The NBA offseason is upon us, and we're going to see a plethora of moves being made in short order. Every franchise is looking to upgrade their roster; looking to add a player that gives them the opportunity to get over the hump. It's true that the NBA is a star-oriented league, and that having an elite go-to player is most important for success, but other aspects of the roster can't be ignored. The draft and free agency are widely used avenues that can bolster a team's roster in a hurry, and provide them with a player who can come in and immediately make an impact.
Having witnessed the Warriors destroy nearly every team in their path, en route to their second title in the Steph Curry era, the general managers of every team around the league know that unseating them as the league's best team will be no easy task. In order for that to happen, they'll have to make the right moves in the offseason. A failed acquisition could sink a team's playoff hopes, and the right one could be the catalyst that allows them to go on a deep playoff run, and maybe win it all.
Ranked below are 15 offseason moves these NBA teams NEED to make to become contenders.
15 Phoenix Suns: Acquire A Veteran Forward
The Suns have an intriguing roster right now with some very solid young players. Devin Booker is a confirmed rising star, and Eric Bledsoe will be a good point man for years to come. What they need more of a is a veteran presence at the forward position who can effectively score points later in his career.
Acquiring such a player may not guarantee playoff success for the Suns, but it would go a long way to at least putting them in the conversation. Booker can't carry the load entirely on his own. If Phoenix were to add someone like Tyreke Evans or Paul Millsap in free agency, then they have a chance to make a splash during the next postseason.
14 Houston Rockets: #3 Guy To Join James Harden And CP3
The Rockets have established the fact that James Harden is not only their best player, but one of the best pure scorers in the league. Considering the trade that brought Chris Paul to Houston, and how the Rockets have plenty of role players capable of serving in a defined role, they don't really have an established third star on the roster that can carry them on a deep playoff run when defenses are able to keep Harden and CP3 in check.
Consider a player like Serge Ibaka on the free agent market. Not only does he have experience playing with Harden from their days in Oklahoma City, but he would be an immediate fit, and a solid third option on the Rockets' roster. Jeff Green or Rudy Gay are also potential signings that could work out in similar fashion.
13 Chicago Bulls: Sign A Frontcourt Player
It's been a turbulent couple of seasons for the Bulls, who have seen their once-formidable plan become ham-fisted and scattershot. Random, shot-in-the-dark signings such as Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have left the team without a long-term vision, and they seem to be just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
After the Jimmy Butler trade that occurred during the draft, it's clear that the Bulls are willing to take a step backward before they can take several steps forward. They did acquire a few somewhat promising players from the Timberwolves in Zach LeVine and Kris Dunn, but they need to get a big to compliment them. Serge Ibaka would be ideal, but he'd have to be convinced to sign with a project team. If that fails, Taj Gibson would make a good placeholder at power forward if the Bulls can bring him back.
12 Detroit Pistons: Re-sign Caldwell-Pope
Contrary to popular belief, the Pistons actually have a nice young corps of players right now, and they should everything they can to keep them together. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is slated to get big money this offseason, but it would be worth Detroit's expense to pony up the cash to keep him.
Alongside other key pieces like Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris, Caldwell-Pope can continue to contribute to this young nucleus, and they should be a playoff team sometime in the near future. They still have a long way to go to make a Finals appearance, but they're on the right track, and they should be looking to keep their roster of talented young players intact for as long as possible.
11 Atlanta Hawks: Get A Scorer
Many believe that the Hawks are caught between a rock and a hard place right now. What seemed to be a promising young roster several years ago, has shifted into a roster of uncertainty, with no clear leader on the team. The Hawks are good enough to get into the playoffs, but are likely not good enough to make a deep run, and make a serious play for a championship.
The easiest way to reverse this trend is to go get a point-scorer immediately. With the 19th overall pick in the draft this year, the Hawks will have to look elsewhere for help. Viable options in free agency include Derrick Rose and Jrue Holiday. Maybe a trade for someone like Kevin Love? Whatever the case, Atlanta will have to get a player who can put some points, especially with leading scorer Paul Millsap likely hitting free agency.
10 Philadelphia 76ers: Acquire A Shooter
With the Sixers recently trading up to acquire the 1st overall pick in the 2017 draft from the Celtics, likely to select Markelle Fultz, all of a sudden "The Process" is now really starting to take shape. The main priority for the team should be keeping Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons healthy, but in terms of acquisitions, they could stand to add a legitimate shooter to the ranks.
A signing tailor-made for Philly would be J.J. Redick. The veteran would give them a consistent 3-point shooter who has been battle-tested in the playoffs. The price tag wouldn't be astronomically high, and he would fit in right away on the Sixers' talented young roster. He could prove to be a lethal threat off the bench, and his skill set provides a nice contrast to the main players on the roster.
9 Minnesota Timberwolves: Acquire A Defender
The Timberwolves also have a very talented young nucleus, and should be looking at a playoff berth for next season. What they need more of is lockdown defense, and they have several avenues to get it. Holding the 7th pick in the draft, a potential target could be Kansas product Josh Jackson, or they could turn to free agency.
Any quality defensive player who can compliment the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns should aid the Timberwolves greatly, and their success should begin to materialize. Consider them to be an up-and-coming threat to the playoff scene in the NBA right now. They're set up for years to come, and will prove to be a tough out in the playoffs with the talent that they have.
