Gamblers and Scramblers: NBA Free Agency Review
With NBA free agency winding down, it's time to wonder who the big winners and losers were in the NBA's summer season.
The biggest free-agent move was Dwight Howard going to the Houston Rockets, which makes them an instant contender in 2013-2014. Howard will team up with James Hardin and Jeremy Lin to try and overtake the Spurs and Thunder in the always competitive Western Conference.
The Eastern Conference's big move was not in free agency, but in a trade, as the Brooklyn Nets aquired Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics. That trade may set up the Celtics for the future but makes the Nets the best team in New York and possibly one of the three best teams in the East.
The Philadelphia 76ers also improved through the draft and trades. The Sixers wound up trading Jrue Holiday for Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and a coveted 2014 draft pick.
The New York Knicks, on the other hand, did not improve unless they think the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani will help them. The Knicks, who last year told everyone they would threaten Miami in the East, now fall behind Brooklyn, who also signed free agents Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston.
The Indiana Pacers, who beat the Knicks in the playoffs, have added former Knick Chris Copeland and former Net CJ Watson, while the Cleveland Cavaliers have also improved with the additions of Andrew Bynum, Jarret Jack, and Earl Clark.
Back in the West, the Golden State Warriors are attempting to become a top team, and they think the additions of Kevin Murphy, Andre Iguodala, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal and Marrese Speights will get them there. Mark Jackson and the Warriors figure to be a tough out in the playoffs for years to come.
While the Rockets are thrilled with Howard coming aboard, the Dallas Mavericks continue to slide after winning the championship in 2011. The Mavs thought they added Devin Harris, but an injury scrapped that move. So, to date, the only new arrival is the intruiging José Calderon, and Dirk Nowitzki cannot be happy as he gets older and the team does not get any better.
One of the sleeper teams in the West may be the Denver Nuggets and new coach Brian Shaw. The Nuggets have added Randy Foye and JJ Hickson and are another team that will be a force to be reckoned with in 2014.
That leaves the city of Los Angeles, and just like New York, there has been a changing of the guard. Chis Paul's return to the Clippers along with Doc Rivers leaving the Celtics to coach there make the Clippers one of the favorites to dethrone the Miami Heat next year. The Clips also added Darren Collison and JJ Redick as they attempt to add a banner of their own in the Staples Center.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are looking towards 2015. Howard is gone, as is Metta World Peace, who was released by the team this week. Kobe Bryant has a long road back from his injury, the coach has a system that is disliked by most of the players, and the owner passed away last season.
The Lakers, usually favorites to make at least the final four, may not even make the playoffs in 2014.