After all the wheeling and dealing, the off-season’s biggest prize LeBron James has finally returned to his hometown Cleveland. Other teams have also been busy, reloading their rosters to improve their shot at an elusive NBA crown. Here are the biggest winners in the offseason:
1) Cleveland Cavaliers (previous record: 33-49)—Whenever you add the best player on the planet, your chance to go deep into the playoffs rise significantly. It won’t be surprising to see the Cavs win 60 games next season. Looking at the roster now, this is arguably the best Cavs roster surrounding James and young talent abounds. You have All-Star Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and the No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. If Wiggins is traded for power forward Kevin Love—a double-double machine with tremendous range—the Cavs are a lock to come out of the East.
2) Chicago Bulls (previous record: 48-34)—With former MVP Derrick Rose healthy and the addition of versatile big man Pau Gasol, the Bulls are poised to rule the East. And with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, the team has one of most loaded frontcourts in the league. Noah and Gasol are two of the best passing big men in the league which would make the Bulls offense more fluid and dangerous. The Bulls also traded several assets to draft Doug McDermott who led the NCAA in scoring in 2013-2014. Called the “best rookie shooter” by his peers, “McBuckets” will help Rose and rest of the team space the floor. Combine all this talent with coach Tom Thibodeau’s team-first, defense-oriented philosophy and you have a contender.
3) Portland Trailblazers (previous record: 54-28)—With one of the best starting units in the league, the Trailblazers had to improve on one glaring weakness—their bench. They have brought in two former Lakers players Steve Blake and Chris Kaman. Blake is a solid back-up for Damian Lillard and he can also do shooting guard duties with his shooting. Kaman, meanwhile, is a proven veteran who can score and rebound in the inside, giving LaMarcus Aldridge longer rest periods. The signing of two experienced players is just what the doctor ordered.
4) Los Angeles Clippers (previous record: 57-25)—The Los Angeles Clippers is already an elite team and they made a great move when they picked up center Spencer Hawes. Hawes can be a starting center in a lot of teams and gives them quality help at the frontcourt. With the reported back injury to Blake Griffin, Hawes is good insurance. Another key pick-up for the Clippers is guard Jordan Farmar who can provide quality minutes behind Chris Paul. The Clippers are all set for next season. Now, if they can only finally settle the team’s ownership issue.
5) San Antonio Spurs (previous record: 62-20)—The Spurs have been able to keep the main components of their championship core intact. These include Tim Duncan, Patty Mills, and Boris Diaw. They are favorites to win it all again.