Miami Heat (66-16, NBA Champions)
Headline: Miami Looks for a Threepeat as the Big Three Enter their Fourth Season
Summary: In one of the most thrilling NBA finals you will likely ever see, the Miami Heat overcame the San Antonio Spurs in seven thrilling games to win their second straight title. Now with a roster that could potentially be even a little better, Miami looks to be odds on favorites for their third straight title.
Overall Trend: Up, if Oden gives them anything, it’ll be a bonus but regardless LeBron continues to improve even as Wade appears to be on the decline.
Salary: $84.81M (over luxury tax threshold)
2014 Draft Picks: Owed Philadelphia’s 2014 First Round Pick (Protected for Picks 1-14)
Biggest Addition: Greg Oden
Losses: Mike Miller
Best Case: NBA Title, going 16-2 or better in the playoffs. The Heat are the unquestioned favorite this year and it is certainly possible that they simply demolish all their opponents in 5 or less games in this year’s playoffs.
Worst Case: Second Round of the playoffs. Miami is better than any other team in the league on talent alone but if they run into a hot team at the right time it could be an early vacation for the two-time defending champs.
Most Likely Case: NBA Title. Miami is the odds on favorite to win it all and with good reason. They should make it three in a row.
Atlanta Hawks (44-38, lost in the first round to Indiana):
Headline: After Losing Josh Smith, Atlanta Reloads with Millsap and Looks for a Playoff Push
Summary: Atlanta, as expected, lost Josh Smith (to Detroit) this summer but they did not, as many teams that lose top players do, come away empty handed. Instead, the Hawks landed Paul Millsap and along with a solid draft and some solid free agent signings, Atlanta looks to have not taken much, if any, of a step back.
Overall Trend: Stable, losing Josh Smith hurts but Paul Millsap is a fine replacement and their future cap flexibility and draft picks are more than welcome.
Salary: $58.98M (over cap)
2014 Draft Picks: Atlanta has the right to swap its 2014 First Round Pick with Brooklyn.
Biggest Addition: Paul Millsap
Losses: Josh Smith
Best Case: Second Round. The Hawks could surprise a team and win a series but that should be all for them.
Worst Case: Miss playoffs. The battle for those last few east playoff spots is going to be close and if just a few games don’t’ go their way, Atlanta could be on the outside looking in.
Most Likely Case: First round. The Hawks should make the playoffs, and quickly be dispatched by the Eastern conference elite.
Washington Wizards (29-53, missed playoffs):
Headline: A Revamped Wizards Squad Look to Make a Playoff Push
Summary: When John Wall was healthy last year, the Wizards were a .500 team, a fact that got perhaps lost when the Wizards started 5-28 last season without him. If Wall can remain healthy and if Washington’s strong young core can continue to develop, there may yet be hope for one of the league’s long suffering doormats. The team thinks so as well, loading up with a roster full of the sort of salaries you’d expect from a playoff contender.
Overall Trend: Up, the Wizards aren’t an elite team but they are certainly markedly better than last year.
Salary: $76.98M (over luxury tax threshold)
2014 Draft Picks: Washington owns both of its own picks.
Biggest Addition: Otto Porter Jr.
Losses: AJ Price
Best Case: First round and out in seven games. The Wizards are good enough to make the playoffs and maybe make a top team sweat a bit but they have little chance to go farther.
Worst Case: Wall gets hurt again and misses a chunk of the season. Without Wall, the Wizards are awful and another serious injury would also cast doubt on whether the team could ever truly hope to make that jump to the playoffs soon.
Most Likely Case: First round and out in four or five games. Congrats Wizards fans, you’re going to make the playoffs and be easy fodder for the likes of Miami or Indiana!
Charlotte Bobcats (21-61, missed playoffs):
Headline: The Bobcats look to Move Forward Even as Questions Arise About Whether they can ever Escape the Basement
Summary: Congrats Bobcats fans, you actually had only the second worst record in the league last year, one game ahead of the Magic! A year removed from the lowest winning percentage in NBA history, things scarcely got better for the Bobcats and it looks to be more of the same this year. The worst thing a crappy team like Charlotte can do is go out and sign a top free agent, ruining both your cap space and your ability to tank and get a top pick. Yet, the Bobcats did exactly that when they signed Al Jefferson. Bobcats fans probably hope he doesn’t play very well so they can have the best chance at a top pick.
Overall Trend: Up but not in the way a rebuilding team wants, the Bobcats signing Al Jefferson makes them better than they were but still nowhere near the playoffs.
Salary: $60.16M (over cap)
2014 Draft Picks: Owe Chicago their 2014 First Round Pick (Protected for Picks 1-10) and Owed Portland’s 2014 First Round Pick (Protected for Picks 1-12) and Detroit’s 2014 First Round Pick (Protected for Picks 1-8).
Biggest Addition: Al Jefferson
Losses: Byron Mullins, Tyrus Thomas
Best Case: Land a top 3 pick in addition to the Portland and Detroit picks. It is likely that at least Detroit’s pick will be theirs and Portland’s looks more likely than not as well. If Charlotte gets lucky and gets a top three pick in addition to that, it could be a much needed shot in the arm to their future.
Worst Case: Get neither Portland nor Detroit’s picks. Its unlikely that this happens but it is certainly possible but Portland and Detroit suck far more than we think they will.
Most Likely Case: Get Portland and Detroit’s Picks. Having three picks in this year’s draft lottery, regardless of where they are, is something Charlotte could definitely use in its rebuilding.
Orlando Magic (20-62, missed playoffs):
Headline: After Getting the Worst Record in the NBA Last Season, Orlando Looks to Build for the Future Around a Strong Core
Summary: The Magic may have been awful last year but it was not without promise. Orlando’s young players all looked to be very solid last year as they developed into solid NBA players. Add to that their pick of Oladipo with the #2 overall selection and the Magic look to be headed in the right direction.
Overall Trend: Up, the Magic are nowhere near the playoffs but they should significantly better this year, even if they don’t actually improve by that many wins.
Salary: $62.26M (over cap)
2014 Draft Picks: Owed the less favorable of Denver and New York’s 2014 First Round Pick and Owe Cleveland their 2014 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Victor Oladipo
Losses: Al Harrington
Best Case: #1 overall pick. The Magic will probably be too good to have much of a chance at the top pick but hey, they could get lucky.
Worst Case: Late lottery pick. The bottom of the east is so soft that Orlando could pile up a bunch of wins and end up with a late lottery pick without being that good a team.
Most Likely Case: 6-8th overall pick. Orlando will be better than some teams but still nowhere near the playoffs.