Tier 1 - (Strong Chance of finals appearance)
The Thunder have not done anything in Free Agency and the departure of Kevin Martin hurt their depth. The Thunder however, still have Durant and Westbrook. With the emergence of Reggie Jackson, and the possible addition of Mike Miller they will be just fine. The Biggest weakness is still the lack of interior presence, as exploited by the Grizzlies last season. Updated: Mike Miller Signed with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Additions: Steven Adams (Draft)
Subtractions: Kevin Martin (Minnesota)
The Spurs might be old, but they know how to play the game. It may be near impossible to be as healthy as they were last season, but people forget about Kawaii Leonard's improvement and the overall depth they have. They kept Splitter, added Belinelli, and will be near the top of the West if everyone stays healthy. Additional rumored targets include Greg Oden.
Subtractions: Dejuan Blair (FA), Gary Neal (MIL)
The Clippers had one of the best off-seasons of any team. They have a top-shelf coach with Doc Rivers, added Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, and was able to squeeze in Matt Barnes AND Darren Collison under the cap. Their interior defense is still a big weakness, but will likely improve with Doc Rivers. If anyone can get a complete game out of DeAndre Jordan and Griffin, it is the Doc. Additional rumored targets include Antawn Jamison and Lamar Odom.
Tier 2 - (Strong Chance to get to West finals)
The Rockets won the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, essentially changing the landscape of the West. The Rockets, however are not without their weaknesses. The team struggles to defend the perimeter, and as a result will still struggle to defend elite wing players or point guards. Jeremy Lin might be benched in favor of Patrick Beverly for this very reason. If Dwight Howard enjoys Houston and returns to his "Orlando Magic" form the Rockets could be instant contenders. For now I am holding my breath. Rumored targets include Mike Miller.
The Warriors were able to make cap space with offloading salary to Utah with first round picks. The Warriors made a splash by signing Andre Iguodala. The Warriors will look to go deeper into the playoffs this season, but health is still the biggest thing holding this team from sustained success. From Curry's Ankles to Bogut's Ankle, this team will need a miracle for everyone to be healthy by the time playoffs arrive. Also look for David Lee to have less playing time this season as the Warriors success came without him.
Additions: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Tony Douglas, Jermaine O'neal
The Grizzlies have been financially conscious, and as a result their off-season was relatively quiet. They Traded Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufas, re-signed Tony Allen, and are currently trying to get Mike Miller to sign with them. At this point you have to wonder if the Grizzlies have peaked. Their lack of three-point shooting really hurts against teams who can shoot threes. The Grizzlies are stuck between the 4th and 6th seed if they stay healthy
Additions: Kosta Koufas, Mike Miller
Subtractions: Darrell Arthur (DEN), Austin Daye (FA)
Tier 3 - (Competing for the Playoffs)
The Nuggets lost everyone from the top down. They lost their GM, Coach, Best defender (Iggy), and one of their leading scorers to injury for half of the season (Gallinari). Lawson will have to score more, McGee will have to improve and their depth will need to step up. They will struggle to defend this season and getting rid of Koufas looks like a questionable move after looking at the signings of Hickson and Foye. They were the 3rd seed last year, but they have lost a fair share of talent and will be competing for the 6th to 8th seed. They have been rumored to shop Andre Miller. The Nuggets also have interest in keeping Timofey Mozgov.
Additions: Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye, JJ Hickson, Nate Robinson, Mozgov (re-signed)
Subtractions: Corey Brewer (Minn), Andre Iguodala (GSW), Kosta Koufas (DEN).
The Blazers by most accounts had a positive off-season by filling every need possible without breaking the bank on any one player. Robin Lopez is an upgrade over Hickson and will probably have an even better year than he did with the Hornets due to playing with Lamarcus Aldridge. Dorell Wright is a perfect SG/SF combo sharp shooter who could start in the event someone gets hurt. CJ fills the 3rd guard role and will likely take attention away from Lillard when they play together. Thomas Robinson is a decent backup option and will likely improve as the year goes on. The Blazers were in position for the playoffs the first half of last season due to their starters. With an improved bench, and improved defense the Blazers should compete for the 7th or 8th seed. The Blazers still have a 2.65 million exception to spend.
