Players Added: Greg Oden, Players Lost: Mike Miller
Well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's the philosophy the defending NBA champions Miami Heat are going by this offseason and I tend to agree. They dominated a majority of the NBA season last year and the only time they struggled was against the second- and third-best teams in the NBA so it's not like they had any major holes. I'm a Mike Miller fan but it's understandable why the Heat chose amnesty him. Miller was breaking down before our very eyes. He hasn't played more than 70 games since he was in Minnesota. He played 59 games last year and that was an improvement over the year before where he played 39. While Miller's shooting numbers were excellent -- he had a True Shooting percentage of 59 percent last year and shot 41 percent from 3 point range -- the constant lack of health was too much for the Heat to deal with.
The Greg Oden signing has no risk in the slightest. If Oden works out, awesome: the Heat get a big body who can provide some quality minutes off the bench. In the two seasons Greg Oden has played, he's been very effective, sporting Player Efficiency Ratings of 18 and 23, a True Shooting percentage of 60+ percent, and a Total Rebound percentage of 20 percent. If the constantly injured center doesn't work, it's not a huge loss because the expectations are already so low as is and he's not a crucial part to an already stellar Heat team.
LeBron James: Best player in the NBA and it ain't all that close.
Dwyane Wade: Although Wade has struggled with injuries in past years, he's still one of the best guards in the NBA and is a crucial piece if the Heat plan on winning another championship.
Chris Bosh: The most unsung hero of the Heat's big three, Bosh is a model of consistency that is often overlooked by many because he does a lot of the things that don't get noticed. A fantastic help defender and floor spacer, it is my opinion that Bosh is the second-most important player on the Heat.
Mario Chalmers: At times, this man has more confidence than any guard in the NBA. He believes he can make any and every shot he takes. Chalmers is the guy everybody yells at. He's also a fairly solid point guard.
Udonis Haslem: Haslem, a fan favorite in Miami, has faced some injury problems the last few years and his production isn't what it once was. His defense, while above average, isn't at the level it used to be and his midrange spot up jump shot has failed him too many times for it to be reliable anymore. His rebounding has remained as solid as ever, however.
Chris "Birdman" Andersen: The mid-season signing of Birdman was huge for the Heat last year. One of those pure energy guys that everybody loves, he came into Miami and did a lot of very good things. Though his defense is average (he is a solid shotblocker and help defender), he's a fantastic player when it comes to coming off cuts. And when you have a guy like LeBron James that can pass out of the post, the things you can do with that combination makes for some fun and effective basketball. His rebounding isn't too bad either. His middle name is Claus.
Ray Allen: The hero of Game 6 (greatest game I have ever watched) comes back to the Heat. We all know what Allen does. He spots up, hits an insane amount of threes, and runs off cuts and screens. He'll be very important for the Heat as he's probably their most consistent three-point shooter.
Norris Cole: The guy behind Chalmers. An OK point guard that has moments when you say "WOW! This kid could be something" and then he throws a stupid pass that goes into the seats. His decision-making and consistency need a lot of work but he improved a lot last season and could improve again this season.
Shane Battier: Went on an ugly streak of missed shots during the playoffs last year that made you wonder if he would ever make a shot again. Age is catching up to the once-elite defender Shane Battier. There were many games when Erik Spoelstra put Battier on Carmelo Anthony or Paul Millsap type players and he paid the price for it. Battier just isn't what he used to be.
Rashard Lewis: His best days are gone. He plays garbage minutes and shoots threes.
James Jones: Benchwarmer, shoots treys, plays in garbage time,
Juwan Howard: He's technically a free agent and not on the roster, but there's no way the Heat will go this season without their human victory cigar.
Season expectations: I expect the Heat to return to the Eastern Conference Finals at the minimum. The only way I don't see them making the finals once again is if Wade and/or Bosh is hurt. The Pacers almost got the better of them last time and they'll try to do that again. But that doesn't change anything -- the Heat are still the favorite to win the Finals again.
