Atlanta Hawks 44-38, lost in 2nd round to Bulls (Kirk Hinrich could have possibly changed the outcome of the Bulls series)
Notable free agents - Jamal Crawford
Core players still on contract - Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Zaza Pachulia, Jeff Teague
Recap: It was a solid season all around for the Hawks after re-signing Joe Johnson to max money. They especially solidified their PG position by trading Mike Bibby for great defensive point guard Kirk Hinrich. Unfortunately for them, he was injured and did not play in the 2nd round against the Chicago Bulls. You're telling me that a team that lost in 6 games couldn't have changed their fortune if a healthy Kirk Hinrich was guarding Derrick Rose?
Look for them to: 1. Re-sign Jamal Crawford... maybe. 2. Make some changes to this core. 3. Get a center.
There's something about this team that is puzzling. It's like they have all this young talent with great potential but year after year they stay at the same level and never improve. Marvin Williams got a contract extension a couple years ago and has regressed in ability it seems. Josh Smith, the first of this core to put the Hawks back on the map is an enigma. He flashes his crazy athletic ability and then has games where he takes horrible jump shots and he's already a horrible jump shot shooter.
Al Horford and Joe Johnson are the all stars of the team and Al Horford needs to play power forward, not center, to maximize his production. That means the Hawks need to upgrade their starting center position from Jason Collins to someone else. They're on tap for over $60 million next season so signing a center may be a little too expensive, especially if they decide to re-sign Jamal Crawford. So look for them to look into the trade market and possibly trade their small forwards Marvin Williams and Josh Smith for a center or a different small forward, or both.
Jamal Crawford is a pure scorer, streak shooter, with a really nice behind the back cross over that's almost automatic when he pulls up after losing his defender. He is a defensive liability, however. It will depend on how much he wants and how long of a contract and whether or not the Hawks are willing to agree to what he wants. Otherwise, it could be goodbye and off to yet another team for Jamal Crawford.
Orlando Magic 52-30 (This team was in the 09 finals and lost in the first round, the mighty may fall even more this summer)
Notable free agents - Jason Richardson
Core players still on contract - Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Redick, Jameer Nelson
Recap: Another team that went through a major renovation. In December they dealt Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix and Rashard Lewis to Washington and received Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. That's a lot of "talent!" Well it didn't quite work out as they had an impressive season winning 52 games but had didn't end on a strong note in the season and ultimately lost to the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. Coupled with the fact that there are constant rumors about Dwight Howard changing teams because he hasn't signed the extension that is on the table for him, this team could be in for quite a shake up this season.
Look for them to: 1. Do everything they can to keep Dwight, but if they find the right deal for him, ship him out and most likely package Gilbert Arenas and/or Hedo Turkoglu with him.
And that's pretty much it. If they lose Dwight, it's rebuild mode. If they don't, everyone but Jason Richardson is still on contract and they'll make a free agent signing to replace that SG slot. What everyone is hearing is that Dwight wants to go to the Lakers for a deal that would send Andrew Bynum and Pau or Lamar or some kind of combo like that for Dwight and Arenas or Hedo, but this is all speculation- but so was Carmelo's deal to New York. So we will definitely be sitting on pins and needles this summer watching for Dwight movement because that is priority number 1 for the Orlando Magic.
Boston Celtics 56-26 (I predicted this team would make it back to the Finals last year and stand by that if Rajon Rondo hadn't broken his arm in half).
Notable Free Agents - Nenad Krstic, Glen Davis, Delonte West
Core players still on contract - Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O'Neal
Recap: Big story here was the trading of Kendrick Perkins which had fans, bloggers and analysts shaking and scratching their heads and centers from other teams jumping for joy. You're telling me you don't think defensive center Perkins couldn't take Chris Bosh completely out of the game and help defend on LeBron and Dwyane Wade? (And they still coulda won if Rondo hadn't dislocated his elbow!) In return they got Jeff Green and Nenad's expiring contract. Let's face it, this is an old team and Jeff Green is a young player that could ultimately take the reigns from the big 3 and run the team with Rajon Rondo in the future.
Look for them to: 1. Find and sign scorers. 2. Keep adding pieces and stick with this core for next year including big men to replace Shaq and Nenad.
