessarily make the Hawks any better this season. Atlanta will likely come back down to earth in 2015.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Cameron Payne with the No. 14 pick in the 2015 draft. In other news, the Thunder will trade Payne right before he hits free agency to save some money.
Payne will likely fill a role left behind by departed combo guards James Harden and Reggie Jackson, whom the Thunder used as sixth men off the bench and dealt away before they got paid. It's an interesting and concerning trend, but for the time being, Payne can help the Thunder.
Kanter was great last season with Oklahoma City, and if the Thunder allowed him to go to Portland, it would have sent an awful message of frugalness from an organization with that reputation.
Let's be perfectly honest: The biggest addition from last year's team will be a healthy Durant when the season finally tips off. But with an already-great roster intact, Payne was a nice pickup for the Thunder, who seem to have gotten their man.
16. Orlando Magic
It sounds like the story behind a poor Nintendo game, but "Super Mario" is set to meet Disney World.
Although I initially pegged the Magic as the perfect fit for Justise Winslow because of his readiness to contribute and defense on the wing, they snagged Mario Hezonja at the No. 5 slot in the draft.
The talented and confident Croatian will be a nice fit beside Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, giving the Magic an exciting and athletic young core. They also re-signed Tobias Harris and traded for Shabazz Napier, allowing them to finish off their solid offseason by adding more young talent.
The Magic appear ready to become playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference this season.
The only reason they don't rate higher on this list is because they failed to sign power forward Paul Millsap, who would have added veteran leadership and consistent play to their group.
15. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors spent $60 million to ensure that DeMarre Carroll would play on his sixth team in as many years. Well done.
Carroll had a breakout season at the right time, setting career highs in points (12.6) and three-point percentage (.395) a year ago. He was also excellent in the postseason, further driving up his free-agent asking price.
He's not worth the contract, however, as the 29-year-old journeyman was paid like a premier player after proving himself over the course of a few months.
Factoring in the fact that the Raptors already had Terrence Ross at the position and lost both Amir Johnson and Lou Williams as free agents, the offseason can't be marked as an improvement. They blocked a solid young prospect from seeing playing time and failed to sign the 2014 Sixth Man of the Year in Williams.
They still have a solid backcourt with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as well as a great center prospect in Jonas Valanciunas, but their moves this offseason won't translate to more than their 49 wins from a year ago.
14. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards didn't have Paul Pierce in his prime, but he left a gaping hole at small forward when he left for the Los Angeles Clippers.
They have since attempted to replace him with Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley and Kelly Oubre, which isn't a bad haul for a team without much financial flexibility.
Oubre, the No. 15 pick acquired in a deal with Atlanta on draft night, is especially interesting. He allows the Wizards to stay relatively young and can complement John Wall and Bradley Beal nicely. The small forward averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 21 minutes per game as a freshman with Kansas.
Pierce's veteran leadership and postseason experience cannot be discredited, however.
He gave the Wizards some flexibility to play small ball at times and always had a penchant for taking the ball in key moments and draining a big shot. His absence will be felt and may prevent the Wizards from taking the next step in the Eastern Conference.
13. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have had a constant overhaul of roster talent, and that trend continued this offseason.
Though they re-signed point guard Brandon Knight, the Suns lost Gerald Green, Marcus Morris, Brandan Wright and Marcus Thornton. They made solid additions in response, signing center Tyson Chandler and shooter Mirza Teletovic, but it's hard to gauge just how much they improved—if at all.
Chandler will be 33 when the season begins and is entering his 15th season in the league. The four-year investment that the Suns made in him seems to be a stretch, even though Chandler averaged a double-double last season for just the third time in his career.
What the Suns lost in free agency, they also think they found in the draft by selecting Kentucky's Devin Booker with the No. 13 pick. AZCentral.com's Paul Coro noted that Booker has drawn comparisons to Klay Thompson thanks to his outside shooting ability, but he is just 18 years old and shouldn't be relied on for an expanded role as a rookie.
