Power balance in the East has shifted after James’ return to Cleveland…
It has been a busy off-season in the NBA following the Draft and Free Agency, but which team has had the most impressive summer ahead of the new season?
Fanatix NBA experts Sumeet Paul and Scott Hazlewood discuss which teams have become a legitimate contender over the summer now that the majority of the moves have been concluded…
Sumeet Paul: We’ve seen a significant shift in power in the Eastern Conference this summer, in your opinion though, which team in the league as a whole has had the most impressive off-season?
Scott Hazlewood: For me really you can’t go past Cleveland as having won this off-season simply because they got some guy called LeBron.
Pretty much whoever snagged the signature of the best player in the world would jump to the head of this list, and despite the Cavs’ front-office seemingly not being able to run a raffle or keep a head coach for longer than three days, they managed to re-sign James.
Add to this the seemingly imminent trade of Kevin Love from Minnesota to the side and you have a ready-made team that can compete for the NBA title next season especially with role players James Jones and Mike Miller signing on this week, with Ray Allen a possible inclusion as well.
Do you agree the Cavs won or do you like the moves another team has made this off-season.
SP: There is no denying how impressive the summer has been from a Cavaliers perspective, as ultimately they have gone from Eastern Conference also-rans to genuine contenders next season.
However, if there is one team to rival them then it has to be the Chicago Bulls despite missing out on Carmelo Anthony. Pau Gasol adds championship pedigree and experience, Nikola Mirotic is an exciting prospect and Aaron Brooks offers depth in the back-court.
Coupled with a prolonged return from Derrick Rose who has looked hugely impressive with Team USA this summer along with the arrival of rookie Doug ‘Buckets’ McDermott, Chicago are serious players next season.
Over in the Western Conference, who has impressed you most?
SH: Of course there hasn’t been the outstanding success like there have been in the East, but there have been a couple of teams that have either boosted their chances in the playoffs or build around their existing stars when names like Carmelo didn’t want to leave town.
Number one is the Dallas Mavericks, who have tried hard to get a big name for the last few years to no avail but I like the addition of Chandler Parsons who adds a lot of upside.
Their other big names like Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and of course Dirk, who re-signed a reduced deal to help the team, are getting on the older side of 30, but they have been saying that about San Antonio as well.
Speaking of the Spurs they have done well to keep the band together for next year given teams always go looking to pick at the edges of great teams to pinch players who’s worth might have been inflated beyond their current team’s means.
Finally I also like the direction the New Orleans Pelicans are heading. I thought there were destined for bigger things last year but a crippling injury toll held them back.
However, with the addition of defensive centre Omer Asik to be paired with Anthony Davis, who showed he will be the next big superstar in the league, the Pelicans are on paper a side that can finish as high as fifth, if they player smarter defensively and keep their best side on the court for more than 85 per cent of the season.
SP: I can’t look past the Spurs on this, given that they have managed to keep Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker together for another year at least. Age is just a number in the case of San Antonio, and with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard also expected to sign a new deal, they will be as strong as ever next season.
Nevertheless, with news that Love will complete his move to Cleveland later this month, I would say that the Cavaliers have won this particular battle. However, Chicago come a close second and it will be fascinating to see how they both fare next season.
SP: Cleveland Cavaliers
SH: Cleveland Cavaliers