San Antonio Spurs (58-25, lost in the NBA Finals to Miami):
Headline: After Falling Seconds Short of a Title, the Spurs Look to Take the Final Step this Season
Summary: The Spurs were as close as you can be to an NBA title without actually winning it. If not for that Ray Allen 3 pointer to force OT in game six, it is the Spurs who would have hoisted the trophy last season. Logic says the aging Spurs should be unable to repeat last year’s magic but if we have learned nothing these past few years, it is to never doubt Coach Pop and the magic he can perform year in and year out.
Overall Trend: Down, the Spurs aren’t what they once were but if they can remain healthy they are certainly title contenders.
Salary: $75.87M (over luxury tax threshold)
2014 NBA Draft Picks: Owed the LA Clippers’s 2014 Second Round Pick (Protected for Picks 31-55)
Biggest Addition: Marco Bellineli
Losses: Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair.
Best Case: NBA Title. It is certainly possible that Tim Duncan, Manu and Tony Parker could turn back the clock and make a title run if they can remain healthy.
Worst Case: First round. The Spurs are good but they are no longer great. With a deep western conference, it is possible it might be one and done for the Spurs this season.
Most Likely Case: NBA Finals. Fine, I’ll buy that last year was no fluke, the Spurs will again make it to the final step this season, only to fall short once more.
Memphis Grizzlies (56-26, lost in the Western Conference Finals to San Antonio):
Headline: A year older and wiser, the Grizzlies look to move towards the top of the west
Summary: It is likely true that the Grizzlies probably don’t make the Western Conference finals if not for Westbrook’s injury last season but so what? Memphis saw their opportunity and they seized it. Sure, they got swept and then fired their coach for a number of reasons but there is much to like about this Memphis squad. They are probably not title contenders but they will remain tough outs for virtually everyone.
Overall Trend: Stable, Memphis replaced end of bench guys with other end of bench guys and it probably won’t make much of a difference to them this season.
Salary: $81.23M (over luxury tax threshold)
2014 NBA Draft Picks: Owed Cleveland’s 2014 Second Round Pick and Owe Philadelphia their 2014 Second Round Pick (Protected for Picks 31-50 and 56-60)
Biggest Addition: Kosta Koufos
Losses: Marreese Speights, Darrell Arthur
Best Case: Western Conference Finals. The Grizzlies have enough talent and pose enough matchup problems to give a few teams fits in the playoffs. They could possibly pull a few playoff upsets before falling one step short of the finals.
Worst Case: First round of the playoffs. If they can’t keep their chemistry, they get hit by injuries or they run into a bad early playoff matchup, it could be a depressingly short stay for the Grizzlies this season.
Most Likely Case: First round. The Grizzlies are a good team, but they just appear to be a step below the western conference elite this season.
Houston Rockets (45-37, lost in the first round to OKC):
Headline: The New Look Rockets Appear Loaded for a Title Run After Landing Howard
Summary: Well, Houston sure turned it around quickly. A year ago, I wrote that they were likely to be among the worst teams in the league, but of course that was before they traded for James Harden. Houston then went out and completely flipped over its roster, so much so that their longest tenured player is Chandler Parsons, who has been there all of two seasons. The Rockets then managed to land the biggest of all fish this offseason, the mercurial if uniquely talented Dwight Howard. With their new core in tow, the Rockets look to be title contenders for years to come.
Overall Trend: Up and up quickly, the Rockets flipped over their roster in the last twelve months and did a masterful job of it, going from bottom-feeder to contender very quickly.
Salary: $64.79M (over cap)
2014 NBA Draft Picks: Owe Philadelphia their 2014 Second Round Pick and Owed Philadelphia’s 2014 Second Round Pick (Protected for Picks 31-55) and New York’s 2014 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Dwight Howard
Losses: Thomas Robinson.
Best Case: NBA Champions. Sure, why the hell not? They aren’t the favorites, far from it, but the pieces are there for a title run if it all falls right.
Worst Case: First round. The Rockets are good but not great and that could lead to an early exit this season.
Most Likely Case: Second round. The Rockets are a step, albeit a small step, behind the likes of the Clippers, OKC and the Spurs so the second round will likely be it for them.
Dallas Mavericks (41-41, missed playoffs):
Headline: The Thrill is gone for Dallas as any Chance of a Second Title for Dirk Appears Gone as well
Summary: The Mavericks had a magical run a few years ago but it appears that it was a one-time thing. Dirk suffered the first major injury of his storied career last season and without him, the Mavs just aren’t very good. They managed to compile a roster full of spare parts after missing out on their top free agent targets but they are nowhere near the level of contenders. Making the playoffs is likely a stretch for this squad.
Overall Trend: Down, Dallas might well finish around .500 again but anything more than that is unlikely.
Salary: $68.06M (over cap)
2014 NBA Draft Picks: Owe their 2014 First Round Pick to OKC (Protected for Picks 1-20) and Owed Boston’s 2014 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Monta Ellis
Losses: Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, OJ Mayo
Best Case: First round, the Mavericks are not the worst team in the west, far from it, but they are a good distance behind any of the western conference elite. One and done in the playoffs is the best they can hope for.
Worst Case: Just miss the playoffs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you are going to suck, you might as well really suck. The Mavericks could be the lottery team with the best record very easily this season, which would do them not much good.
Most Likely Case: Pick in the 10-12 range. The Mavericks will flirt with the playoffs for a while, assuming Dirk remains healthy, but they will fall short in the end.
New Orleans Pelicans (27-55, missed playoffs):
Headline: With a new Owner, a new Name and a Promising Young Core, the Pelicans Appear Headed out of the Cellar
Summary: New Orleans was better than their record last year, with a point differential of only -3.9. They always fought hard but just lacked the talent to get the job done too often. Well, a year older and wise and with a few new tools up their sleeves, the newly renamed Pelicans are certainly headed in the right direction.
Overall Trend: Up, they aren’t a playoff team but they are significantly better than they were last season.
Salary: $63.16M (over cap)
2014 NBA Draft Picks: Owe their 2014 First Round Pick to Philadelphia (Protected for Picks 1-5) and their 2014 Second Round Pick to Minnesota.
Biggest Addition: Jrue Holiday
Losses: Robin Lopez, Greivis Vasquez
Best Case: First round. This is extremely unlikely but the Hornets could surprise some people and make it all the way to the playoffs, before being easy cannon fodder once they get there.
Worst Case: Late lottery pick (which they give to Philadelphia). Time will tell if trading a 2014 first rounder with minimal protection was worth it for Jrue but regardless just missing the playoffs and giving up the pick would be about the worst they can do.
Most Likely Case: Miss the playoffs and finish 10th or 11th in the west. The Hornets are still a step behind a true playoff team and might come somewhat close, although not that close, to making the postseason.