Sunday, May 31, 2015

2014 Offseason winners: revisited

Dallas bound?
The NBA Finals are upon us. The MVP is about to take on The King. Time sure flies. I can't believe it's been nearly eight months since I picked seven teams primed for improvement in 2014-2015. The Draft had happened, free agents had found new addresses, injured players had underwent surgeries... All 30 teams were 0-0 and anything was possible. With the NBA Draft (June 25) and free agency (July 1) nearing soon and teams already preparing for the 2015-2016 NBA season, the time is right to reflect upon my selections.

2014 NBA offseason winners

Overall, I did better than last year, when my seven Offseason Winners notched 37 more wins. In 2014-2015, my selections notched 48 more wins, spearheaded by LeBron's Cavaliers (+20 wins) and the Milwaukee Bucks (+26 wins). I even hit it on the head about Cleveland's championhip march, the great marriage between Washington and Paul Pierce, and Milwaukee's reluctance to remain a bottom-feeder.

Some of my other selections, however, crashed and burned.

Let's investigate where I went wrong.

The Denver Nuggets were 36-48 in 2013-2014, but I predicted that they would turn it around, mainly because they had been decimated by injuries. With their key players healthy and another year in Brian Shaw's system, the Nugs were primed for a winning record and a playoff appearance.

But that never happened.

Denver's season was a train wreck, an ugly display of self-sabotage that saw key players like Arron Afflalo and Timofey Mozgov traded, and second-year coach Shaw fired. A full teardown appears possible, with several team already licking their chops over speedy point guard Ty Lawson.

No splashy additions here, but with their core guys healthy and the addition of talented shooting guard Arron Afflalo, the Nuggets should be able to win 50-some games and make some noise in the playoffs. Let's hope that Year 2 of Brian Shaw/GM Tim Connelly will be a lot more fruitful. Their tough team-first approach resulted in a 57-25 record and a third seed in the Western Conference in 2012-2013, and there's not a doubt in my mind that the Nuggets can return to that level.

And then we have the Detroit Pistons. They improved marginally with three extra wins compared to 2013-2014, but their season was an utter disaster. I predicted they would at least be in the playoff hunt, but boy was I wrong. The team found life via the Reggie Jackson trade (whom they acquired from the OKC Thunder for D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler and two second-rounders), but when no one on your team can shoot, you're in big trouble.

The highlight of their season? Waiving knucklehead Josh Smith less than halfway through the 4-year, $54 million he signed with the team in 2013. Yikes. 

The Pistons have pieces galore. It will be up to head coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy to put a system in place, make sure everybody's on the same page, and leverage that into more wins. I wouldn't exactly predict a championship already, but they should at least be competitive and in the playoff hunt. There are no excuses for them to lose 50 games again.

What where your expectations for the 2014-2015 season? Where you disappointed by certain teams?

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