NBA free agency is in full swing and there has been close to a Billion dollars worth of contracts that have been handed out. The start of the NBA season is only a couple months away and the list of available marquee players are starting to dwindle down. Championship teams can be built through the draft (Spurs), through free agency (Miami Heat; 2010-2014) or a combination of both (current Warriors squad). It’s all about adding pieces which is much harder said than done. Here are the five most improved teams from last year not named the Golden State Warriors (as they kept everyone and signed Nick Young and Omar Casspi for fun).
5. Philadelphia 76ers: The process is here? The 76ers acquired the number one overall pick from Boston to select point guard Markelle Fultz. He looked promising in the summer league before suffering an ankle injury but should ready for the start of the season. Fultz and last year’s top selection Ben Simmons will be making their NBA debuts alongside rising star Joel Embiid. On top of all of this young talent the 76ers added veterans J.J Redick and Amir Johnson to fold. Things could be getting interesting in the city of brother love.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Lose a superstar last year, add another one this year. Paul George is officially a member of the Thunder. George is one of if not the best two way players in the NBA. With the recent influx of superstars into the West, defense will be absolutely necessary to success. Plus he is a lethal scorer who can create his own offense as well. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook should match terrific with George. Having a dominant point guard brings out the best in George, as he thrived when George Hill was distributing the rock to him in Indiana. I’m not as high on Andre Robertson as others. He will form an insane defensive trio in the backcourt but the inability to shoot jumpshots, three pointers or free throws is a big downside.
3. Boston Celtics: The myth that Boston doesn’t attract marquee free agents is absolutely dead now. The Celtics convinced Gordon Hayward to take less money from both the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat to take his talents to Boston. It only took a contract worth $127M to do so. The next domino to fall was to make cap room for Hayward. The Celtics flipped Avery Bradley and his expiring contract to Detroit for Marcus Morris. With no negotiation power, Danny Ainge was able to land a legit forward with two years remaining on a very affordable contract. Plus has anyone seen Jayson Tatum play in the summer league? He looks fantastic outplaying the likes of Markel Fultz and Lonzo Ball in their matchups. Boston is going to be very fun to watch for years to come.
2. Houston Rockets: This league is dominated by superstars. With the addition of Chris Paul the Rockets now have a two to play with. Paul requested to be delt to the Rockets to play next to MVP runner up James Harden. There is still a massive issue of ball handling duties as both players game is molded around having the rock in their hand. If they can somehow find a healthy balance it could be quite scary to defend. Houston then made savvy moves by adding forward P.J Tucker on a four year deal and retaining Nene. Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting the Rockets are trying to add Carmelo Anthony through a four team deal which would really spice things up.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: The clear winners of free agency so far. The Timberwolves won the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes in exchange for only Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and a couple picks. Butler has been rumored to be available since last summer. Tom Thibodeau is happily reunited with Butler and Minnesota can add a legitimate scorer to a young core headlined by Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota did not stop there as they brought in former All-star Jeff Teague to fill the hole left by the Ricky Rubio trade, Taj Gibson , and Jamal Crawford. They now have a very good starting five, and a solid bench headlined by an electric scorer and multiple six man of the year in Crawford and relentless rebounder in Gibson. Making the playoffs is not a dream anymore for Minnesota, it’s now an expectation.
Written By: Steven Accardi