Doc Rivers signed a 5 year extension recently. He wouldn't have done that if the team was going into rebuild mode. They will stick with this big 3 plus Rondo and Jeff Green for next year. They do need some scoring though. The big 3 are turning a year older and aren't really GO TO guys anymore (except for Paul Pierce). Rondo is a creator and Jeff Green isn't the answer to this issue. They will need to look into free agency or into trades to get a player or two who are young, fast, and can keep the Celtics from going through scoring droughts. Preferably a big man because Shaq is D-O-N-E (actually, he WAS done before the season started), and Jermaine O'Neal is not the answer to this issue either. Glen Davis may leave town if another team offers him more money and after that, the Celtics have no more bigs and for their sake, I hope they don't think Nenad Krstic is the answer either.
Los Angeles Lakers 57-25 (I could write a book on these Lakers right now, but I won't)
Notable free agents - NO ONE
Core players still on contract - Do I have to list them? Kobe, Lamar, Artest, Gasol, Bynum, Fisher, Steve Blake
Recap: Isn't it crazy how Kobe in 09 went from 0 championships to 4 championships, and then in 2010 went from 4 championships to 6 championships? Anyway, these Lakers were the favorites to win the championship and they did their typical Laker season routine by winning a lot of games but losing to some bad teams such as the Cavaliers and Clippers and waiting to turn on the "switch" when the playoffs come around. They went on a 17-1 spree after the all star break (where Kobe won all star MVP) and ended the season with more bad losses. Then they struggled against the Hornets in the first round and got swept by Dallas in the 2nd round. Phil Jackson retired (a damn shame), and everyone in LA is furious with Pau Gasol, the "killer bees" (Barnes, Blake and Brown), and Fisher, but mostly Pau Gasol who had a horrible playoffs. Reactions range from blow up the team to give it another go with this team and make minor tweaks.
Look for them to: 1. Find a new coach. 2. Add pieces based on said new coach's philosophy by getting players who are faster and more athletic.
Hire a new coach-DONE. MIKE BROWN is the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. As a Laker fan I hate it, and would have rather had Rick Adelman or Jeff Van Gundy, but definitely not Brian Shaw but anyways it will be hard to match the respect Phil commanded from his players so we'll see how the Lakers and Kobe especially buy into his plan.
Now that they have the coach, they gotta get some talent. Speed. Quickness. Defense. They got the bigs, they need some speed now. Someone to keep up with the Chris Pauls, Jason Kidds/Terrys, Derrick Rose's, Russell Westbrooks etc. and the league isn't slowing down either. Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are coming in keeping the trend alive that almost every team in the NBA except the Lakers has a fast fast fast point guard. This is priority number 1 for the Lakers. They have bigs. They don't NEED Dwight. He'd be an upgrade sure. But they don't have a point guard at all. Steve Blake was supposed to take the reigns from Derek Fisher but that is not likely to happen (but maybe with a new offense he could thrive). But they will roll with this core again and try to win the championship next year.
Memphis Grizzlies 46-36 (8th seed beat 1st seed Spurs, took 4 seed Thunder to 7 games-WHO WOULDA THOUGHT)
Notable Free Agents - Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Shane Battier
Core players still on contract - Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Tony Allen, OJ Mayo
Recap: In the beginning of the season they extended point guard Mike Conley's contract to $40 million over 5 years. That's a lot of money. People jumped on the hater wagon and said this was one of the worst moves of all time. And although it is pretty high priced, Mike Conley did his best to earn what he got paid and had an improved year from last season, although they were slight improvements. Rudy Gay got hurt in February and had to miss the rest of the season and playoffs. Tony Allen went from barely playing to the team's defensive MVP by season's end. And they traded their #2 draft pick from last year Hasheem Thabeet for Shane Battier (expiring contract mind you). They made OJ Mayo a sixth man mid season to give their bench some scoring punch.
Look for them to: 1. Re-sign Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph. 2. Court Shane Battier. 3. Possibly trade Rudy Gay or OJ Mayo.
One of the best two man big man tandem in the league are both free agents. They need to lock these guys up, especially Zach Randolph who has some unbelievable post moves. Think Dirk Nowitzki right now in the playoffs only instead of fadeaways, Zach's moves are back to the basket. Marc Gasol actually took a step back in production, but he plays with some toughness not seen in his all star brother, Pau. If they can fortify that frontline and get Rudy Gay back next season, this team could be SCARY.