To say the last 365 days of the NBA year have been interesting would be an understatement. With injuries, surprising and disappointing teams, a new champion (kind of), and young players starring in the league, every team had a story line and something that can be built on for 2015.
We are in the midst of another fascinating NBA year. Let's take a look at what each team should focus on as their New Year's resolution. . .
Atlanta Hawks – Get some help on the wing
Similar to the Memphis Grizzlies on the West Coast, the Hawks have one hell of a frontcourt. Paul Millsap and Al Horford have been some of the most underrated players in the league for the past few years. They also have an underrated point guard in Jeff Teague, but they lack a true scorer on the wing. Kyle Korver is great at stretching the floor, but he struggles to create his own shot and can’t be a go-to guy. They are an elite wing player that can create their own shot away from being a legitimate NBA title contender.
Boston Celtics - Build on the departure of Rajon Rondo
The Celtics are finally over their "Big Four" stage that led them to an NBA championship. Brad Stevens is an intelligent young coach, and they have solid pieces to build around. Marcus Smart can be one of the better players from this draft class. Being a storied franchise, it won’t be long before the Celtics are good again, especially given the conference they play in.
Brooklyn Nets - Move the older pieces and rebuild
It’s time to give it up, Brooklyn. Brook Lopez can’t rebound to save his life, Kevin Garnett is a fossil, and Deron Williams' ankles have him playing washed-up. It’s time to move these guys and rebuild for the future. Moving to Brooklyn has not worked to their advantage so far, but they can definitely make some splashes in free agency.
Charlotte Hornets - Grow chemistry and unity
Boy, oh boy. The Hornets were really good last year. Expectations were much higher this season, and they have looked like the most disappointing team in the league. The Lance Stephenson acquisition was a major flop. The team looks lost on the floor. They ranked 23rd in the league in assists per game. Al Jefferson hates to pass, and Kemba Walker is not a pass-first point guard. If the team can build some chemistry and work on ball movement, they can be what they were last season but better.
Chicago Bulls - Stay healthy
We’ve been thinking the Bulls would end up in the Finals for a few years in a row now, but they haven’t been in it even once. Thanks to injuries to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and now Pau Gasol, the team has not had a chance to stay healthy for the same periods of time. Fortunately, Jimmy Butler looks like one of the best shooting guards in the league and Rose has been relativity healthy the past month (knock on wood). If Chicago can stay healthy, they have the coaching, depth, and talent to win it all.
Cleveland Cavaliers - Find a rim protector
Everyone knew this would be a problem for Cleveland coming into the season, but no one knew it would be this bad. The Cavs are another disappointing team so far this season. David Blatt has to carry some blame, but most of it falls on their lack of their interior defense. Losing Anderson Varejao for the season will be brutal for them as they are left with just Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to man the paint. Yikes.
Dallas Mavericks - Find solid backup big-men
The Mavericks lost Brandan Wright, who was finally starting to look good, in a trade for Rajon Rondo. Dallas has struggled with him so far, but that was bound to happen given they haven’t had ample practice time. Behind Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks don’t have much to work with in terms of big-men. They have to sign or trade for one in order to get to where they aim to go after trading for Rondo.
Denver Nuggets - Improve on the defensive side of the ball
Brian Shaw has coached the team better as of late despite the slow start to the season. The Nuggets are giving up 104.5 points per game. They do not have many good individual defensive players, but the Spurs did not either at one point. They all just play smart and help each other out through communication and knowing their opponents' tendencies. The Nuggets need to do a better job of that and play better defense. On the bright side, Kenneth Faried looks to be the beast he was last season again.
Detroit Pistons - Celebrate the loss of Josh Smith
Rejoice, Pistons fans. Detroit looks like a completely different team without Josh Smith while the Houston Rockets are struggling to adapt with him. Stan Van Gundy will coach the Pistons well from now on and make them a rising team in the East. They have the best young frontcourt in the NBA in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Upgrades are needed everywhere else, and they still can make more progress.
Golden State Warriors - Keep Andrew Bogut healthy
The Warriors are arguably the best team in the NBA when Andrew Bogut is healthy. Without him, they look just above average. They cannot win a title unless their second most valuable player is healthy. They took a tough L.A. Clippers team to a 7-game series under Mark Jackson with no Bogut. Imagine what they can do under Steve Kerr with a healthy Bogut. The sky is the limit for Golden State when they are healthy.