Players Added: Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder, Lucas Nogueira (overseas), Mike Muscala (overseas), Elton Brand, Gustavo Ayon, DeMarre Carrol
Players Lost: Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson
For my money, nobody in the NBA had a better offseason than Atlanta. The Josh Smith-Atlanta Hawks relationship was one that just wasn't working out and both parties needed something new. Smith needed a change of scenery and the Hawks needed a new face of the franchise. As a result, the Hawks let Josh Smith walk and responded by signing the best deal of the offseason in Paul Millsap. Millsap for two years worth $19 million is the biggest steal this offseason. Smith's shot selection led to the fans literally screaming "NOOOO!!!!" whenever he would spot up for a jump shot outside the paint. For a guy as good as he is at making shots at the rim, he sure didn't want to shoot there. The Hawks have a team that's going to contend for a playoff spot and still have a bunch of cap space to make more moves towards getting better.
Al Horford: The new face of the franchise and a top-three center. Horford is probably the most underrated center in the NBA and for some reason, many people believe he is a power forward. Horford is the most consistent player on the Hawks, had an Effective Field Goal percentage of 54 percent last season, and also he is the best player on the Hawks. He's very strong and quick allowing him to create his own offense whether facing up or posting up his defender. As a very solid passer and even better shooter, Horford can make jump shots which allows him to be deadly from just about anywhere on the court. There has been talk that he is working on a three-point shot and the scary part is that he is apparently making them. It'll be interesting to see how the Hawks use him on offense. Defensively, Horford can match up with any other big man in the NBA. He's quick enough to where rotations are not a problem for him. He's not as good as a fully healthy Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol but he's really good. Horford's rebounding numbers say he's an average rebounder and I tend to agree.
Jeff Teague: Oh, Teague -- a point guard that's good but needs to be better. Teague is terrific when pushing the pace, making awesome passes and attacking the basket. He could even be a good defender if he put in the work. However, Teague doesn't always push the pace, doesn't always make awesome passes, and sometimes when he attacks the rim he makes a bad decision. With the newly drafted Schroeder behind Teague, maybe that will be enough to light a fire under his ass.
Kyle Korver: Korver is the second-best player in the NBA when it comes to running off cuts and screens. He is absolutely deadly when it comes to shooting threes and his off-ball movement is contagious for the rest of the team. He's a great floor spacer and is one of those players that coaches will put a guy on and force him to stay there in an effort to stop him from shooting. Although Korver is far from the best perimeter defender out there, his team defense makes up for that in droves. The Hawks were actually better on defense last season with Korver on the court. Korver is probably their third-most important player.
Paul Millsap: The offseason signing brought in to replace Josh Smith and who can be argued as better than Smith. Millsap may not be as good a defender as Smith but he's not bad. He's quick enough on his feet to defend smaller guys and strong enough to defend bigger ones, Millsap is more than able on defense. The reason you can argue Millsap is a better player is the offense. Millsap knows where his shot is and will attack the basket. He's a superior offensive player and that more than makes up for the slight bit of defense the Hawks are missing from Smith.
Dennis Schroeder: People are excited about this kid. Schroeder lit up summer league and was a solid player back in Germany. Many are talking about him being the real future point guard of the Hawks instead of Teague.
Louis Williams: The Hawks' sixth man last season and one of their better offensive threats. Williams was a very useful player for the Hawks before getting injured for the remainder of the season. The Hawks are hoping Williams will provide that same offensive firepower off the bench that he provided last season.
DeMarre Carroll: Injury-prone for most of his career, Carroll only has two seasons in which he's played more than 30 games. He played 66 last year and 71 his rookie season. He'll definitely be hoping to avoid injury problems in Atlanta. He'll attack the basket, do some off-ball cutting but his main job will be to play defense and rebound. When he has played, he's been OK, but the sample size is still very small.
Gustavo Ayon: A big man to come off the bench and provide some minutes. He's praised by many for some of his abilities but he's been traded by the Hornets and Magic and waived by the Bucks so I'm clearly not alone in having a lot of question marks about him.
John Jenkins: A guy to come off the bench and shoot threes. With Korver aging, Jenkins should want to emulate some of those skill sets so he can step into that role when Korver is too old to continue on.
Mike Scott: A young bench guy to try and provide quality minutes off the bench. He's still learning.
Shelvin Mack: The third point guard on the roster. He comes in and manages the game. He didn't play very much last season.
Jared Cunningham: Another guy to provide minutes off the bench, are you noticing a trend?