Additions: Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, CJ McCollum (Draft), Allen Crabbe (Draft)
The Timberwolves had a comparable off-season to the Blazers, filling every need possible and upgrading every position possible. Kevin Martin will be a nice scoring compliment to Ricky Rubio. Corey Brewer will be a perimeter defender to have off the bench. Chase Budinger will return and will be an average SF to have. Andrei Kirilenko will be missed as he was the top +/- player on the team. Kevin Love will return to form and most likely Nikola Pekovic will re-sign with the team. They will be neck-and-neck with Portland all season.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans had an interesting off-season and as a result are left with a roster that does not seem to work on paper. They got rid of their starting center and good Point Guard in favor of Tyreke Evans. They traded their draft pick (Nerlens Noel) and next year's pick for Jrue Holiday. They are left with an out of balance roster. Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson play the same position. They are left with no starting caliber center. They have three guards that excel with the ball in their hands (Evans, Gordon, Holiday). Unless they have Evans play SF (unlikely), Aminu or Morrow are playing there. This team is in the running for Greg Oden for their center. It is obvious that the owner wants to win now, but the moves they made have created an imbalanced roster that needs some serious reconstructing.
Additions: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Greg Stiemsma, Anthony Morrow
Tier 4 - (Slim Chance for the Playoffs)
The Mavericks lost out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and decided to sign above average players to free agency than go for the lottery. Calderon and Monta Ellis is probably the worst defensive back court you could have. Calderon is an efficient offensive player and Ellis is an inefficient scorer. Dirk is not the same player he once was and they have Samuel Dalembert as their center. This team might have a nice pick and roll game with Calderon, but I don't see the defense there in order to win games. The only way this team can get into the playoffs is if Dirk returns to the 20+ PPG scorer he once was. Dallas is also in the running for Greg Oden.
The Lakers were the biggest losers of free agency for more than one reason. They lost out on Dwight Howard and proceeded to sign players that would prevent them from being high in the lottery. Kobe Bryant is rumored to return by opening day, but he will most likely show signs of slowing down. Steve Nash is unlikely to get any better. My complete lack of faith in Mike D'antoni does not do this team any favors. Pau Gasol will likely bounce back some as he will get more touches. Nick Young and Chris Kaman are decent bench options that will likely be starting on this team. The Lakers would have been better off tearing everything down, making Kobe sit out a year and build around the possibility of Kobe, Wiggins, and collective free agents. Now they are stuck in mediocrity, which is a blessing for Blazer fans.
Tier 5 – (Lottery teams)
The Suns have begun their rebuild, but are too good still to have an extremely high pick in the lottery. Dragic, Bledsoe, Gortat, Caron Butler, and Scola is nothing to sneeze at as they will get a decent amount of wins. I also expect the Suns to see what they can get for Scola or Gortat at the trade deadline. If the Suns can score big at the draft they just might jump start their rebuild sooner than they expect.
Subtractions: Jared Dudley (LAC), Wesley Johnson (LAL), Hamad Haddadi (FA) Louis Scola (IND)
The Kings have new ownership and a new coach. If Cousins puts it together, they could have a decent team. They have depth, but they don't have any bankable stars. Without stars you cannot get wins. Vasquez will probably take over the PG spot. Landry will probably take the PF spot, and yet again no one takes the SF spot. The Kings have an incomplete roster, but if Malone can bring the team together they might surprise some people. They most likely will be on the losing end most nights, but the fact that Sacramento still has the Kings is victory enough in itself for now.
Additions: Greivis Vasquez, Carl Landry, luc richard mbah a moute, Ben Mclemore (Draft)
Subtractions: Tyreke Evans (NOP), Tony Douglas (GSW)
The Jazz decided they were tired of being a perennial 8th seed and chose to go young. They found their starting PG in Trey Burke. They have a nice young front court of Kanter and Favors. Burks and Hayward are not bad players either. It will be a development year for their roster, and they collected more first round picks for the future. If they end up winning the lottery they could be the team to watch out for in the next few years. Until then, expect a lot of losses.
Additions: Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, Rudy Gobert (draft), Trey Burke (draft)