Miami Heat – Miami has become a destination for free agents ever since the big three came to town. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh have solidified teams as favorites to win a championship as long they are together. So, the Heat have to insure that they have complimentary pieces surrounding their franchise players. The best signing of this year may have been picking up the “Bird Man”, Chris Andersen. He addresses every deficiency that Miami had last year. He gives them size, offensive rebounding, and athleticism under the rim. And most importantly, Andersen does not need the basketball to be effective. No plays are run for him but he scores in the open court and on junk baskets around the rim. The Heat have to re-sign the Bird Man first to compete for another championship. The next move for the Heat will be a much more difficult decision. Miami management has to decide whether to keep Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh with LeBron James. Wade is aging and being to wear down, but he is still one of the most efficient players in the NBA. Chris Bosh is proving to be invaluable to the franchise. He is one of the best shooters on the team, despite being a solid low post threat. And, Miami would have to pay an exorbitant luxury fee for going over salary cap and keeping all three. J.R. Smith is a viable option for Miami if they decide to part with Wade. They would get a player who has all the same scoring prowess with a better jumper, although Smith can be reckless on defense. But, Smith would also cost considerably less than Wade and free the Heat up to pursue other complimentary players.
Indiana Pacers – Larry Bird has built a tough, talented team in Indiana. They have good stars to build around in Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and David West. They have inside and outside scoring because Hibbert and West can score in the paint, and Paul George and George Hill have become excellent three point shooters. As a team, the Pacers play some of the toughest defense in the NBA. They are big, strong, and deliberate on the offensive end, and they play a physical collective defense against teams. The Pacers need to add scoring punch to take the next step as a franchise, and preferably they would add a shooter. Hibbert is entrenched in the paint, and West bullies smaller players in the post while taking larger players out to the free throw line extended. George Hill has become a good leader, and Paul George is on the verge of super stardom. The Pacers need a star who can hit open jumpers without having plays run for him. Kyle Korver fits the immediate needs of the Pacers if Paul George continues to improve. He is a pure shooter and will not miss when he is open.
Chicago Bulls – The Bulls may not need to make a move in the off season. Chicago proved that it is formidable even without three of its starters. Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich missed a significant amount of games (Rose missed the whole season) and the Bulls won a playoff series before bowing out to the Miami Heat in 6 games. The loss of Rose and the others displayed how talented the Bulls roster actually is. Nate Robinson was a star for the team and made big shots and huge plays to help them compete. If Rose is healthy and plays some defense, and Deng and Noah return healthy, then the Bulls should be a contender again.
New York Knickerbockers – The Knicks have three of the exact same type of player on their roster, and unfortunately it will be very difficult for them to all coexist. Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Chris Copeland are all scorers with about the same skill set, but with varying levels of athleticism and scoring ability. Carmelo is the biggest star and has the most developed offensive game of the three. He could be the best natural scorer in the NBA. He gets his shot when he wants it, has a good jump shot, and a strong post game too. J.R. Smith has the best athleticism and shooting range of the three, but the worst shot selection. He has all the natural gifts to be a NBA great, but his understanding of the game of basketball needs fine tuning. And, Chris Copeland has a good jump shot and a better feel for scoring than Smith, but he lacks the raw athleticism to be a star. The Knicks need to trade for more versatile players. They have too many people that need the basketball to be effective. Anthony, J.R.Smith, Felton, and Copeland all need the basketball in their hands to have an impact on the game.
Brooklyn Nets – The Brooklyn Nets surprisingly have a good selection of talent at a lot of different positions. They boast one of the best point guards in the league in Deron Williams, a pair of scoring wings in Joe Johnson and Marshawn Brooks, serviceable big men like Andray Blatche and Kris Humphries, and an All-Star center in Brook Lopez. The Nets should consider acquiring a more efficient power forward like J.J. Hickson who averaged a double-double at 12.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds a game, or Al Jefferson who has career averages of 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. They have Reggie Evans who catches 11.1 rebounds per game in 24 minutes per, but he is a liability on offense and defense. Hickson rebounds well and scores on garbage points so he could hypothetically bolster the offense without taking shots from the stars.
Milwaukee Bucks – The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the most dynamic back courts in the NBA. Their back court consists of two 50 point scorers and two of the best ball handlers in the NBA in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Either can create their own shot off the dribble, and when they get hot, both of them can score with almost anyone in the league. Ellis moves quicker than anyone in the league with the basketball and makes as many difficult shots as the league’s top scorers. Jennings has a lightning quick first step with every ball handling trick that was invented. He used them at will to get separation for his jump shot. If he spends more time honing his jumper then he could be one of the best point guards in the league instead of just a promising one. The Bucks have three big problems as a team. They lack size, they lack defensive strategy, and they do not have interior scoring. Larry Sanders helped with the defense and the interior scoring, but he is foul-prone and raw offensively.
Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks no longer have the firepower that they once had. Just two years ago, the Hawks had one of the most athletic teams in the NBA. They were one of the few teams that challenged Miami with the big 3 because they had big athletic players at every position too. They were over matched because Miami was also a very skilled team. Now, Atlanta has become more skilled with the additions of Devin Harris and Kyle Korver, however they can no longer match up with the best teams physically. Josh Smith has proven to be less effective without the sharp shooting of Joe Johnson, the organization traded away Marvin Williams a promising talent, and the team struggles to score because they are now one-dimensional. The game plan on every play is to give the basketball to Al Horford and hope that he scores. But, Horford is a limited offensive player. He scores on open short jumpers that guards like Devin Harris create for him, and in the low blocks where he can bully smaller players under the rim. Josh Smith may be the most talented player in the NBA. He stands 6’9″, is super-humanly athletic with long arms, and causes match-up problems against most players. However, Josh Smith is undisciplined offensively and defensively, so he plays inconsistently. Devin Harris is a good guard and a former All-Star, but a great point guard would serve Atlanta better. Chris Paul is the most coveted free agent of this class, and he would make everyone on the squad better. Smith and Horford would no longer languish to get their own shots because Paul is the best creator in the league. He would turn those two serviceable big men into two stars again.
Boston Celtics – The first thing that the Celtics need to do is get healthy. With Rajon Rondo, the franchise owns one of the better squads in the Eastern conference. Without him, they are fodder for a contender in the first round of the playoffs. Rondo makes Boston go. He pushes and controls pace, he creates shots for his teammates, and occasionally, he defends without gambling for steals. But, the Celtics are getting older too, and they need an infusion of youth. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the other stars in Boston, are both a step slower and a step closer to retirement. And though Jeff Green and Avery Bradley have shown some promise, they are not talented enough to take over for the aforementioned Hall of Fame players, Pierce and Garnett. The Celtics should make a serious try at David West. Though undersized, he brings the type of toughness, interior scoring, and mid-range jump shooting that the Celtics need. They could also look at players like Al Jefferson or Andrew Bynum who when healthy bring inside scoring, rebounding, and size to the club.