Season expectations: The Hawks have some really good pieces at the top of their roster and their bench has a lot of role players. Their team is built with an eight-man rotation in mind, but they aren't good enough to get out of the first round. They're probably a six seed this season.
Players added: Eric Maynor, Al Harrington, Otto Porter Jr, Glen Rice Jr
Players lost: None
The Wizards have decided they're done with rebuilding. They're ready to move ahead with their core of players and if they need to make any more adjustments, they'll make them on the fly. The Wizards were really awful at the beginning of last season when John Wall was injured. Once Wall came back, though, the Wizards had a record good enough that, had they played that way the whole season, they would have been good enough to be the fourth seed in the East. They also saw some fantastic play from their rookie Bradley Beal. As a result, they felt confident enough to go ahead and sign veterans Eric Maynor and Al Harrington to help them win more games in the present as opposed to saving space for the future.
John Wall: The face of the franchise with the ability to be one of the best point guards in the NBA. Wall's biggest struggle is his jump shot, but his best skill sets are his incredible athleticism and his passing. One of the best passers in the league, Wall is superb at creating open shots for his teammates. There are those who believe point guard defense doesn't matter, but I couldn't disagree with those people more. John Wall uses his athleticism to let him hound defenders on the perimeter. He's not Gary Payton out there, but he's solid.
Bradley Beal: Beal had a rookie year in which he exceeded expectations. Beal shot 38 percent from three-point land and averaged 16 points per 36 minutes. He was very good on defense by rookie standards. Keep an eye on Beal this season.
Nene: Nene spent the majority of his time at power forward last season. Offensively, Nene is very good when he's healthy. He also has a positive impact on defense for Washington. He gobbles up defensive rebounds but strangely doesn't grab very many offensive rebounds. Nene had some health problems last year, so a fully healthy year this season would be a great blessing for the Wizards.
Emeka Okafor: The guy who got drafted after Dwight Howard will forever be compared to one of the best players in the NBA and it's just not fair. Okafor is a great defender and an even better rebounder. Offense isn't his strong suit but he's not so bad that he's incompetent. Okafor is starting to get up there in age (he entered the league after four years of college) and his skills are going to start falling off sooner or later. If the Wizards want to get the most out of Okafor they need to start winning before they waste it.
Trevor Ariza: Ariza is a very good perimeter defender that had one really good shooting year with the Lakers. But he isn't a shooter and shouldn't be considered a shooter. His role with the Wizards is to play defense, pass the ball, and run off cuts. If he's pulling up for a jump shot, I'm pretty sure Wizards fans cringe.
Eric Maynor: The Eric Maynor bandwagon is very full and there's reason why. When he was in Oklahoma City, the Thunder would put in Maynor for Russell Westbrook and it would be as if nothing happened defensively and ball movement wise. He pulls a highlight play out of nowhere sometimes that makes you jump out of your seat. Sadly, Maynor had a lot of injury problems last season and that took away some of what we were used to from him. Maynor will never be a starter but he can still be one of the best backup point guards in the NBA.
Martell Webster: The Wizards re-signed Webster, who, after facing a series of injuries in Minnesota, went to Washington last season and had a fairly healthy season. A solid bench player, Webster will be the seventh or eighth man in the Wizards rotation. He's not expected to do nothing, and he won't be asked to do too much.
Otto Porter, Jr.: The third overall pick in the draft. There are some who are very high on Porter and there are others who are very low on Porter. We'll have to see what kind of impact he'll have on the Wizards. The Wizards could start off with Porter on the bench and then if he shows a real NBA skill set he can take over Ariza's role. With Wall as the dominant ballhandler and Nene in the post, Porter would do well as a secondary threat from behind the arc or on cuts with terrific defensive skills.
Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singelton, Jan Vesely, Garret Temple: All young players that got drafted 2-3 years ago and nobody expects much from them because the Wizards are one of the worst talent-developing teams in the NBA.
Season Expectations: The Wizards are looking to finally make a playoff push after years of being one of the worst teams in the NBA. They have a solid starting lineup and the potential for an eight-man rotation that can grow as the season goes on. With how weak the East is I have the Wizards grabbing an eight or seven seed this season.
Players Added: Victor Oladipo, Jason Maxiell, Ronnie Price
Players Lost: Al Harrington (Buyout) Hedo Turkoglu (In the process of being bought out)
The Magic want to lose. The Magic are going to lose. They have a lot of really nice and fun pieces that make them a fun team to watch. They still aren't going to win games. That's why all the additions they made this offseason were either rookies or veterans who don't expect to play major minutes.
