The Hefferbrew NBA Offseason Crystal Ball Part 1: The Eastern Conference- by Cameron Heffernan

The NBA Draft on Thursday signaled both end of the NBA season as well as the conversations about what could happen next year. In Part 1 of our NBA Offseason Preview, Cameron breaks down what the contenders in the Eastern Conference can do to stay the cream of the crop and what moves the teams on the cusp can make to keep up in the conference.

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The NBA Season has come to an end, and with the Miami Heat finally winning the title they promised to bring home a year ago it’s time to look at the Eastern Conference and the possible suitors who can usurp the Heat in the quest for the NBA Title. Since the draft and the obvious picks and the not so obvious picks we’ll take a look at the Eastern Conference and make some theoretical roster adjustments to help put some teams over the cusp and on their way to a championship, and on the other hand maybe help some teams be able to win at the least more than seven games.

1. Chicago Bulls (50-16): Team needs – SG, PG, and possibly a SF.

After two straight seasons with the No. 1 overall record and nothing to show for it besides a star point guard with a blown out ACL and owing Carlos Boozer entirely too much money. One of the biggest realizations was that Richard Hamilton, at the tender age of 33, was not the answer at SG.  The Bulls are not in the running for Deron Williams but with Rose out supposedly for most of the year due to the blown out ACL the Bulls will desperately need at least one more PG. The Bulls drafted Marquis Teague on Thursday but if that isn’t a solution another possible answer there is Reymond ‘the human bowling ball’ Felton, averaging 11 points and six assists last year in a limited role with Portland. Felton could provide not only the starting PG the Bulls will need while Rose is out but also give them a spark off the bench when he comes back. Goran Dragic is another, not too shabby on the defensive end he brings a tenacity on offense that can invigorate an offense off the bench. In the shooting guard realm on the other hand, it would seem that someone like Ray Allen would be a good add on but as I hope they learned last year signing a worn down veteran who isn’t half the player he used to be isn’t the best idea. That’s why you instill some more youth on this roster. With talent like Shannon Brown, J.R. Smith and Nick Young sitting in unrestricted free agency the Bulls have options and would be stupid to just sit there and not at least look into signing one of these players; on the other hand it would probably be best to try and throw the kitchen sink at Eric Gordon or O.J. Mayo, who are restricted free agents.

2. Miami Heat (46-20): Team Needs – Center, Sixth Man.  

Even though they’re champions, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any holes on their roster. The factor that their starting centers consist of Joel Anthony and well, Joel Anthony, they need a little more at one of the most defensively important positions. They also have a plethora of role players that equal a-Voltron-of-a-sixth-man, like some weird Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Undonis Haslem amalgamation. Miller may retire, Battier has maybe one year left and Norris Cole is heading into his second year in the NBA but in no way is a sixth man; thus why they need a sixth man. This is where the crafty veterans like Ray Allen (who is rumored to be interested in the Heat come July first, when free agency starts.)  Jamal Crawford, Tracy McGrady, Gerald Wallace or Steve Nash would also help a lot. The Heat have three superstars already in James, Wade and Bosh; adding someone like per say a Steve Nash would help this team to the not one, not two, not three, not four, not five but like the bazillion championships they promised in their now famous welcoming party. As for their biggest problem, quite literally and figuratively, the center position filled this year by Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf and the corpses of Eddie Curry and Juwan Howard was one of Miami’s biggest holes on offense and defense. Picking up an actual big-man, as opposed to their murderer’s row of shit-tastic centers is key to Miami being able to repeat, Chris Kaman is hitting UFA, as well as Mehmet Okur, Nazr Mohhamed and Hasheem Thabeet; all way more viable options than there quartet-of-incompetence.

3. Indiana Pacers (42-24): Team Needs – Superstar Caliber Player.

Much like the Dallas Mavericks, this is a case of some down-home-cooking. They need, and I repeat, need to get themselves someone who can take over at the end of games or at least be putting up 25 a night. The easy answer to that is Eric Gordon who is from Indiana (much like Deron Williams and Dallas) this would be a perfect fit; but only if he stays healthy. Gordon played nine games this year, missing most of the season due to a pre-existing knee injury that he aggravated in his first game for the New Orleans Hornets. The year prior too, Gordon missed 26 games due to reoccurring wrist and ankle injuries. Whereas LeBron James looks like a bull in a china shop; Gordon is that china shop. Although delicate, Gordon is a pure scorer; in those 56 games he played for the Clippers in ’10-’11, he averaged 22.3/4.4/2.9 with percentage-splits of .450/.364/.825, nearly elite numbers primed for a jump this year to that elite level. He is however a RFA meaning any team trying to sign him has to go through the Hornets first, which is why those teams have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the guy, which now is the time to get those ridiculous contracts in before the pseudo hard cap kicks in next year. The Pacers could also use a General Manager and a Team President so they could maybe pull of this move but they were able to draft the whitest player in the draft aside from Tyler Zeller; Miles Plumlee.