The Suns have been a symbol of constant change in recent years, and this time, it doesn't seem like it'll amount to a postseason berth.
12. Indiana Pacers
I was honestly torn about the Indiana Pacers' offseason.
On one hand, I loved the Monta Ellis signing because he's the scoring playmaker they desperately needed to complement Paul George and take some of the load off his shoulders.
On the other hand, however, I detested the Roy Hibbert trade.
I don't care how good you think No. 11 pick Myles Turner is going to be, you don't trade Hibbert for a second-round pick.
The smart move would have been to start the year with a starting five of George Hill, Ellis, George, Jordan Hill and Hibbert, with Turner on the bench easing his way in and learning.
If Turner had been playing great and Hibbert became expendable, you could have always dumped him midseason because his expiring contract wouldn't have been hard to move.
If Hibbert had been playing well but the team was struggling and there was no reason to keep him around, his boosted trade value at the deadline could have been used to ship him to a contender. Timofey Mozgov fetched two first-round picks for the Nuggets at last year's deadline, and Hibbert has proven in the past that he can be a difference-maker.
The other option, which was still possible, was that both the Pacers and Hibbert could have enjoyed success this season. In that case, they would have likely been a playoff team. Now, I'm not sure what they are. Losing Hibbert and David West, two mainstays in their frontcourt, may be too much to overcome this season.
11. Sacramento Kings
Clearing cap space to bring in Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Acy and Caron Butler isn't really a good look.
None of those players may have been worth Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and a first-round pick, which is what the Kings sent to Philadelphia for the chance to be a player in free agency.
With that said, I'm definitely in the minority because I like the Rondo signing. The Kings' locker room may be a mess worthy of a Hard Knocks series on HBO, but a one-year deal is perfect for both sides.
On one hand, Rondo gets the chance to prove himself again. His rough ending in Dallas made him a leper in free agency and drove down his value. With a solid season in Sacramento, Rondo can raise his value and get paid next summer. A one-year commitment is the greatest motivator for a point guard who is trending down.
On the other hand, the Kings are basically taking the Rondo car for an expensive test drive around the lot. If he drives well, is quiet and feels like a good investment, they'll buy in. If not, they can walk away with no strings attached.
The Kings also picked up Willie Cauley-Stein with the No. 6 pick in the daft, making for an interesting combination—to say the least—with DeMarcus Cousins. Those two ultra-talented characters figure to complement each other well, as Cauley-Stein is far more athletic and defensive-minded than the scoring machine Cousins.
We'll see how it all plays out, but the Kings aren't that bad on paper. Rondo might just be a short-term fix and the trade to clear cap room was heinous, but they have a shot at being an improved team this season.
10. Detroit Pistons
President Stan Van Gundy continued his strong rebuild of the Detroit Pistons this offseason, bringing in several solid pieces to begin a new era.
They're now an interesting group, to say the least.
Aside from re-signing Reggie Jackson to be their franchise point guard (despite the presence of Brandon Jennings), the Pistons also upgraded their three-point shooting, acquiring big men Ersan Ilyasova and Marcus Morris in separate trades.
They also drafted Arizona's Stanley Johnson with the No. 8 pick in the draft, giving them a legitimate small forward prospect to build around.
The loss of Greg Monroe seems like it would hurt on the surface, but his absence may just free up the paint for center Andre Drummond. The Pistons appeared content with letting Monroe walk.
The Pistons won't be a playoff team this season, but they are finally heading in the right direction after a flurry of big-money contracts to the wrong players set them back a few years.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Expecting the Philadelphia 76ers to be little more than bottom feeders yet again would be foolish, but their offseason wasn't all that bad.
It all started with that classic Ben Franklin secondary logo, which could have made the offseason a win all by itself. Philly then continued to have a solid draft, surprisingly landing Jahlil Okafor at No. 3 after the Lakers passed on him.
