Miami Heat (46-20, NBA Champions)
Headline: After finally winning the big one last year, LeBron and co look for an encore
Summary: When you look back at the Miami Heat’s 2011-12 season, especially the playoffs, one cannot say they did not earn everything they got. Although their journey to the NBA Finals was a lot more troublesome than anyone could have probably anticipated, once they got there they left no doubt that they were the better team. With the “not able to win the big one” monkey off his back, and the addition of Ray Allen, there is no reason LeBron and co can’t build the dynasty many predicted when the big three joined forces.
Overall Trend: Up, the rich got richer this offseason as the Heat added Ray Allen to the fold.
Salary: $87.59M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 Draft Picks: Owe 2013 first round pick to Cleveland (top 14 protected), owed Philadelphia’s 2013 first round pick (top 14 protected).
Biggest Addition: Ray Allen.
Losses: No signficant losses.
Best Case: NBA Title, and going 16-2 or better in the playoffs. The Heat are the unquestioned favorite this year, and it is certainly possible that they will simply demolish all of their opponents in five or less games in this year’s playoffs.
Worst Case: Second Round of the playoffs. If Miami runs into a hot team it could face an early exit. Given how weak the bottom of the east playoff field is, however, it is unlikely that they will face a team capable of doing this before the second round at the earliest.
Most Likely Case: NBA Title. LeBron should make it two in a row, and the only question may be how many in a row will Miami be able to win before its all said and done.
Atlanta Hawks (40-26, lost in first round to Boston)
Headline: Atlanta reloads as they look to escape NBA purgatory
Summary: As Blazer fans can attest, there are few things more frustrating in this league than being good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to actually make a deep run. That was the situation Atlanta had found itself in the last several seasons. After finally pulling the trigger on a deal to dump Joe Johnson’s loaded contract to Brooklyn, Atlanta looks to start over behind Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and co.
Overall Trend: Down. Atlanta may have gotten itself out of salary cap hell with the Johnson trade but the cost of doing so was a significant hit to their near term prospects.
Salary: $71.05M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 Draft Picks: Owed Houston’s 2013 First Round Pick (top 14 protected) and Houston’s 2013 Second Round Pick (top 40 protected).
Biggest Addition: Devin Harris
Losses: Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams.
Best Case: Second Round of the playoffs. The Hawks have enough talent to make the playoffs and possibly win a series if they draw the right matchup.
Worst Case: Just miss the playoffs. The Hawks are not going to be a very good team this season but like the Blazers they have the talent to come annoyingly close to the postseason before fading.
Most Likely Case: Miss Playoffs. They will be in the mix for the final few playoff spots but I’d rather give the nod to the likes of Milwaukee than this bunch.
Orlando Magic (37-29, lost in the first round to Indiana)
Headline: Orlando looks to start over as Superman repeats Shaq’s journey and ends up on the Lakers
Summary: It is a story that is sadly familiar to Orlando fans, draft a top center #1 overall, make the NBA finals, said center then flees you to play for the Lakers, rinse and repeat. It happened with Shaq and it just happened with Dwight Howard. One would call Orlando a dumpster fire last season, but that would be an insult to dumpster fires. Orlando was pretty much everything a franchise should not be, disorganized, publicly fighting and simply not showing up many nights. It will be a long road back to the top for the Magic and their fans.
Overall Trend: Down and down quickly. The Magic are worse than they were last year, and every move they make just seems to bring them further from their goal.
Salary: $65.68M (over cap)
2013 Draft Picks: Owe 2013 Second Round Pick to Cleveland, Owed Golden State’s 2013 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Arron Afflalo
Losses: Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson.
Best Case: Get the #1 overall pick, Orlando will be in the mix for worst record in the league this year and could end up landing the top pick.
Worst Case: Mid lottery pick. Orlando is not completely devoid of talent and they could win enough games to worsen their own draft prospects this season.
Most Likely Case: Top five pick. The Magic won’t be as bad as the likes of Charlotte and Washington but they will be bad enough to end up with a top five pick.
Washington Wizards (20-46, missed playoffs)
Headline: Wizards seek to build around a young core as they look for a future playoff run
Summary: One might have been tempted to list the Wizards as a possible playoff sleeper this season. After all, they have a decent young core, added a good player in Bradley Beal and finally had a halfway decent coach. However, John Wall’s preseason injury derailed all of that. With Wall likely to miss significant time, the Wizards look lottery bound once again.
Overall Trend: Up. If not that quickly, the Wizards should be a better team than last year, even with Wall’s injury.
Salary: $61.42M (over cap)
2013 Draft Picks: Owed New York’s 2013 Second Round Pick.
Biggest Addition: Bradley Beal
Losses: Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis.
Best Case: Get a top-five pick and land a few good free agents. The Wizards will have significant cap room after this s season, hopefully for their sake they can make use of it.
Worst Case: They strike out in free agency and get a pick near the bottom of the lottery. It is not entirely clear that Washington is a place top free agents want to go. If the Wizards fail to land any big free agents and get a late lottery pick they will be better than they are now, but not by nearly as much as they had hoped.
Most Likely Case: Do well in free agency and get a pick in the 8-10 range. The Wizards may not realistically be in the running for any of the top free agents, but they could land several decent players that, combined with another top 10 pick, could allow them to become a playoff caliber team in short order.
Charlotte Bobcats (7-59, missed playoffs)
Headline: After the worst season in NBA history, the only way is up
Summary: We knew the Bobcats would be bad going into last season, they were young, and where they weren’t young they weren’t that talented. Yet no one could have guessed that the Bobcats would be historically bad, setting the NBA record for the lowest winning % in league history and losing games by a whopping 13.9 points per game, nearly double the next worst team in the league last year (Cleveland at -7.2). After missing out on the top pick in the draft, the Bobcats look to find something, anything, to build on.
Overall Trend: Up, if only because it literally can’t get any worse. The Bobcats are still an awful team and will be favored to be last in the league again but they will avoid breaking their own record for futility this year.
Salary: $60.88M (over cap)
2013 Draft Picks: Owe 2013 First Round Pick to Chicago (top 12 protected) and 2013 Second Round Pick to Houston, Owed Portland’s 2013 First Round Pick (top 12 protected) and Detroit’s 2013 First Round Pick (top 14 protected).
Biggest Addition: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Losses: Corey Maggette, DJ Augustin
Best Case: #1 overall draft pick. This year’s Bobcats should finish with one of the worst records in the league, exactly what GM Rich Cho wants. They will have a decent shot to nab the top pick as a result.
Worst Case: Lose out in the lottery and end up with a pick in the 6-8 range. The bottom of the east is bad enough that the Bobcats could pile a bunch of cheap wins, come nowhere close to the playoffs but end up with a mid lottery pick.
Most Likely Case: Miss the playoffs and get a top 3 pick. The Bobcats need good, young players, and they are likely to get a high pick to allow them to continue stockpiling young talent after this season.