There have been many big offseason moves by all the top teams from a year ago except the Denver Nuggets. Do they think they can get back to where they were without making any additions? I'd like to ask Mark Warkentein and Stan Kroenke that question.
First lets review the NBA's offseason moves and if I think they will help their new respective teams:
Cleveland trades for Shaquille O'Neal - This may work or may not. I don't see them winning a championship by simply adding Shaq. Now if they would've gotten Trevor Ariza like they were trying that might have been more convincing. I just don't think Shaq has what he once did. Granted he had a great year last year leading the league in FG percentage. But besides that, where were the Suns in April and May? If he couldn't take a team to the playoffs that has Amar'e Stoudemire and Steve Nash in the lineup then how is he going to help a team get to the finals that has 1 marquee player. Don't get me wrong, Mo Williams is a great PG but he falls in love with the 3 and can be very inconsistent at times. I see them possibly returning to the Conference Finals again but falling short there. You'll see why below in other moves.
Orlando trades for Vince Carter - This I think is the biggest move of the offseason. Vinsanity hasn't had a quality team around him since the Nets went to the finals. This will wake him up and he'll have his best year in a long time. I do disagree with what they gave up, Rafer Alston played very well over the course of the second half last year and in the playoffs. It was a mistake for Stan Van Gundy to play Jameer Nelson at all in the finals, it disrupted the teams rhythym. I thought Rafer played better with the Magic then Jameer did. But he also was inconsistent. If Nelson can return to his pre-injury form then this will be the best move of the offseason. Carter will make the Magic all but forget Tukoglu.
Boston signs Rasheed Wallace - Not much to say about this signing except that it will work great. He'll be a great 3rd option behind Pierce and Allen. Not to mention a healthy Garnett. If Rajon Rondo performs like he did in the playoffs this team will be the top in the east with the Magic right on their heels.
Raptors sign Hedo Turkoglu - The Raptors weren't even close to an elite team this last season. But with the addition of Turk they will at least be a playoff team fighting for home court in the first round. Not much past that, but maybe it'll be enough to pursuade Chris Bosh to sign that coveted extension if he thinks the Raptors are finally trying to build a championship Contender.
Lakers sign Ron Artest - In my opinion they could've not signed anyone, retained Ariza and Lamar Odom and been just fine. That wasn't good enough for the mighty Lakers. They add one of the league's premier defenders. He also isn't too bad on offense either, and playing along side Kobe Bryant will make his shot selection a lot smarter. You saw how him and Kobe went at it, now on the same team Kobe can enjoy seeing other teams take the beating. They will not miss Ariza.
Spurs trade for Richard Jefferson - This is a huge move. Too often the Spurs had to rely on Tony Parker last season with Ginobli and Duncan ailing. AND they still won 54 games before being shot out of the first round by the Mavericks. Imagine those two healthy all year with Jefferson to knock down some outside shots. He gives them four reliable options on Offense. You do lose the defense of Bruce Bowen but who are we kidding, he's past his prime and was slowly becoming ineffective.
Now the rest of the West is still up in the air with the Jazz talking about trading Carlos Boozer to the Bulls. The Blazers are stil trying to make their mark after being snubbed by Turkoglu. Houston signed Trevor Ariza, but with the loss of Yao for a long time possibly and the uncertainty of how Tracy McGrady will come back from micro-fracture surgery made me not include them in the big deals above. Plus Ariza wasn't that effective in the regular season, he made his mark in the post season so we'll see how he does in a starters role.
Now to the Denver Nuggets.
Is Kroenke that cash strapped that he has just said win with less. The same motto as last year that worked then but is surely a risk this year with all of the additons the other elite teams are making. The Nuggets have made some solid moves, re-signing Chris Andersen to a 5 year $26 million deal.
But then they let Dohntay Jones walk out the door in free agency. His defense was key to the Nuggets playoff run last year. He was becoming a young and more athletic Bruce Bowen. This will hurt more then they realize now, although I do think the Pacers overpaid for him at 4 years worth $11 million.
So now it's a certain that J.R. Smith will take over as starting shooting guard. This should've happened anyways given Smith maturing immensely over the last year. Also his defense was much improved towards the end of last year and his offense is explosive. Who will back him up though? They just acquired Arron Afflalo today in a trade for a future second round pick. That will help if Afflalo can grow fast. He wasn't a key player for a Detroit team that went 39-43 and got swept by the Cavs in the first round. To his credit he had the pleasure of playing behind Richard Hamilton and a disgruntled Allen Iverson. Also in the deal was Walter Sharpe, a 6'9" forward with almost no experience appearing in only 8 games last year.
They seem to be set at point guard with Chauncey Billups and a newfound rookie Ty Lawson who they got in the draft. They wanted to take him last year until he ultimately decided to go back to UNC for one more year which I might add worked out well for both parties.
The real help they need now is some front court depth. They don't really have a true center and although Nene and Kenyon Martin stayed healthy for the most part last year, they've both still been very injury prone in their past.
Overall I see them still being a top 4 team in the West but slide all the way out to the just inside the top 8 overall now after many believed they were the second best team behind the Lakers after last years playoffs. They were much more competitive against the Lakers then the Magic in my mind with the exception of game 6. Will they do anything else or hope they can win with less again. Only time will tell. . . . Resigning Linas Kleiza wouldn't hurt as he got back to his old form in the playoffs.
Whatever they do (if anything) they need to do it quick because their peers are making improvements in leaps and bounds while the Nuggets seem to be taking baby steps.