NBA Power Rankings 2014: Stacking Up All 30 Teams, Post-NBA Finals
The last time we sized up the way the league's best and worst stacked up against one another, 16 teams still had a chance—however small it may have been—to hoist up the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the middle of June.
Quite a bit has changed since then, but one thing remained quite constant: The San Antonio Spurs, a team that truly defined the concept of "team" while defying the traditional notion that superstars have to lead the charge, remained a dominant squad. They handled the competition throughout the postseason, which culminated in a defeat of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Yes, the Heat's chances of a three-peat went up in a puff of smoke, replaced by a smiling Tim Duncan, who finally earned a chance to adorn his thumb with the fifth ring of his storied career.
Now, we enter the offseason and move into the months filled with endless speculation, roster changes, drafted prospects and plenty more. But before we embark upon that journey, let's take one last look at where everyone stands.
30. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks weren't able to, well, buck the trend of league-worst teams losing out on the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery. The Bucks became the 22nd bottom-feeder to slip out of the No. 1 spot in the draft in the 25 years since the Association switched to a weighted lottery system—courtesy of the Central Division co-tenant Cleveland Cavaliers, no less.
The two months since the end of the regular season haven't been all bad for Milwaukee, though. Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, the team's new owners, seem to have a greater grasp on how to achieve long-term success than did their predecessor, Senator Herb Kohl.
"Our view is we're going to try to do this over the next five years," Lasry told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Charles Gardner. "We've got the best 23-and-under team, but that's not the way it works."
Of course, the Bucks aren't likely to get much older with the addition of another youngster with the No. 2 pick. And, really, wise words from ownership will serve as little more than cold comfort for the folks of Wisconsin in the interim. It may be some time before the Bucks get back to the business of winning basketball games and competing for playoff seeding.
But at least the franchise now has a plan of some sort in place to achieve something more than an interminable string of first-round ousters.
29. Utah Jazz
Things are looking up for the Utah Jazz. After suffering through one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Jazz now have themselves a promising head coach (Quin Snyder), a top-five pick in a loaded draft and a roster replete with intriguing, young players.
That pick, in particular, could go a long way toward determining how Utah approaches the upcoming summer; Gordon Hayward will be a restricted free agent come July 1, and Enes Kanter will be eligible for an extension.
Utah's likely options at No. 5 bode better for Hayward than they do for Kanter. This year's draft is long on potent power forwards, and Kanter hasn't exactly been a slam dunk as a frontcourt partner for Derrick Favors. If the Jazz find themselves another big man on June 26, don't be surprised if Kanter winds up on the trading block shortly thereafter.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers appear to have their sights set on Andrew Wiggins in this year's NBA draft—which, frankly, isn't exactly Earth-shattering news. Surely, all 30 teams would love to acquire Wiggins if they could.
But the Sixers seem to be making a concerted effort to bring the Toronto native to the City of Brotherly Love. According to ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required), Philly has discussed trading up from the No. 3 spot and into the Cleveland Cavaliers' top spot. The Sixers, though, are reluctant to relinquish both their own pick and the No. 10 pick they own courtesy of the New Orleans Hornets.
Any blue-chipper should do in Philly after the planned misery of this past season. But the Sixers already sport potential cornerstones at point guard (2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams) and center (Nerlens Noel), and they could certainly use a wing scorer like Wiggins or Jabari Parker to further fill out their foundation.
27. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic's decision come draft day might not be so clear cut.
Point guard is probably the most glaring need on the Magic's roster at present. Victor Oladipo is a gifted player, but an awkward fit up top—on the offensive end, anyway. Jameer Nelson's $8 million salary for 2014-15 isn't fully guaranteed, and he's well over the hill as is.
It would make a ton of sense, then, for Orlando to pluck a gifted floor general, like Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart or Australian sensation Dante Exum, out of this year's pool of first-year entrants.
But power forward isn't exactly an area of strength for the Magic, either. Between Jason Maxiell, Andrew Nicholson and Tobias Harris, Orlando has three decent bigs, albeit nothing close to a reliable starter, much less a bona fide star.
At No. 4, the Magic should have their pick of the litter between Indiana's Noah Vonleh, Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Kentucky's Julius Randle.
Decisions, decisions, indeed.
26. Los Angeles Lakers
Six weeks have passed since Mike D'Antoni and the Los Angeles Lakers parted ways, and the Purple and Gold are still without a head coach.
Not that the Lakers have simply been lounging around all this time, though. Rather, they've been busy interviewing candidates and considering their options. According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, the team currently has three potential hires in mind: Kurt Rambis, Alvin Gentry and Byron Scott.
At present, Scott looks like the odds-on favorite to emerge from that morass. He's close with Kobe Bryant and even closer with L.A.'s championship history, and his coaching resume is easily the best of the three.
That being said, the Lakers are in no rush to pick a coach at this point. They're better off taking their sweet time and doing their due diligence, particularly with draft preparations in full swing. Said Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding:
What they would do, absolutely, is the same thing they've had in mind from the beginning of this coaching search: If no one dazzles them as a must-hire guy as soon as possible, they'll just keep waiting and evaluate the potential benefit of how well the next coach matches up with whoever is on the roster besides Bryant.
25. Boston Celtics
Kevin Love's "vacation" in Beantown smelled fishy from the moment word broke that he was touring his way around the capital of the Commonwealth. His encounter with Rajon Rondo at Fenway Park may have been nothing more than a coincidence.
But, honestly, is a guy who lives in and loves L.A. really going to trip to Boston in the spring just for the fun of it, especially after spending yet another long, cold, disappointing winter with the Minnesota Timberwolves?