Jameer Nelson: The face of the franchise. No, seriously, Nelson is the face of the franchise right now. Nelson is a point guard that can start on most teams but probably has a future as a backup for a contending team. He is awful at passing into the post and his defense is mediocre at best. He's best in the pick and roll or spotting up for 3-pointers.
Arron Afflalo: Usually very good, Afflalo wasn't all that great last season due to an uptick in his usage rate. Afflalo is better as a starter that focuses on his defense and shooting threes, not bringing the ball upcourt and running the offense. Everything about him slipped last season and it won't be fixed until he's on a better team.
Tobias Harris: Harris was received in the JJ Redick trade and made an impact immediately. Harris plays the bully ball style you see from Carmelo Anthony but you see some Paul Millsap-esque versatility in his game as well. His major flaw is his defense, which needs a lot of work. But one thing I always like to say is that defense can be taught.
Glen Davis: Davis is surprisingly quick on his feet, which makes him surprisingly good on defense. He's not a defensive centerpiece but before he went down with his injuries last season, the Magic were much better on defense. They were also incredibly boring on offense because Glen Davis dominates the ball. He doesn't pass and he takes jump shots so frustrating they make Byron Mullens blush.
Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic got noticed last season after he had some really incredible 20-20 games. The problem with Vucevic, though, is that as amazing a rebounder he is, that's his only skill. He has a jump shot that he hits on occasion and his passing is OK but his only truly great skill is rebounding. He can't create in the slightest -- the majority of his shots last season came from offensive rebounds or as a result of someone's assist. His defense is poor and he has no idea how to set a proper screen. A lot of this can be improved but that's a lot to improve and it's not like he's 19.
Maurice Harkless: Harkless surprised a lot of fans and media members last year but also simultaneously disappointed some. Though he surprised people with his understanding of NBA defense, I think there was a little bit of disappointment in his lack of offense. He showed spurts here and there but the majorly athletic small forward couldn't seem to break free. He also hit the rookie wall very hard.
Andrew Nicholson: Nicholson has the skill set to be a great offensive big man. His footwork is superb and his long body allows him to get around most defenders. After some time spent bulking up and some improvement on his jump shot, he'll be a complete offensive power forward. His feet are quick enough to show that he can improve on defense, however as Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post pointed out, he's probably not going to improve his rebounding anytime soon. Like Harkless, Nicholson hit the rookie wall really hard last season.
Victor Oladipo: The second overall pick out of Indiana was said by some to have the potential to be the best player in the entire draft. There are concerns about his shooting but he should be a solid defender. There were talks this offseason of him playing some point guard. Whether at the 1,2 or 3, Oladipo is going to be getting a lot of minutes this season.
Kyle O'Quinn: O'Quinn spent much of last season on the bench and by the looks of the once-again crowded frontcourt, he'll be doing it again this season. O'Quinn hasn't had a lot of NBA minutes so it's hard to judge how he'll do. He's very good in summer league, however!
Doron Lamb: Lamb comes off the bench playing either guard spot. He's never been that great.
Jason Maxiell: Maxiell was brought in to do the veteran player on the team that plays minimal minute's thing. It's sad because I think he has enough left in the tank to do something on a team that could actually use his rebounding.
E`Twaun Moore: Moore has an interesting role in that he's a shooting guard that plays a lot of point guard because of the Magic's lack of quality point guards. Depending on what the team does with Oladipo, the Magic might play Moore a lot at point guard again or he could return to shooting guard. Either way, he's backing up somebody.
Romero Osby: Like O`Quinn, Osby was very good at summer league and has the potential to be good but probably won't receive much playing time due to the crowded frontcourt.
Ronnie Price: Brought in to be a backup point guard, he probably won't play that much.
Season Expectations: As said before, the Magic want to lose. They have a lot of nice players that do a lot of nice things but that doesn't translate to wins. They'll be at the bottom of the barrel again this season fighting for that lottery spot in the Andrew Wiggins draft.