4. Boston Celtics (39-27): Team Needs – Center, SG, SF, Irrational-Confidence-Man.

Boston made it to game-7 against the eventual NBA Champs with what was essentially a seven-man roster. With Ray Allen on the way out and Kevin Garnett mulling the possibility of a return to Boston, the original big three are now a new big three with Rajon ‘Triple-Double’ Rondo, Paul Pierce and Garnett. The Celtics have played the last two seasons without a true center of any relevance or any type of post presence besides Garnett. With a veritable buffet of viable centers coming up this summer, Celtics fans’ can only hope that we don’t have to suffer through Danny Ainge picking up another gem like the bloated corpse of Jermaine O’Neal. Boston has been a solid defensive team for the last three years, so someone like Ersan Ilyasova could be the versatile forward who could push Boston over the cusp. Omer Asik is another sleeper center that has been solid for Chicago and would look a little better in Boston as well as the Mehmet Okurs and Chris Kamans of the world, there also is the possibility that Fab Melo is the answer but that is a very far stretch. It is imperative that Boston re-sign Brandon Bass and Jeff Green this summer, although they drafted Jared Sullinger on Thursday, it’s possible that his bulging dicks, I mean, bulging disc, could heal but it’s a long shot and Sullinger doesn’t seem like the answer. Bass was key in Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference Final, and they were a Jeff Green away from possibly advancing to the NBA Finals. Even though Green had a heart ailment, he had an entire season to get back into shape and recover from his surgery, with the young talent in Green and Avery Bradley they would only need to sign a center, another forward like a Kris Humphries and an irrational-confidence-guy. That guy could be….. Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith; all I’m saying is that having either guy on a team that is actually contending instead of the lowly Knicks of Trailblazers will revolutionize them as basketball players and either one could find their way to 17-points a game coming off the bench.

5. Atlanta Hawks (40-26): Team Needs – PG, SF, Sixth Man, Role Players.

The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the most underachieving teams in the NBA since 2008. They’ve had the make-up of most successful teams with a big three of Al Horford, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson but for four-years now they haven’t gotten out of the second round, they even looked primed to possibly take a leap last year after eliminating the Magic in the first-round of the playoffs but fell short to the Bulls in the second round. They made a minor addition this year with Tracy McGrady but lost Jamal Crawford, so it really doesn’t balance itself out. I honestly don’t know what you could do for this team in order to get them over the hump. When you watch a Hawks game it’s like watching a group of college players who never really made the jump from college to pros. Even when they bring in free agents the aura of underachievement comes over them and they feel they must under-preform and do nothing to help the poor Atlanta fan base. I only hope that pure talents like Horford and Smith, especially Smith, realize their potential and finally bring something to root for in the Dirrty, Dirty.

6. Orlando Magic (37-29): Team Needs – A New Dwight Howard, PG, SF, SG.

Unfortunately for Magic fans, it seems after Dwight leaves it’s the dreaded re-building stage. With a very old roster at-hand and a budding superstar who can’t wait to skip town the Magic are up shit’s creek without a paddle. The realistic option is to trade Dwight for minor pieces tank the shit out of the next two seasons and hope for the best out of the high draft picks. A side note on the Dwight drama that happened this past season. It was like watching a gold digger begrudgingly stay with her rich husband only so she can reap the financial benefits of her last year with said husband. The Magic have said they plan on trading Dwight before the season; if they don’t though it will be a painful sight, when he’s finished with rehab from back surgery, to watch Dwight trudge up-and-down the floor like a dying walrus as he carelessly plays out his final year with the Magic. I’m sure he’ll still put up magnificent, but empty numbers when he comes back, but only in a search for more money with another team.

