King James has been crowned. Lebron has his ring and the Miami Heat have done what they were assembled to do, win a championship. This is the first of six, seven, or eight? Right? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but they stepped up in the clutch this year. Lebron was the undisputed MVP and carried this Heat team to another championship. The Heat are favored to repeat and should be even better next season.
Trades: The Miami Heat’s landed Ray Allen. Allen is the top three point scorer in NBA history. He is a threat and will continue to be a threat from the outside. Mike Miller does not look to be playing next season, so this is an excellent acquisition. Miami has also been talking to another excellent shooter in Rashard Lewis. Miami is aware that it needs to keep adding some pieces to prolong their run at the top.
Miami Heat: A
Winning an NBA championship doesn’t guarantee an A, but it helps. LeBron James haters were in an uproar last June when the NBA’s villain finally won his first championship, but he didn’t win it by himself. Ever since James signed with the Heat, everyone has been talking about the team’s Big 3(James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh), and how they were going to dominate the league for years to come. If you look past the Big 3, you would see the real reason the Miami Heat won the championship so decisively. They had a stacked bench of perimeter shooters who gave them the necessary heart-stopping shots that either brought them back from behind, or widened their lead.
International soccer isn’t the only sport with its own Super Mario. Mario Chalmers proved in the playoffs that there were more than three players in the Miami roster, and knocked down threes like an angst-filled teenagers knocks down trash cans. Mike Miller, in possibly his last season in the NBA, was one of the most reliable three-point shooters in the finals. Shane Battier had been under everyone’s radar the entire season, but knocked down three-pointers to secure Miami’s championship. The Big 3 may have the star power, but the Miami Heat bench has heart.
Looking into the future: Mike Miller and Dwyane Wade are going under the knife this summer. Miller is undergoing back surgery, and will have his foot checked out as well. Wade won’t make it to the Olympics because of knee surgery. The Heat signed Ray Allen as a free agent after Allen left the Boston Celtics. Allen gives the Heat not only experience, but a solid three-point shooter. He also adds depth to a team that is seeing some injury woes. The Heat are also looking to sign Rashard Lewis of the Washington Wizards, which would give Eric Spoelstra a wide variety of options.
Chicago Bulls: B
Long gone are the days of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Derrick Rose is the leader of this team and was the 2011 MVP. It is up to Rose to restore order and bring a championship back to the Windy City. However, this is impossible to do, when he is out due to a knee injury. Rose is banged up and championship teams such as the Heat seem to repeatedly be in the Bulls way to add a seventh banner in the United Center. Carlos Boozer has not lived up to expectations and has most often disappeared, when his team has needed him most. Luol Deng has been solid, but he needs to be spectacular.
Trades: The Bulls must resign John Lucas III. Lucas has been a viable point guard, while Rose has been sidelined. It is no secret that Rose is going to still be rehabbing for a significant start of the season, so it is urgent that the Bulls resign Lucas. The Miami Heat are also looking at Lucas, who would be an exceptional back up to Mario Chalmers. Another option for the Bulls is signing Derek Fisher. Fisher provides excellent leadership, still plays some quality minutes, and is an ideal mentor for the younger point guards. The Bulls need to sure up their line up and maintain a high bench production and hope that Rose can recover quickly.
The Chicago Bulls finished in the top of the standings for the second consecutive season, but Chicago’s Number 1 Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs. A neutered Bulls team lost the series in Game 6 to the underrated Philadelphia 76ers. Rose only played 39 games last season, but Luol Deng stepped up his game and alongside Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton, and Joakim Noah. Together they led the Bulls to the top of the standings. The Bulls also had great defensive stats, and lead the league in assists. Even though the Bulls led the league in rebounds, they could not rebound from Rose’s injury.
They are a fairly young team, and they have the potential and big enough spotlight to become major stars. They were favorites in NBA finals, and dominated the regular season. Their bench however didn’t really shine during the season, and the Bulls were carried by the usual people. Omer Asik gave them a lot of support in defense, Kyle Korver put up points in the very little time he was on the court, and C.J. Watson was the perfect wingman in Rose’s absence. They get an A- for making such great strides in the regular season, but the minus goes for choking without Rose.
Looking into the future: The future doesn’t look too bright in Chicago. Rose is expected to be out for the next 8-12 months while in recovery. Deng decided against wrist surgery over the summer to play for Great Britain in the Olympics, and could see him out for most of the regular season while in recovery. Omer Asik is a free agent, and could go to Houston if the Bulls don’t match their $25 million offer. The Bulls did sign Kirk Hinrich and could see a breakup of the Bulls bench. Expect to see Watson, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver on their way out of Chicago.
Boston Celtics: B+
The Celtics’ Organization had some of the most difficult decisions to make this season out of any team. The reoccurring question of whether to keep together Boston’s big three of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen is finally put to rest with Allen’s departure to South Beach. Rajon Rondo is the premier point guard in the NBA and the best player on the Celtics. He is playing at a higher level than Chris Paul or the overpaid Deron Williams. Like every other Easter Conference team, the Celtics must find a way to get past Lebron and the Heat.
Trades: Jason Terry is going to by flying in the Garden. This acquisition of Terry was a great pick up by the Celtics. This move counters the loss of Ray Allen. Although Allen is a prolific shooter, Terry is younger and more capable at this stage of his career. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are not going anywhere and are looking to collect one more ring.
Boston Celtics: B
The old men of the NBA proved they could hang with young stars, at least up until the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite having three-point record holder Ray Allen, the Boston Celtics were 26th overall in the league in point per game (PPG). What’s worse, they were last in the league in rebounds. The Celtics lack a big man who can play defense, and as versatile as Kevin Garnett is, his age is starting to catch up with him.