Players Added: Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Anthony Tolliver
Players Lost: Byron Mullens, Desagna Diop, Tyrus Thomas, Reggie Willams
The Bobcats are currently in a transition period. While they're still trying to not win too much so they can get a good draft pick, they are done with losing and are ready to move to the next step of the rebuilding process: fighting for a playoff spot and fixing problems (such as the bench) on the fly. Adding Al Jefferson was the first step in moving towards that winning culture the Bobcats and their fans crave.
Al Jefferson: Automatically the best player on the Bobcats, Jefferson is going to help the Bobcats turn things around and get some wins so they can become a more appealing destination to free agents. Jefferson is an elite offensive player in the post and a great scorer. Defense is his major issue but with a good team defense, that can be covered up.
Kemba Walker: Walker has received praise by many for his skills and he's been scrutinized by others for what he lacks. Walker is a great offensive talent and I'm not sure we've seen all we know about his defense. He's spent a lot of his career doing everything on offense as a scorer and as a result his defense has suffered. This season will be a nice indicator for exactly how good he is on defense.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: MKG is big, fast and insanely athletic. But he can't shoot. His defensive skills have the potential to be elite. His offensive skills worry me that he'll be a one-dimensional player. MKG has a lot to show us this season. His defense could make a greater jump than ever, but I'd like to see his offense make a jump of some sort whether it be a post game, a jump shot, ball handling, anything.
Bismack Biyombo: Biyombo improved in a lot of areas last season but I think the front office is growing impatient with him. The signing of Jefferson and the drafting of Cody Zeller almost certainly means Biyombo will be moved to the bench this season. He needs to make a big impact in some aspect of his game to keep the team on his bandwagon.
Gerald Henderson: Henderson got himself a fancy new contract this offseason so he's locked into the team for a little while. We all know how solid he is on cuts and attacking the rim. I'd like to see him improve his three-point shooting and/or rebounding this season.
Ben Gordon: Ben "Humble Yourself" Gordon is back for another year of Bobcats fun. His shooting is very good but the headache that comes with it and contract are not worth it. He takes a lot of bad shots and guns like crazy. His personality clashes with coaches almost everywhere he's been and the Bobcats might look to trade him at the trade deadline once again. Or they'll just wait until his contract runs out and take the cap space. Either way I think this is the final season of Ben Gordon in Charlotte.
Ramon Sessions: Sessions is the sixth man of the team and he's a good one. Though not the best defender on the team, he makes up for it with his speed and scoring ability whether playing next to Walker or taking the reins and running the offense.
Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver will come in and fill those random gaps when your main guys need a breather for a little while. Tolliver probably won't touch the ball very much on offense; His main job will be to play defense.
Josh McRoberts: Although some thought the original trade's purpose was to get rid of Hakim Warrick, McRoberts came to the Bobcats without many expectations and surpassed them with ease. After breathing life into the offense with his ball movement, it was obvious that he had to be a starter. He'll probably be a backup this season but I'll be pretty surprised to not see McBob in the consistent eight-man rotation.
Cody Zeller: The fourth overall pick in the draft has fans excited in spite of an overwhelmingly negative initial reaction. His speed and athleticism gives fans visions of full-court sprints down the court for dunks. We'll have to see what he brings to the table this season and if he's really what everybody hopes he is.
Jeff Taylor: After lighting it up at Summer League, Taylor has had a lot of fans excited for what he'll do this season. If he can fight through the crowded backcourt and make his way into some regular lineups he could show us whether he can do similar things consistently in the NBA.
Jannero Pargo: Pargo is around to be a third point guard for the team. He probably won't see too much time unless someone is injured.
Jeff Adrien: Adrien will most likely play limited minutes. Doubt he's used much with the already crowded forward spot.
Brendan Haywood: With the signing of Tolliver and the drafting of Cody Zeller, Haywood has become a player assistant coach who might play minutes every once in a while in garbage time.
Season Expectations: The Bobcats' season relies a lot on how much of a jump the young guys make. While it's expected that Walker, Zeller, Biyombo, and MKG will improve, it's really hard to just assume all of them will. You can predict a lot of things in the NBA but how much a player will improve is not one of them. I don't think the Bobcats are going to make the playoffs this season. My expectation is that they will be a middle of the road lottery team. Just outside the playoff race.
Southeastern Standings Prediction
1) Miami Heat
2) Atlanta Hawks
5) Orlando Magic