*Hallelujah, hallelujah, the Dwightmare is over.
After an agonizing period that seemed like it took forever (because it really kind of did) Dwight Howard packed the memories of his one disappointing L.A. year into a huge suitcase and booked it to Houston to play for the Rockets, leaving the Lakers with one of the strangest, most up-and-down years a supposed superstar has ever had.
Howard’s decision was the last big domino to fall in this crazy (and crazily entertaining) period of free agency. Now, with all the decisions made and ink signed on the NBA offseason, it’s time to determine which teams made out the best, and which teams fared the worst?
WINNER: Houston. You have to hand it to Rockets GM Daryl Morey; he went into last season with a whole lot of spare parts and cheap assets, and over the course of two years has finagled James Harden out of Oklahoma City (for a song, as it turns out) and persuaded Dwight Howard to head to Texas. Harden is a legitimate superstar, and Howard should be more comfortable in Texas, Their moves have at least ensured them a top-four slot in the West.
LOSER: Milwaukee. Treading water is the worst place to be in the NBA – and that’s just what the Bucks are doing. As it stands now, their roster – with Jeff Teague (if a rumored deal goes down), Larry Sanders and O.J. Mayo – is probably just good enough to sneak into eighth place in the East, good enough for a first-round demolishing by the Heat. That’s nowhere to be in the league. You’ve either got to bottom out and be bad (check out what the Celtics are doing) or be truly ascendant. The Bucks are neither.
WINNER: Los Angeles (the Clippers, of course). Adding Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan helps a lot; getting Doc Rivers to coach them is a masterstroke. The Clippers will challenge for the top spot in the West this year.
Wait, did we really say that? It just sounds so weird…
LOSER: New Orleans. Jrue Holliday is good, not great. Eric Gordon is always injured. Tyreke Evans is the definition of “mercurial.” Austin Rivers is a bust. It’s a weird roster that probably isn’t good enough for anything higher than the 7 or 8 seed in a loaded Western Conference. Fly away, Pelicans.
WINNER: Utah. They’ll win by losing. Their roster is just about barren; they’ll start Trey Burke, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and get chewed to pieces by the rest of the Western Conference – putting them in perfect position for a high draft pick in the loaded 2014 draft. They’re Celtics west!
LOSER: New York. Their big addition? Andrea Bargnani. Yeah, good luck trying to leapfrog the Heat and Pacers with him.