Despite their weakness in catching rebounds, they had the second best record in points allowed. Rajon Rondo led the league in assists in both the regular season and the playoffs. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen benefited the most which is why the Celtics made it as far as they did reaching Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though a lot of people thought this team was too old, they shut up their critics. Doc Rivers had a solid roster and gave playing time to younger players like Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley. They get the B for reaching the postseason without a solid defense, and giving Miami a tough playoff series.
Looking into the future:Many of the Celtics have left the organization due to free agency, which left the team with an overflow of cash. Rondo and Pierce are staying. Kevin Garnett and Brando Bass re-signed. Ray Allen signed a deal with Miami and could see him fill the void Mike Miller might leave behind. Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks signed with the Celtics, and is looking to replace Allen as shooting guard. Doc Rivers is also courting Courtney Lee of Houston to leave for Boston. If the Celtics want to continue playing in the postseason, they need to sign a good center who can help them in defense, or at least catch rebounds.
New York Knicks: C+
Linsanity is over and so is the Knicks season. The Knicks’ season was shrouded with controversy and rightly so. The additions of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were supposed to make the Knicks an Eastern power, and now Jason Kidd is on board. The controversy in the Knicks organization along with a host of injuries to most notably Amar’e and Jeremy Lin did not let this happen. Coach D’antoni’s departure after Melo’s request was a part of the craziness in New York. Coach Mike Woodson needs to instill a sense of urgency in his team which has great potential but has not reached it. Championship special? That is up for debate.
Trades: Jason Kidd is in New York and this is a pick up by the Knicks. Kidd will provide veteran leadership, outside shooting, and high basketball IQ. Kidd makes his teammates better similar to Steve Nash. The Houston Rockets have put the pressure on the Knicks for Jeremy Lin. The Rockets have offered Lin a $30 million deal over the next four years. If Lin stays in New York, he could not have a better mentor in Kidd. It is likely that Lin will stay in a Knicks uniform. New York recently added Marcus Camby to the mix which makes for a formidable front court.
New York Knicks: C
Linsanity swept the nation as Jeremy Lin’s name shined past Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. Lin was able to guide the Knicks to seven-game winning streak, even without Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. The New York Knicks played like an actual contender and had a good solid lineup with Anthony and Stoudemire making shots and rebounding, Steve Novak providing support in the perimeter, Lin making assists, and Tyson Chandler playing defense like a beast.
The Knicks made their second consecutive playoff run, and made history in that postseason when they became the unlucky holders of the longest playoff losing streak with 13 losses. When they won their first playoff game in Game 4 in the first round against the Heat, they celebrated like they won the championship. Despite the roster they had, they played exactly like a lower seed team was suppose to play, as cannon fodder for higher seed teams. The people of New York deserve a better team, and the New York Knicks get a C because their star players’ salaries don’t exactly match up to their playing abilities, especially in the playoffs. What saves them from a D is the resurgence Jeremy Lin gave the team and the fans.
Looking into the Future: Jeremy Lin is now a free agent, and the Houston Rockets offered the 23-year-old point guard a four-year, $28.9 million contract. It seems like an extraordinary amount for a young breakout star, but if the Knicks believe Lin is no flash in the pan player, they should try to re-sign him. Although the Knicks have already signed veteran point guard Jason Kidd, he could be a great mentor for Lin if he chooses to stay. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak re-signed with the Knicks, which will provide the team with some much needed three-point shooters. The Knicks should watch out for the new team in New York, the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn Nets: D
The Nets finished 22-44 in the 2012 season. Deron Williams put up the best fight that he could. Avery Johnson is a respected coach. Gerald Wallace is a strong body with an explosive game. Brook Lopez is a solid big. DeShawn Stevenson can be a lock down defender and space the floor. The Nets underperformed, but have one of the brightest futures in the league.
Trades: Deron Williams accepts his $98 million deal for five years. Help is coming in veteran Joe Johnson. Johnson is a huge addition to Williams and Gerald Wallace. We will see how much Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to pay for Superman, Dwight Howard. Prokhorov’s kryptonite may come in luxury taxes, but when you are a Russian billionaire, this may not be an issue. The Nets would be an instant threat to the Heats supremacy if Howard signed with the already formidable Nets.
Brooklyn Nets: D
The only reason the Nets don’t get an F for the last season is because they were only a tad better than Cleveland, Washington, and running-joke Charlotte. The only way a 22-44 season looks good is if you put it side-by-side Charlotte’s 7-59 season. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Kris Humphries were the only shining lights coming out of Newark. It’s no wonder that when Williams became a free agent, every team in the NBA was seeking to wine and dine the star point guard. Kris Humphries caught rebounds like a man after a bad breakup. He averaged 11.1 rebounds per game (RPG). Brook Lopez didn’t play many games, but when he did play, he knocked down a lot of points. The Nets major problem has been defense and a lack of good perimeter shooters. Deron Williams has proven versatile in shooting and assisting, but he only has Lopez, a center, to give him shooting support.
Looking into the future: With a new team color, new name, and a new stadium, the Brooklyn Nets are looking to wash away the past and look to the future. The Nets re-signed star Deron Williams on a five-year, $98.7 million contract, which has caught the attention of Dwight Howard who desperately wants to leave Orlando and play alongside Williams. Three to four teams might get involved to make Howard’s wish come true. Howard can add some much needed defense to the Nets lineup, and knock off the Knicks as the top team in New York.