It's been "so far, so beautiful" with the activity and movement during the NBA's offseason. Even the smallest moves will have big impacts. Some moves have yet to be made, but that won't stop us from taking an overall look at how teams that made major moves look so far.
Warning: The following is a breakdown that might make next season drastically different than you originally thought.
Dwight Howard holding down the middle. Brandon Bass and Rashard Lewis on the corners and in the paint. Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson in the backcourt. Yes, losing Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee was big. But getting a legit power forward in Bass makes the Magic possibly more dangerous than they were last season. Add that all-important NBA Finals experience into the mix, and you have a team that can honestly say, "We'll see any team man enough to meet us in the Finals next year." And in their minds, the outcome this time around would not be the same.
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan at center. Antonio McDyess at one forward spot and Manu Ginobili at the other. Roger Mason and Tony Parker at the guard spots. Richard Jefferson as sixth man of the year. With "Walk TPG" still intact and (hopefully) healthy, Pop can experiment with McDyess at power forward (moving Duncan to center on occasion might be a smart move on the back end of his career) and run Mason at the 2 as Ginobili and Jefferson share minutes and scoring. Off the bench, Jefferson (canceled wedding and all) can be more dangerous scoring 15 points per game than he was in Jersey or Milwaukee putting up 20 ppg, and he's a great insurance policy in case Ginobili goes down again. Almost more important, Matt Bonner. If he continues to play well and can spell minutes for Duncan and McDyess, the Lakers will have trouble in the West.
The Big Three back in full effect. Rajon Rondo controlling the offense. Kendrick Perkins at center. It's more about the core's being healthy than about the moves they've made so far this summer. Rondo will be a year better and will be talked about as an All-Star. Perkins will still do damage in the middle. All the role players' confidence will be up from their playoff performances. Adding Rasheed Wallace gives them depth and acts as insurance in case KG either goes down again or does not come back to 100 percent. But they did make one mistake: severing ties with Leon Powe.
Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard at the forwards. Erick Dampier in the middle. Shawn Marion and J-Kidd at the guards. Last season's sixth man of the year, Jason Terry, still coming off the bench. Marcin Gortat could have changed everything. Yes, they'll miss Brandon Bass (not as much as they're still missing Devin Harris), but acquiring Gortat along with Marion could have made the Mavs a "get past Denver" type of squad. But with only one major change in the lineup, it's hard to see them having a different season -- and postseason -- than they did in 2008-09. And 2007-08. Mark Cuban still has time to make something happen. The question is, will he?
Los Angeles Lakers
Ron Artest and Pau Gasol at forward. Andrew Bynum in the middle. Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant at guard. If the Lakers are able to keep Lamar Odom (even though they pulled their latest offer), then they actually got stronger over the summer. And if Adam Morrison ever gets comfortable and shows signs of life Phil Jackson might actually be able to take those 41 games off.
Derrick Rose at point and John Salmons at the 2. Luol Deng at the 3 and (hopefully) Carlos Boozer at the 4. Brad Miller holding down the middle. Joakim Noah and Jannero Pargo first off the pine. Boozer (if the deal holds true) gives the Bulls the post threat who could take them to elite status. He said recently that there will be a trade and that he and the Jazz agreed. But the parameters of the deal still need to be worked out. Losing Ben Gordon was huge, but with the signing of Pargo, it'll make the loss less painful. The Bulls might have lucked out and gotten better. It all depends on whether they get Boozer.
Mike Bibby at the point and Jamal Crawford at the 2. Zaza Pachulia in the middle, Al Horford at the 4 and Joe Johnson at the 3. Putting Josh Smith as the sixth man gives the Hawks depth similar to that of Denver or San Antonio. Crawford -- even with all his inconsistency -- could prove to be one of the most important offseason moves in the NBA. If Mike Woodson can establish Crawford's role by March, the Hawks will be that team no one wants to see come late April. They could be next year's Orlando.
Los Angeles Clippers
Baron Davis at the point and Allen Iverson at the 2. Chris Kaman at the 5, Blake Griffin at the 4 and Al Thornton at the 3. OK, let's be honest here: If reports that the Clips are serious about Iverson are true, this team probably has the strongest second unit in the game. Think about it: Marcus Camby, Eric Gordon, Quentin Richardson and Ricky Davis. They might not be able to keep anyone from scoring, but who's going to outscore them? Kaman and Iverson may start, but the minutes Camby and Gordon accumulate will be so much that they will be looked at as starters. Many people don't think signing Iverson is worth it. But when you're a team that has nothing to lose, a gamble on AI could be what makes you attractive enough for a superstar free agent to think of the other L.A. squad as an option in 2010.
Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Roy and Kirk Hinrich (pending trade) in the backcourt. Greg Oden in the middle. LaMarcus Aldridge at the 3 and (gulp!) Lamar Odom -- note: Paul Millsap would have been the perfect piece to the Blazers' puzzle if Utah didn't match the Blazers' offer -- at the 4. Hinrich and Odom (although mythical at this point, but very realistic) could prove to be the difference-makers here. No disrespect to Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw, but this is an upgrade that could put the Blazers into Denver Nuggets territory. Rudy Fernandez gives Blazers someone with Ginobili-type skills off the bench and Outlaw (if they don't get Odom) could finally live up to the expectations that have been placed on him for the last two years. Also, they have Martell Webster as the BKS. Say what you want, but if the Blazers can land Odom or someone of his caliber and status (after getting spurned by Turkoglu), they could be two seasons away from 1977.
Randy Foye and Gilbert Arenas in the backcourt. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison in the frontcourt. Brendan Haywood in the paint. Mike Miller at the sixth spot, leading a second unit that includes DeShawn Stevenson, Mike James, Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton. This team, if healthy, can be scary. Really scary. And if JaVale McGee provides any kind of solid service as the backup center, the Wizards could, as Burgess Meredith would say, be a contender. Only in the East, though.
New Jersey Nets
Rafer Alston on point. Devin Harris off point. Brook Lopez in the paint. Yi Jianlian on the block. Courtney Lee on the wing. Don't sleep. With players like Chris Douglas-Roberts, Keyon Dooling, Bobby Simmons, Eduardo Najera and three other players over 6-foot-10 (not including Yi and Lopez), the Nets could -- again, could -- be more dangerous than anyone ever thought. And if all else fails, next season if you replace Yi or Lee in the starting lineup with LeBron all that can be said is, "begin stacking chips." But that's a year from now. Right now, what the Nets have is a team that is going to do nothing less this season than establish an identify throughout the season. They are perfectly young, perfectly not expected to do too much, perfectly without a player who will rob them in unrestricted free agency, perfectly under the salary cap. They have perfectly put themselves in position to do two things: make the playoffs and make room for LeBron in the process.
Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince on the ends. Charlie Villanueva in the middle. Ben Gordon at the 2 and Rodney Stuckey at the point. (Or Charlie V and Prince at the forwards, Kwame Brown in the middle, BG and Stuck at the guards and Rip as the sixth man. Or Tayshaun at the point, BG at the 2, Rip at the 3, CV at the 4 and Jason Maxiell in the middle.) More scenarios than a Tribe Called Quest classic. If done masterfully, it could work. But Joe Dumars needs to get a big-time player in the middle. If not, he'll have the same problem that has haunted his team for the last four years: players stuck out of their natural positions (think 'Sheed). If Dumars acquired Villanueva to play in the middle, it's almost a waste of his services. The beauty of it is, Dumars doesn't have to make the move before the season starts. He can wait, see how it all falls into place, see how the new coach adapts to the players, evaluate what it looks like and how it will play out against certain teams, then make one more move right before the trade deadline to instill fear into the seven teams in the East trying to avoid the Pistons in the playoffs.
LeBron James will cover positions 1-4 on a game-to-game basis. Shaquille O'Neal in the middle, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker at the guards. Anderson Varejao at the 4. Be honest, the Cavs are still one player away from the Finals. Who that player is, we -- and they -- don't know. (Pssst: Lamar Odom.) Getting Shaq partially answered one of their matchup problems, and Parker helps as well. But if the Cavs happen to meet Orlando again in the playoffs (especially with the Magic re-tooling), they could face some of the same problems. Bottom line: Cleveland needs someone to guard Rashard Lewis for seven games. When Mike Brown was forced to use Ben Wallace to try to defend Lewis at the end of Game 2, it became more than evident that the Cavs had bigger issues than getting other people to complement LeBron's scoring. The one player they need has two roles to fill -- scoring and defending against long-shooting forwards. Whoever that person is, Danny Ferry needs to find him quick.
Conclusion (until things change): Regardless of what any other team does this offseason, if Lamar Odom stays with the Lakers, a Lakers repeat is unavoidable (which is why he's the most important free agent of the summer). If he goes elsewhere -- say, Cleveland -- it'll be other teams refusing to shake LeBron's hand after their seasons end.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Browns decide to start Hoyer over Manziel
- Ohio State QB Miller out for season
- Strasburg helps Nats run win streak to eight
- Pettine: Gordon's effort in loss disappointing