Houston Rockets - Add some depth
James Harden is playing like the best shooting guard in the league, and Dwight Howard looks like the best center when he is healthy. However, they do not have a legitimate point guard. Patrick Beverley can stop opposing point guards, but he is better suited off the bench. Trevor Ariza has struggled with his shot in Houston, and Josh Smith is Josh Smith. The Rockets rank 26th in bench scoring, and they need help in that department if they want to win it all.
Indiana Pacers - Build momentum for Paul George’s return
Frank Vogel deserves more credit for what he is doing with the Pacers. Indiana still looks like one of the better defensive teams in the league. They started the season without their starting point guard, lost Lance Stephenson, and sadly lost Paul George for the season. He will be back in the later half of 2015, and it will be important for the Pacers to learn how to play without him. When he is back, they will be among the top of the East again.
Los Angeles Clippers - Add a perimeter defender
Jamal Crawford and J.J. Reddick are both horrible defenders, and Matt Barnes does not have it anymore on the defensive side of the ball. Chris Paul can only defend so much without exhausting himself on offense. They need someone like an Andre Iguodala or a Tony Allen who can stop some of the scoring threats in the West. The Clippers also have to build more chemistry. They look out of sync and like a team that does not want to play with each other anymore. Their fire and passion from last season is lacking this season, and they need to pick it up to contend.
Los Angeles Lakers - Get Kobe Bryant some help
This might be hard with the big contract that he signed, but Kobe Bryant needs help badly. Carlos Boozer is awful, Jeremy Lin is inconsistent, and Nick Young doesn’t offer much besides scoring. Bryant can be a willing passer when he isn’t frustrated, and getting some talent around him would make him ecstatic. His time is almost up in the NBA. He should try to lure in a free agent or two this summer to help his career end well.
Memphis Grizzlies - See Atlanta Hawks
Vince Carter is older and Jordan Adams hasn’t panned out the way Memphis expected. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are the best frontcourt in the NBA, and Mike Conley is making a heavy case for a reserve spot for the Western Conference in the All-Star game. They play tough basketball and can hang with anyone in the league, yet their lack of a true scorer on the wing can come back to haunt them when they get deeper in the playoffs.
Miami Heat - Find a center to pair with Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh rewarded the Heat by signing a long-term deal with them. They now have to reward him with teaming him up next to a center. Bosh has been playing out of position for the past few years, and it’s been taking a toll on him. Recently, he’s had to sit out of games just because of his body being so beat up. The Heat rank last in the league in rebounds, and they desperately need help in their frontcourt next to Bosh.
Milwaukee Bucks - Help take Jabari Parker to the next step
Jason Kidd has the Bucks balling. Unfortunately, losing their prized possession in Jabari Parker for the season is disheartening. Luckily, he’s young and will be right back on track when he’s back. Kidd and the Bucks have to help take Parker to the next step in order for him to turn into the star everyone is expecting him to be. He will start next season rusty, but I don’t see any sophomore slump coming in Parker’s future.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Keep Andrew Wiggins happy
Minnesota isn’t a place where many stars want to play. They have to build within. Trading the overrated Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins could have been the best thing that’s happened to them. They need to keep him happy and continue to build on the big moves they made this offseason in order to retain him when his rookie contract is up in the next few years.
New Orleans Pelicans - Get Anthony Davis the ball
Anthony Davis is one of the most talented big-men the NBA has seen in years. He has the talent to be the best player in the league, and he is among the top this season at just the age of 21. For some reason, the Pelicans do not give him the ball as much as he should get it. Davis should be posting up opposing players more in the post and he now even has a respectable jumper. His usage rate isn’t even among the top-20 in the NBA; that is a problem. Once New Orleans draws up more plays for Davis and feeds him more, the rest of the league has to watch out.
New York Knicks - Just get better
I’m sorry, Knicks fans. Phil Jackson coaching through Derek Fisher is not working. The Knicks simply are not smart enough to run the triangle offense. Carmelo Anthony needs help . . . badly. The best player he has ever played with in his career was a washed up Allen Iverson. Get this talented man some help before he is out of his prime. The Knicks need to get better quickly. There hasn’t been a more open time for anyone to be good in the East, and the Knicks are not taking advantage.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Find a way to make Westbrook/Durant work
This could be the last season we see Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant play together. Arguably the second and third best players in the league, they have not been able to win it all yet. They have a few months to make it work or else one of them will leave the team (or both). Scott Brooks' time could be up, too. The role players attempted to step up in the absence of the stars when they were injured, and it was not enough to reward them with many wins. Westbrook and Durant have to learn to win together. If not, OKC will have to learn how to prepare life without them.
