It’s July 23, and a vast majority of the free agents have found homes, meaning that the player movement portion of the offseason has nearly come to a close.
So most fans would love to see where their team stacks up, right?
So here’s my ranking of the five best teams in each conference and a few sentences explaining my reasoning. Get ready to be really happy or really angry.
Power rankings leave little room in between.
1) Miami Heat– The two-time defending champs haven’t really changed much at all besides for using the amnesty provision on Mike Miller. As long as LeBron James is in the fold with one productive big man (whether Chris Bosh or Birdman Andersen), Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and a spacer/shooter like Ray Allen, Miami will be the favorite in the East. But the following three teams are gaining on them.
2) Indiana Pacers- While it was mainly status quo for Miami, Indiana will be getting back Danny Granger and they signed C.J. Watson from the Nets to back up George Hill, an improvement on D.J. Augustin, and signed Chris Copeland from the Knicks. Not bad for a team that took Miami to seven games with the East’s best front line and an emerging superstar in Paul George.
3) Brooklyn Nets– As I outlined last week, the Nets are built for immediate success. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry add experience and toughness to a team with three core players (Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson) who could use a lesson or two in sacrifice and hard work. Top to bottom, Brooklyn’s rotation could be the best in the conference.
4) Chicago Bulls- Remember Derrick Rose? The guy who was widely regarded as the league’s best point guard until an ACL tear kept him out since the first round of the 2012 playoffs? Well he’s back to go along with Joakim Noah to form the East’s best inside-outside combo. Chicago and Brooklyn are neck-and-neck here, but Rose has to show he’s really back to eclipse what the Nets have done this offseason.
5) New York Knicks- The top four teams here have improved from last season. The Knicks? Not so much. Their big moves were re-signing the already injured J.R. Smith, signing the amnestied Metta World Peace and trading for Andrea Bargnani. There’s a definite gap between the first four teams and the Knicks right now.
Honorable Mention- Atlanta Hawks– After everyone predicted doom and gloom in the A-T-L, Danny Ferry did nicely for himself. Jeff Teague returns on a team-friendly contract and Paul Millsap replaces Josh Smith with a more affordable deal and an improvement over Smith in some ways. Atlanta is the clear six in the East right now.