8 New Orleans Pelicans: Acquire A Backcourt Player
One of the biggest, blockbuster trades during the NBA season involved the Pelicans, who acquired DeMarcus Cousins, who was dealt by the rebuilding Kings. Now, with the tandem of Cousins and Anthony Davis in place, the Pelicans have the best duo of big-men in the league. The problem? They're weak in the backcourt, and will need to upgrade heavily there.
Could a Kyle Lowry signing be in order? He's a veteran player who could distribute the ball from the point to Cousins and Davis, along with providing some scoring ability of his own. This signing seems to make the most sense for New Orleans, and Lowry would immediately give their roster a major boost, and make them a dark-horse playoff candidate in 2017-18.
7 Miami Heat: Get Length On The Outside
While the Heat are a far cry from the level they were at when winning titles with LeBron, they've made a relatively quick turnaround, and now have Hassaan Whiteside and Gordan Dragic to build off of. If they can acquire a forward who can run the court with consistency, they could have the makings of a really good team on their hands.
They need a rangy player on the outside who is capable of hitting a big jumper in clutch situations. Jeff Green or Tyreke Evans are the names that come to mind, and Miami would be wise to look into those options. With Dragic and Whiteside being the most important players on the team, they don't have to overcompensate, and can get a player who fits alongside them.
6 Los Angeles Clippers: Move On From The Core
The Clippers have been an enigma for years now, and even though they've had plenty of talent in their ranks, they've always come up short in the playoffs. Now it looks as though they're headed for at least a partial rebuild. Blake Griffin is a free agent, ready to sign with another team, and they traded Chris Paul to the Rockets for a handful of players. What this means isn't entirely clear yet, but there's something brewing in Los Angeles.
Right now, their best course of action would be to simply compile some good young players. They made a nice selection of South Carolina product Sindarius Thornwell in this years draft, and acquired Patrick Beverly in their trade with Houston. A couple of free agent signings also may not be a bad idea to see if they can get anyone to mesh with DeAndre Jordan before he becomes a free agent next offseason.
5 Boston Celtics: Make Good Draft Picks
The Celtics are accumulating a ton of great draft picks in the proceeding seasons, and they'll have the 3rd-overall selection in this year's draft. With Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and several other key players on board, what Boston really needs is a shutdown defender in the form of a young player.
With their draft pick this year, they'll be able to land Josh Jackson, who fits perfectly on a roster that is already full-formed, and ready to compete in the playoffs. If they make a good pick this year, and add to the nucleus they have in place, they may be able to get over the hump, and take down the Cavs en route to a Finals appearance.
4 Washington Wizards: Add Depth To Roster
Finally, after years of questioning John Wall's ability to lead a team, the Wizards have arrived as a perennial playoff team. What they need to do is bolster their bench, and have a greater level of talent in the depth section of their roster. The likes of Wall, Markieff Morris and Bradley Beal may make for a good starting lineup, but it also makes the roster top-heavy.
By making a few well-timed free agent signings, the Wizards could be another dark horse candidate for a deep playoff run next season. Good teams need to get solid contributions from their bench, and the Wizards should address this in the offseason if they want to take the next step into becoming a championship contender.
3 Sacramento Kings: Hit On The Draft Picks
The Kings are officially now in full-scale rebuilding mode, and the first step for any kind of rebuild is to draft well. With DeMarcus Cousins gone to the Pelicans, the team now has find a new star to lead them into the next era. With both the 5th and 10th draft pick to their name this offseason, the Kings have a lot of opportunity to make an impact on their roster through the draft.
Landing a shooter like Malik Monk, or a rangy big like Jonathan Isaac could go a long way to improving this team for the future. Sacramento already has a scorer with potential in Buddy Hield, and should be looking to compliment his skill set. The best bet for the Kings is just to continue making smart draft picks that pay dividends, and stay away from the splashy free agency signings for this year.
2 Utah Jazz: Re-sign Gordon Hayward
Surprisingly the Jazz were able to land a playoff berth last season, and they only figure to improve this year. Many are calling for Hayward to walk in free agency, but the team should really consider re-signing him. He was their leading scorer, and an integral reason as to why Utah was able to win over 50 games last year.
It may cost more than the Jazz would like, but Hayward provides the kind of talent that isn't so easy to get on the free agent market. Until Dante Exum hits his stride (or if it happens at all), Hayward is the team's best player, and should be paid as such. Utah has a chance to surprise some people next season, but it won't happen if they're content with losing proven commodities. Hayward should stay.
1 San Antonio Spurs: Find A 3rd Scoring Option
The Spurs are in a bit of an identity crisis without the services of Tim Duncan. True, the team did win 61 games last year, and Kawhi Leonard has established himself as the go-to player on the team, attempting to fill the role that Duncan played for so many years. Still, they are going to be losing even more players soon. Tony Parker is on his last legs, and Pau Gasol is on his way out the door.
What they really need to do is hit the free agent market for a scorer to compliment Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. They accounted for most of the Spurs' frontline scoring last year, and the team could use a tertiary scoring option that can pick up some of the slack left from Gasol's departure. A strong wing player like Rudy Gay, or an ace shooter like J.J. Reddick could fit the bill. The Spurs don't generally make much noise in free agency, but this time it may be worth it.