That said, I wanted to give you a last look at the off season as we move steadily closer to some real games. Following is a run down of how well each NBA team fared this off season, starting with the very best and ending with the abysmal. Questions? Okay, good, let's get right to it.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The sneaky harboring of Leon Powe from the Celtics unsavorily cold shoulder pushed Lebron and Co. over the top. Just a strong, strong off season. They got Shaq, okay. That was the big splash. The rest of their moves were down right heady, and for the most part unsung. I’m singing. Here’s to you, Cleveland. Jamario Moon can play, and Anthony Parker has been a quiet stalwart for Toronto. They retained Varejao (no pouting off to Brazil in the near future for the Big Flopper) and did not retain Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. Good stuff, Danny Ferry. To top it all off, sounds like Lebron might be talked into signing with the Cavs for a shorter contract than most superstars are after. Anything to keep him in wine and gold, yes?
3. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks didn’t make any huge waves this summer, but that’s not a bad thing when you’re emerging from a decade of mismanagement and instability. Atlanta was fourth in the East last year, and they look to remain so. It wasn’t like they didn’t do work this off season. They re-signed Mike Bibby, Zaza Pachulia, and Marvin Williams. Then they acquired Jamal Crawford for garbage time guys and Joe Smith via free agency. Not bad. Sure, they likely won’t get past the big three in the East, but at least they’re not bottoming out to “wait for 2010 free agents” (that won’t come; thus the quotes). The fans of Hot-lanta should be excited about this team, as a core of Joe Johnson and the still developing Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Marvin Williams is very, very solid.
4. Dallas Mavericks: Gortat would’ve been nice, but the Mavs didn’t waste time crying in their spilled (un-spilled?) milk. They re-signed Jason Kidd, who was solid last season at least on offense, and they traded for Shawn Marion. Sure, in this off-season’s trend of stacking up on past-their-prime players, Dallas didn’t really one up any of their competitors, but at least they broke even. Drew Gooden? Good. Tim Thomas? Bad. Losing Devean George and Jerry Stackhouse? Finally! Losing Brandon Bass? Sigh. Angling for a 7th seed to match up with the Spurs in the playoffs? Bring it on!
6. LA Clippers: The Clips lost a player to Armani Jeans Milano. Remind me to write about that someday. Sorry, on to things that “matter.” The Clippers have positioned themselves to look like a playoff team this year. They picked up Blake Griffin and got rid of Z-Bo. They even picked up internet mogul Mark Madsen. By all standards, a good off season. Maybe having “names” like Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and, yes, Chris Kaman will mean something this season. Eric Gordon hopes so. But maybe they’re still the Clippers. Yeah, that sounds right.
Watching the 2008 NBA Eastern Conference finals between Detroit and Boston at Mike's in Somerville, MA: Battle of the Jerseys (Phone photo), originally uploaded by Wayne Flower.7. Detroit Pistons: Are they going to be a good team this year? Probably not. Did they have a good off season? Well, they needed to in order to even be in the playoff hunt. Time will tell, but at least they did something, and at least they got younger. Ben Gordon, Charlie V, Ben Wallace (with a new number), and Chris Wilcox. They lost more than they gained, but that was the point. Good bye Rasheed, Allen, Antonio, and the odd pair of Walters. Why didn’t you take Rip with you?
8. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs, by all accounts, had a good off season. They shed some veteran detritus and picked up Dejuan Blair in the draft. Then they went out and got Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, and Theo Ratliff. In my opinion, the McDyess and Ratliff acquisitions show that San Antonio is still valuing vets way, way too much. Roger Mason was a good pick up last off season, and Jefferson will be a help as well, but are they still starting Michael Finley? Can Manu Ginobli stay healthy? They’re saying out of the Alamo that RJ is the most athletic wing they’ve had since Shawn Elliot, but regardless of whether that’s true or not, it doesn’t bring David Robinson back. I mean, are the Spurs really going to continue starting Matt Bonner? This team lacks size, not athletic wingmen for crying out loud, and McDyess is just not the answer.
9. Toronto Raptors: Picking up Hedo Turkoglu will hamstring the Raps financially a few years down the road, and I don’t know how much it’ll help keep Bosh north of the border, but it should certainly help them for at least this coming season. The Raptors picked up a lot of bit players this summer, and frankly I’m not sure I see how it all fits together. See if any of this makes sense to you: Marco Bellinelli, Devean George, Antoine Wright, Rasho Nesterovic. Huh? I could see what they were going for with Jarrett Jack, but they should’ve seen if they could’ve gotten a renege on T.J. Ford. Jack is not the tempo change from Jose Calderon that made the pairing with Ford so potent. Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans (acquired just before the draft) look like difference makers on paper, but how will they help with Bosh and the showing-signs Andrea Bargnani taking most of the PT?
Y'know what, this is getting a little long. Why don't I give you a break, come back tomorrow with the ten middle teams, and then hit you with the worst of the worst on Thursday. Cool? Cool.