Okafor projects to be an All-Star-caliber center whose big body (6'11", 275 lbs) and excellent post game will allow him to contribute this season. The position wasn't a need and could become crowded if Joel Embiid ever decides that he doesn't want to be the next Greg Oden, but Okafor was too good to pass up.
Although they weren't players in free agency, the 76ers did what they normally do and allowed their roster to become a safe haven for cap casualties. This time, however, they scored big, essentially landing 2014 lottery pick Nik Stauskas and a 2018 first-round draft pick from the Sacramento Kings for free.
It was a huge win for the 76ers, who added two more high-end assets to their talent pool.
8. Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers fans likely weren't too thrilled that their franchise no longer seems to be a preferred destination for marquee free agents, which is certainly understandable. After years of winning championships and being a contender, this rebuilding process has been pretty difficult.
It's going to take time, but it might just work. Let's start with the youth.
Power forward Julius Randle will make a healthy return and be hungry after missing his entire rookie season. Despite his propensity for turning the ball over in the NBA Summer League, No. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell has star potential and is capable of becoming a Russell Westbrook type of explosive point guard.
That's not a bad start.
Throw in a healthy Kobe Bryant, 2014 Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams and an angry Roy Hibbert, and you have yourself a solid NBA roster.
It doesn't mean the Lakers are going to be competing for a championship, and they still aren't the best team in their own arena or city. However, they took some important steps toward relevance and becoming the destination that attracts the big names once more.
7. New York Knicks
"Slow and steady wins the race," said Phil Jackson, probably.
The Knicks missed out on Greg Monroe—whom they were heavily favored to sign, according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola and Peter Botte—as well as the other big-name free agents, but they still put together a solid offseason.
Their good work was done primarily in the draft, where they selected Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 and traded for Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant.
This route, at least to Jackson and myself, was much stronger than just selecting wild card Emmanuel Mudiay at No. 4. The point guard need was still met and the Knicks got Porzingis, who looks like he will be a tremendous asset.
Anyone who has watched Porzingis play, studied his film and talked to him knows that he won't be Andrea Bargnani 2.0. According to the New York Post's Marc Berman, NBA great James Worthy called him "a combination of Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant." Maybe he's just a 7'1" Ray Allen.
I'm willing to go on record as saying there may not be anyone else like him in basketball—he has a unique skill set that is captivating.
The Knicks complemented their sudden youth infusion with veteran free agents Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo. They aren't sexy moves, but Lopez is a quality defensive center and Afflalo can defend and put the ball in the basket.
They might not make the playoffs, but the Knicks won't be a 17-win laughingstock, either.
6. Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets quietly put together a nice offseason and should be improved in 2015-16.
After a single season with the disappointing Lance Stephenson, the Hornets unloaded him, which was basically addition by subtraction. He struggled mightily with Charlotte and his poor attitude wasn't doing anyone in that locker room any favors.
The Hornets also traded for small forward Nicolas Batum, and even though it came at the expense of 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh, it helps the Hornets right now.
Last year, Batum had his lowest scoring output since his rookie season, but a change of scenery will likely help him. Along with Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson and newcomer Jeremy Lin, Batum will be set up for success thanks to more scoring opportunities.
A lot of people seem to be on the fence about Frank Kaminsky, but I'm a big fan of the former Badger.
After all, we're talking about a man who went up against No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns and his undefeated Kentucky Wildcats and won. Kaminsky's double-double in the Final Four helped knock out the juggernaut Wildcats.
The ninth overall pick is an interesting player who can both protect the rim and stretch the floor. Frank the Tank should fit in nicely in Charlotte, which might contend for a playoff spot at the back end of the East.
5. Houston Rockets
Already a powerhouse in the West, the Houston Rockets managed to get better this offseason.
