While some NBA teams were busy gutting their respective line-ups to get rid of bad contracts and/or rebuild, several others significantly improved their rosters. This took the form of acquiring key pieces in free agency or trades, the return of former superstars, and through the NBA draft.
Here are the most improved teams in the 2013 offseason by order of rank:
1) Houston Rockets—Anytime you get arguably the best center in the league to team up with the best shooting guard, you will be an instant contender. Dwight Howard’s presence in the post will immediately draw attention giving All-Star James Harden more space to operate and free up shooter Chandler Parsons on the wings. Howard’s defensive skills allow his fellow teammates to be more aggressive. Additionally, Houston was able to hold on to other core players namely center Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin and added veterans Omri Casspi and Ronnie Brewer. The Rockets are in line to win a division title at least.
2) Brooklyn Nets—The Nets dramatically improved their roster when they traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to join the younger core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. From just a playoff team, the Nets are now considered a possible contender. Pierce can still score in bunches despite his advancing age while Garnett is a defensive anchor. More importantly, this infusion of veterans gives the team much needed experience both on and off the court. As in my previous columns, the big question here is can rookie coach Jason Kidd control all the egos of these alpha males and form a cohesive and unselfish unit? That, of course, remains to be seen. Oh, and by the way, the Nets also acquired versatile forward Andrei Kirilenko.
3) Chicago Bulls—Going by the preseason, former MVP Derrick Rose looks better than ever after coming from a season long injury. Rose has more explosiveness and mobility and is ready to lead the Chicago Bulls to another deep run in the playoffs. The Bulls have managed to keep their core intact and Rose should have no problem running the same show.
4) Detroit Pistons—Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. Two of the more athletic and prolific players in the league are now joining two of the more promising big men in the league. We still don’t know if J-Smoove will be able to play the small forward position as projected alongside center Greg Monroe and power forward Andre Drummond but the Pistons will definitely be a force in the paint. Add Jennings’ scoring prowess and Chauncey Billups’ veteran leadership and you have a pretty potent team.
5) Cleveland Cavaliers—After losing LeBron James, the Cavaliers have been in limbo. However, they have been able to slowly rebuild the team through the draft and now look to move up in the standings. Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett form a young and exciting core. The Cavs also have Tyler Zeller, the returning Anderson Varejao, and Andrew Bynum to anchor the post. It helps that they have the defensive-minded coach Mike Brown at the helm.
Other improved teams include the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, and New Orleans Pelicans. Let the games begin!