7. New York Knicks (36-30): Team Needs – SG, A’mare to figure his shit out, PG (if Lin isn’t the answer).

The Knicks were one of the biggest storylines in basketball last year, and not in a good way. They had more downs than ups, and Jeremy Lin was one the biggest and only ups of last year. With Lin attaining his Bird Rights this will allow the Knicks to re-sign Lin and go over the salary cap, a cap that is being eaten up by the likes of A’mare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony both players who have superstar level talent but seem unable to combine their talents in order to make a winning combination.  The Knicks would be wise to try and also re-sign J.R. Smith who is an UFA and Steve Novak, both key role players off their bench last year. The Knicks need an actual starting shooting guard, they have all the pieces besides one of the most important positions in the game and Landry Fields isn’t cutting it, Fields is also a UFA so he could be going to a new team.  There isn’t really any options here seeing as the Knicks are way over the salary cap and their only possibility is signing someone for the mid-level-exception, with that they could afford a veteran but that won’t answer any of their problems and most definitely won’t help them finally get out of the first-round.  Sorry Knicks fans but you have been relegated to basketball hell for the next four-to-five years.

8. Philadelphia 76ers (35-31): Team Needs – A Closer, PF.

One of the biggest problems the Sixers have, much like most NBA teams, is they don’t have a closer. The Sixers are a good team; they just don’t have anyone who can close the game out in the final seconds. Lou Williams seemed like the answer but he is more hot/cold than Dwight Howard choosing which city he wants to ride the coat tails of another superstar to a championship in. Ersan Ilyasova, much like with most teams in need of an offensive-forward, is a perfect fit seeing as Elton Brands’ knees are on the brink of exploding. I realize that Ersan has been my go-to guy for teams in need of forwards, but come on, the guy put up 13/1.2/8.8 26-minutes a game with ridiculous percentage-splits of .492/.455/.781, he plays semi-decent defense and is a fantastic offensive-forward, how could you not want this guy. In terms of a closer it’s time for the Sixers to try sell everything they can at the Lakers and try and get Kobe Bryant.  This being damn near impossible it may just be best to sit back and let your young players get better. Maybe the Will Smith from Bel Air Academy can come and school everybody.

In order to save you and I time I’m just going to rundown the rest of the EC in a honorable mentions/why even bother with trying to figure out how to save a sinking ship section.

Honorable mentions:  Milwaukee Bucks (31-35)

The Bucks are much like the Sixers wherein they have a decent young core that can possibly carry them to the playoffs and as I’ve mentioned they may lose Ilyasova but that doesn’t mean they’re down and out. They have two pure-talents in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, although they both have reputations for being ball-hogs they seemed to click towards the end of the season. The loss of Andrew Bogut definitely cut down on them having any defensive presence but in this high-scoring, more athletic league it seems to be transitioning too, this could be a positive in the future.

As much as I would love to actually run through the entire Eastern Conference and evaluate each roster I am writing this from a hotel room in Vegas so I would like to make one final note to wrap this up. The Charlotte Bobcat completed the astounding feat of finishing the season with a record-low win-percentage of .106(7-59). Some would like to make the argument that maybe this team could’ve own more than seven games if it had not been a lock-out shortened season; that if they had more time to game-plan for teams that they somehow could’ve mustered up some sort of gravitas to win maybe 10, to maybe 15-games. I personally believe that if this team was given a full season they would’ve maybe won 5, maybe 6-games, I mean, even if they’re able to study their opponents, their opponents are able to study them. They were an awful team – constructed by one of the greatest basketball players of all-time none the less – it was always a laborious chore to watch any Bobcats game this year and it was an even bigger embarrassment to the league that they even had highlights that we’ll always be able to look back on and say, “Holy shit! That fucking Charlotte Team in 2012 was fucking atrocious!” “Why didn’t they just contract them and that other horrible-as-shit-team the Hornets that year?”

Hopefully, and I mean hopefully, the Hornets are able to pull their shit together after picking Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers in Thursday’s draft, and hopefully they’ll be able to re-sign Eric Gordon, which I definitely see that happening. I mean they were owned by the league, they thankfully get sold just before the draft, they get the No.1 and No.10 picks in the draft and they were a part of what can only be referred to the biggest screw-up the league has ever seen in the Chris Paul Tradegate that occurred after the NBA Lockout. I can honestly imagine Gordon saying no to the first Hornets offer then a black S.U.V. pulls up outside of Gordon’s house and Stern steps out of the back seat looking like a mix of Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather when he’s telling Carlo he’s settled all family business and the Emperor in Star Wars when he enter the Death Star for the first time and when Stern gets to the front of Gordon’s house somehow Gordon’s already signed a five-year extension or some crazy crap like that.

Thank you much for reading all of Hefferbrew’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs and NBA Finals. Continue to check out our site for more entertainment, sports and other news coverage and opinions by two men who see things the way the fans do.

*Click here for Part 2, where Dustin takes on the Western Conference contenders and pretenders!

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