The big splash came when they traded for former Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, who addresses their biggest area of weakness. Re-signing defensive-minded point guard Patrick Beverley was also important, but Lawson is a game-changer in the conference.
Lawson will give Houston a scoring point guard who can also distribute enough to take the pressure off James Harden.
Despite Harden's career-high 7.0 assists per game last season, he also averaged a career-high 4.0 turnovers as well. Harden's 12 turnovers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals ultimately led to Houston's playoff exit.
Lawson, Harden and Dwight Howard will form one of the best Big Threes in basketball, and No. 18 overall draft pick Sam Dekker will add timely three-pointers and solid defense to the forward position.
A quick heads-up to the rest of the league: The Rockets are coming.
4. Miami Heat
Either Pat Riley is a genius or he's extremely lucky. Actually, they're both probably true.
Riley's brilliance was on display again this summer, as he locked up Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng to deals. He also added key bench pieces in Gerald Green and Amar'e Stoudemire, who will provide insurance for Wade and Chris Bosh this season.
The Heat are now one of the deepest teams in the East and can make a run at the Cavaliers and Bulls in the conference.
The luck came in the NBA draft, where Duke's Justise Winslow plummeted to No. 10 after ESPN.com's Ian Begley suggested he could be in play as early as at No. 4 with the Knicks.
Winslow will immediately bring defensive prowess and intensity to Miami's wing, and his winning attitude fits right in with the locker room. He's a perfect fit for a team with depth at all positions.
After missing the postseason last year, Miami is ready to compete in a major way.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Snatching a free agent who was highly sought-after by the Knicks and Lakers is no small task, and it has been rewarded in this ranking accordingly.
Surprisingly, the Bucks landed Greg Monroe, who will immediately help their interior scoring and rebounding. The center position was a glaring need ever since talented Larry Sanders quit basketball last season.
Besides Monroe, the Bucks also dealt for versatile point guard Greivis Vasquez. I'm already a fan of Vasquez, but even if I wasn't, I couldn't possibly question Jason Kidd's judgment when it comes to point guards. Kidd may have some issues, but talent evaluation is not one of them.
With their two new additions, the return of 2014 No. 2 pick Jabari Parker and the expected development of prospects Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Bucks seem to have a loaded, young squad.
They're going to make some noise in the East this season and will be a force for the next several years if everything goes according to plan.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
For a few days, it looked like the Clippers were going to lose DeAndre Jordan and have a gaping hole at center. The Clippers were going to stop owner Steve Ballmer's dancing, Lob City would be no more and the balance of power would shift in the West.
And then Jordan changed his mind. And the Clippers didn't lose anyone.
In fact, with limited financial flexibility, the Clippers managed to have an awesome offseason, upgrading an already-great roster at nearly every position.
Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson and Cole Aldrich give the Clippers incredible depth, as they're now able to withstand injuries to any of their starters.
Their reserve lineup might be able to beat some weaker NBA teams, which is an incredible but surprisingly true statement. Could Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Stephenson, Smith and Aldrich beat the 76ers? I think so.
The Clippers are entering 2015-16 as a much stronger team than the one which blew a 3-1 playoff lead to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Reuniting playoff warrior Pierce with his former coach Doc Rivers would have been enough to qualify this as a good offseason. The rest was just gravy.
1. San Antonio Spurs
The No. 1 team on this list should come as no surprise, as the San Antonio Spurs casually decided to extend their dynasty for a few more years.
LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the game's best power forwards, has now joined forces with one of the best power forwards of all time in Tim Duncan. That is not good news for the rest of the NBA.
Aldridge takes the Spurs, already a great team, to another level. With Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio long-term and Tony Parker still running the point, head coach Gregg Popovich will devise a plan to make sure the Spurs are unstoppable once again.
The grandeur of the Spurs as a franchise is unsurpassed in recent NBA history and appears as if it will continue for at least the next five years.
Daniel Ferrara is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter to stay in touch.