Orlando Magic - Continue to grow with the same unit
The Magic can be one of the better teams in the East in just a couple of years. Victor Oladipo is finding out what he can be in the NBA, Elfrid Payton looks like he can hold his own, Tobias Harris is among the most underrated players in the NBA, and Nikola Vucevic looks like one of the better centers in the league. This team ranks last in most offensive categories, though. They need to learn something that works well with them and continue to develop their young talent.
Philadelphia 76ers - Stop tanking
The 76ers simply have to stop tanking. They need to play better. Half of the roster can leave within the next few years due to contracts, and they might as well do so if they know that every year, all they’re going to get is another early draft pick and no taste of success. Michael Carter-Williams can be a star point guard in the league. The team has to build around him and work on their fundamentals because most of their guys are raw and don’t show too much effort on the court simply because they are not surrounded with good enough talent around them.
Phoenix Suns - Establish a frontcourt
The Morris brothers are good and Alex Len is solid, but the team needs someone who can score on the low block and rebound with the best of them. The three-headed point guard monster can’t do as much damage as they would like if they don’t have someone to hold down the paint. Management has to look into making a trade of some sort to get some sort of legitimate big-man help in Phoenix because this team is close to becoming a playoff team, even in the West, if they can get that sort of help.
Portland Trail Blazers - Be consistent when it matters
The Blazers are one of the best teams in the NBA right now. Everyone knows it. Damian Lillard is playing like a top-five point guard, and LaMarcus Aldridge is playing like a top-five power forward. Wes Matthews is also playing very well in the third-best player role. Robin Lopez has to come back healthy and Nic Batum has to step his game up. Portland was mostly a jump-shooting team last season, but they have improved defensively this year. They need their bench and their starters to step up during the playoffs. They haven’t been consistent in the postseason, so the time is now to do so.
Sacramento Kings - Find the right coach for the job (and keep him)
Mike Malone was the perfect coach for the Kings. He challenged them, made them play defense, and was the first coach to ever get to DeMarcus Cousins and help him mature. The Kings management screwed that up and fired Malone. The team has looked extremely lost under Ty Corbin, and they will continue to look that way until they find another head coach to take the job. George Karl, the Kings need you.
San Antonio Spurs - Make the most of what’s left
The team is aging well. It seems like every year, we write off the Spurs and they come right back as one of the best teams in the league. Sadly, their time is almost up. Seriously. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are dealing with lingering injuries, and Kawhi Leonard has struggled to stay healthy this season too. Most of the team can play for more years because they are shooters, but those are just the role players. The stars' time is coming to an end, but what a run it was. Like I said, they still can be great just because we never know when their time will truly be up.
Toronto Raptors - Find a legitimate starting power forward
I love Amir Johnson as much as the next guy, but he is better suited for a backup power forward role. Tyler Hansborough, Chuck Hayes, and Patrick Patterson are all really, really solid backups. None of them are going to be capable starters on a championship team. The Raptors need to find one that can create his own shot and aim to protect the rim while being teamed up with Jonas Valanciunas.
Utah Jazz - Find out who belongs on the team
Quin Snyder has done an impressive job with the Jazz so far. Despite not having a major star player, they are 11-21 in an extremely tough Western Conference. Trey Burke is not going through the usual sophomore slump, and Gordon Hayward is doing everything he can to live up to his contract. Derrick Favors is playing better, too. Dante Exum still looks very raw, and the Jazz will have to trade some of their young pieces sooner or later for an established veteran in the league. They have to find out who they want to keep and who doesn’t fit the team along with who has to go.
Washington Wizards - Prove to have the best backcourt in the NBA
The Splash Brothers of Golden State will be hard to dethrone, but John Wall and Bradley Beal both have limitless potential. Wall is playing like one of the best point guards in the league while Beal is slowly trying to get back to form after returning from an injury he suffered prior to the start of the season. They have a veteran leader in Paul Pierce who can help them take the next step. If Wall and Beal continue to play together, the Wizards can be a force to reckon with for years to come.