Staff writer Sam Keefe co-wrote this piece.
11. Charlotte Hornets
It’s been a very exciting offseason for Charlotte. A large part due to the fact that they’re finally once again the Charlotte Hornets. After finally ditching that awful name, the Bobcats, the Hornets also revealed a pretty sweet court design and new uniforms for the upcoming season. But besides the things largely unrelated to the actual basketball, the Hornets experienced a fairly successful offseason. After failing to sign Gordon Hayward, Charlotte was able to sign former Pacers guard Lance Stephenson for far less money, giving them another solid playmaker to build around. For some reason people continuously forget that Al Jefferson is a monster…he’s no joke. He was hurt for a few weeks last year, but once he was back the Hornets pushed themselves up through the garbage that is the eastern conference and made it up to the 8th spot in the playoffs. Charlotte is a very young team, and it’s not fair to expect the world out of them, but they’re a legitimately dangerous team.
12. Houston Rockets
The Rockets by far were one of the biggest losers this offseason. They began the summer with hopes of stealing superstar Carmelo Anthony, but failed. They then tempered down to signing Chris Bosh, and failed. Then they tried to sign Chandler Parsons to a new deal, and ended up losing Parsons to Dallas, and making a desperation move by signing Trevor Ariza as a replacement. They also traded Omar Asik, assuming they would be able to sign a big man in free agency. Daryl Morey, the Rocket’s General Manager, must make some sort of trade during this season if he has any hope in avoiding a huge step back in the Western Conference. And lets not forget the defense. Any team with Harden is going to struggle there, it’s just hard to watch.
13. New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is going to be a future MVP. The brow is simply just that good. He was recently ranked the 3rd best player in the league by ESPN, a rank that might sound shocking, but don’t knock it until you see him. There’s not much to say about Davis other than the fact he can essentially do whatever he wants on the court, both offensively and defensively. The Pelicans may have lost a few players this offseason, but they managed to swoop in and sign Omer Asik after the Rockets let go of him to sign Bosh, which didn’t happen. The Pelicans also had their fair share of injury problems last year, finishing quite poorly. Their core starting five only managed to play 12 games together.
14. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns, after defying most expert’s expectations of them, will continue to be one of the more intriguing teams in the league. After beginning the trend of starting two point guards with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, they added another point guard, Isiah Thomas, who is a starter on a good majority of NBA teams. After barely losing a spot in the playoffs last year, the Suns will look to redefine “small-ball” and compete for a lower seed in the Western Conference.
15. Toronto Raptors
Drake’s team remains fairly the same this coming season. Last season however, the Nets had them singing “hold on we’re goin home.” In reality, the Raptors have a really strong team. Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan should be ready to make more strides this season. This offseason the Raptors made one of the more surprising picks in the draft by selecting Bruno Caboclo, a Brazilian shooting guard, with 20th pick in the draft. He’s going to need some work before he’s NBA ready, but with a high ceiling, the Raptors have an opportunity to pull a San Antonio-esq move and produce a foreign stud. If this team can stay healthy, they could make another decent run into the playoffs.
16. Atlanta Hawks
Last year, the Hawks had the best record in the eastern conference before their star power forward, Al Horford, was ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral. The Hawks stood pat this offseason, opting to attempt to repeat their performance from the beginning of last season. With the dynamic front court consisting of all-star Paul Millsap and Horford, this team should dominate the eastern conference on the block as well as the boards.
17. Brooklyn Nets
Bye bye, Jason Kidd. This past season, the Nets sent away their brand new coach in a trade and received draft picks as compensation. Those picks produced three decent prospects in Markel Brown, Corey Jefferson, and Xavier Thames. One of the most notable things to happen to the Nets this offseason was the loss of Paul Pierce. Now with the Wizards, Pierce left the team and I’m not quite sure why. Most likely to play alongside a young team with developing potential. This next season the Nets could still see improvement, for they went a lot of last year without Brook Lopez. Whether or not this has an effect on the team is unknown, but this is still Deron Williams’ team, and it’s up to him to control the game.
18. Miami Heat
The Heat rival the Rockets in having the worst offseason this summer, obviously due to the loss of Lebron James. They panicked after he left, signing Chris Bosh to a max, five year contract, as well as signing Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts. Dwyane Wade, slowly playing less and less games every year due to his knees, will have to pray Bosh plays at the same level he did in Toronto four years ago if he hopes to contend for a title any time in the near future.
19. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets were plagued with injuries last season, losing Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson and JaVale McGee all for extended periods of time. The Nuggets have struggled the past few years, unable to find stability in the very difficult Western Conference. In the draft Denver managed to trade around a bit and get Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic. Harris could turn out to be a really strong rotational player on this Denver team, and Jusuf has been dominating the glass this preseason, averaging like a trillion rebounds. Oh, and did I mention they got Arron Afflalo? Well they did, and for some reason no one cares. Afflalo is an extremely solid shooting guard who’s been suffering ever since he left the Nuggets for the Magic. Now that he’s back in Denver it’s his time to show he can still play some solid basketball.
20. New York Knicks
The Knicks made some strange moves in this offseason, first starting with giving Phil Jackson a position in basketball operations rather than in coaching. The team then fired Mike Woodson, and hired newly-retired Derek Fisher to be head coach. Fisher will most likely conform to Jackson’s will and run the triangle offense. They then signed Carmelo Anthony to a max deal, which strapped them financially, and caused them to trade Tyson Chandler to Dallas. No one’s really sure what New York is doing, and I’m not sure if any of the Knicks are too sure either.