The quality of Eastern Conference playoff basketball last season was so awful that I almost felt nostalgic for the mid-decade Detroit Pistons. Thankfully, the insanity passed and I decided watching Omer Asik shoot clutch FTs was infinitely more appealing. That’s not being completely fair though, since injuries to star players put a dampener on what was shaping up to be a tough, competitive playoffs with some great teams (Bulls, Heat, Celtics, Indiana) instead of turning into a minor farce where the 76ers and Celtics played among the worst conference semifinals series’ in EC history. Thankfully, a number of playoff-bound teams have made major offseason additions in the East and this year should be the year the EC finally measures up to its big brother out West.
Wow. I’m still amazed by how awesome the Dwight trade was for Philly and the Nuggets. It’s almost shocking since Orlando essentially facilitated a trade where three other teams gained a player clearly better than the ones they sent out. Philly re-signed Lavoy Allen (who showed up in the playoffs) and Spencer Hawes, shoring up their frontline in case of the Apocalypse (Andrew Bynum’s knees), also adding former #1 pick Kwame Brown (yawn). Trading for poor man’s Andre Igoudala candidate Dorrell Wright and signing Nick Young were great moves lost in the hullabaloo over Dwight. Wright can hit the long ball, defend and still has potential. Nick Young brings swag and shooting to a team that is in serious need of both. Did Philly make up for trading Igoudala and amnestying Elton Brand? Hell yeah.
The Knicks have added Jason Kidd (39), Kurt Thomas (39), Marcus Camby (38), Rasheed Wallace (38) and Pablo Prigioni (35) while letting Jeremy Lin (24) and Landry Fields (24) walk as free agents. Contending rosters are typically filled with veterans, but some would say basic mobility should be an important criterion of roster selection. Nevertheless, James Dolan doesn’t agree, and James Dolan has shown that when he doesn’t agree, he is perfectly willing to kick out the best thing to happen for New York basketball in about a decade (Linsanity!). The Kidd addition was OK, but the slew of old-man forwards and centers was unnecessary and only prohibits Melo from playing the position he played best last season. Especially with the Heat going small, these roster moves are somewhat perplexing. The addition of defensive stalwart Ronnie Brewer is possibly the best move of the Knicks’ offseason that didn’t involve a fat point guard cast off by the worst team in NBA history.
What a disaster. The Magic were basically offered every draft pick the Rockets could muster (equals a LOT), every young asset they possessed (Lowry, Dragic, K-Mart, Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons etc) for Dwight without a guarantee and the Magic picked the trade headlined by Arron freaking Afflalo? To compound things, the Magic let Most Improved Player Ryan Anderson walk (got nothing in return), have a bunch of worthless late 1st round draft picks and expect to do what exactly? Why not just simply hand over the keys to Isiah Thomas and let him run the franchise? He’d be a messiah.
The best addition made in the offseason was the subtraction of Joe Johnson. Though the move was for primarily financial reasons (JJ had the worst contract in the league), the Hawks have enough youth and muscle to install a new offense where everybody’s involved. Trading Marvin Williams for Devin Harris was less about basketball and more about removing the single most distressing sight for a Hawks fan (Williams holding a ball) and healing some of that pain (Hawks picked Williams in the 2005 Draft over Chris Paul and D-Will). Signing talented sixth man Lou Williams should be considered a major coup as well. Overall, a solid offseason for the Hawks, who should contend for the 6-8 seeds out East.
The Leprechauns had arguably the best offseason of any team in the East outside of Philly. They convinced Jeff Green to re-sign, signed Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, re-signed Garnett and still somehow managed to hang on to Brandon Bass? With the return of Avery Bradley, this Celtics team finally has a deep bench and can give the Heat a run for their money. Can’t blame the Cs for Ray Allen walking; if it was between Rondo and Allen, the choice was a no-brainer.
A team of soft guys? Larry Bird sure seemed to think so, and now he’s lost his job. The Pacers, meanwhile, have made zero changes to the roster apart from letting Darren Collision walk and re-signing George Hill to nice big fat contract. The Pacers are playing the Paul George-or-nothing game for next season, and I’m not sure it works out completely well. Hey, there’s nothing wrong in losing to the Heat in the postseason again, but the basketball crazy state of Indiana probably deserves more after a dry spell.
The Heat got their man in free agency; Ray Allen was their target from the moment free agency phone lines were opened and the famed Heat culture and Riley’s bag of silverware convinced Allen to make South Beach home for the next three season. Don’t sleep on the Rashard Lewis signing either; if he can regain his form from the 2010 season, the Heat are as unbeatable as it gets. Of course, knowing Allen’s intensity on-court, it should be fun to see how soon Ray assimilates into the Heat informal culture of yelling at Mario.
The Bulls have had a terrible offseason, and for some reason, nobody seems to care. Sure, the Bulls are not going to contend this season, but when Rose does get back from injury, wouldn’t he prefer playing with, I don’t know, decent NBA players? They let Kyle Korver, arguably the best three-point marksman in the league walk, ignoring Ronnie Brewer as well. Omer Asik’s gone, thinning the frontcourt that won them so many games last season. Kirk Hinrich’s a decent player, but the Bulls have lost a lot of depth. The Bulls may struggle to make the top six seeds, and the management’s incompetency this offseason will be a big reason why.