Grantland's Zach Lowe, for one, didn't think so:
The Celtics have their eyes on bigger things, including Kevin Love. That weekend jaunt to Boston was not a coincidence. Love is eyeing the Celtics, and they are eyeing him, and Love wanted to send a message — even if it amounted to a double bird right in Minnesota’s face.
Appealing to Love is one thing. Prying him from the Wolves' clutches will be another one entirely. Boston owns all manner of draft picks and moveable contracts, but it doesn't possess any one asset around which the best possible package might be built.
Not that this would preclude the C's from making a deal, so long as Love is up for auction. It just means GM Danny Ainge would have to get creative, perhaps by looping in another team (or two) that might find Boston's treasure trove of tradeable pieces more appealing.
24. Detroit Pistons
There are certainly worse situations in the NBA than the one which Stan Van Gundy walked into with the Detroit Pistons. But that doesn't mean Van Gundy won't have his work cut out for him this summer.
He's already hired a GM—former New Orleans Hornets executive Jeff Bower—to oversee the day-to-day operations of the front office. It'll be up to Bower and Van Gundy in tandem to decide what to do about Greg Monroe, who will be a restricted free agent come July 1.
"I value Greg Monroe highly, yes, I do want him here," Van Gundy told the Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill. "But … when you’re dealing with free agents, even restricted free agents, the situation gets more complicated."
It is even more so when said restricted free agent is part of a frontcourt that's already crowded with the likes of Andre Drummond and Josh Smith. The loss of the team's lottery pick—courtesy of the Cavaliers' jump up to the No. 1 spot and the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette swap of 2012—won't make it any easier for Van Gundy and Co. to find the perimeter help they need if they're to ease that spatial logjam in the middle.
23. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans all but shot their wad last summer when they traded for Jrue Holiday on draft night and signed Tyreke Evans in free agency. As a result of those two moves (and the re-signing of Eric Gordon two years ago), the Pels will enter the 2014 offseason with only a marginal amount of cap space, at best, and a second-round pick in the draft later this month.
This doesn't mean, though, that New Orleans won't make meaningful additions to its roster in the coming months—or that the team is screwed if it doesn't. Healthier campaigns from Holiday and Ryan Anderson, both of whom had managed to avoid injury in the seasons prior to 2013-14, would do wonders for this squad's prospects. So, too, would a more consistent and comfortable role for 'Reke.
But New Orleans' upside still comes down to what's on offer from Anthony Davis. The All-Star forward has been hard at work adding muscle to his rail-thin frame since the Pelicans shut him down with five games to go in this season.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams told the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Nakia Hogan:
He's just naturally getting bigger. It's weird seeing him. He's put on some muscle. I'm not going to be cracking a lot (skinny) jokes about him anymore. Before I could just put him down, now I'm like you have to be messing with my wife and kids for me to attack him now. He's put on some muscle. I didn't think he would be that much different but he looks different.
The Pelicans can only hope the results in the win column will be different, too.
22. Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have been open for business from the moment their pick in the 2014 NBA draft "dropped" to No. 8 by way of the lottery. They want to win now.
And it is not just because they haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2006 or that Vivek Ranadive, like most new owners, is eager to please his fans while boosting his own miracle-working credentials.
From a purely practical standpoint, the Kings want to win because their financial situation suggests that they should. Assuming Rudy Gay picks up his $19.3 million option for 2014-15, Sacramento's payroll will already surpass the projected salary cap of $63.2 million, with a $77 million luxury-tax threshold looming thereafter.
In other words, the Kings are already set to spend like winners, so they might as well try to get as much bang for their buck as they can. That could mean passing on the retention of Isaiah Thomas, who's due for a substantial raise in restricted free agency this summer.
For what it's worth, Ford recently reported (subscription required) that the Kings have already targeted Milwaukee's Brandon Knight and Atlanta's Dennis Schroeder via trade, and they could use the No. 8 pick on Marcus Smart or Elfrid Payton—if they do, indeed, decide to keep it.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers
It won't be long before the picture of the Cleveland Cavaliers' future clears up considerably. In the meantime, let the speculation continue apace!
Their approach to the No. 1 pick in this year's draft appears to be up in the air. The Cavs have clear positional needs on the wing and in the paint, and they could fill one of those with either Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid.
Or they could shop the pick in pursuit of an established star who might instantly vault them back into the playoff picture. The possibilities are endless.
The same isn't quite so true of the Cavs' coaching search, though it might not be that far off. According to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, Cleveland has narrowed its list down to the trio of Alvin Gentry, Tyronn Lue and Maccabi Tel Aviv's David Blatt. However, there's word that Mark Jackson could be a candidate for the gig, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.
This, after the Cavs reportedly offered everything but the kitchen sink (i.e. a 10-year contract worth nearly $80 million, per ESPN) to pry John Calipari from the University of Kentucky and make him the team's president and head coach.
Of course, much of the optimism surrounding all this chaos will be rendered moot if the Cavs can't ink Kyrie Irving to an extension this summer.
20. Denver Nuggets
The end of the Denver Nuggets' decade-long playoff streak could give way to some exciting new beginnings in the Mile High City.
Brian Shaw isn't going anywhere. Neither are Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari and Nate Robinson are all on the mend from devastating injuries. Those considerations, along with Timofey Mozgov's emergence, would be reasons enough for the Nuggets faithful to take heart ahead of the 2014-15 season.
But the summer ahead could yield even more cause for celebration in Colorado. The Nuggets are trying to bring Joffrey Lauvergne, a talented young Frenchman chosen in last year's draft, over from Partizan Belgrade in time for the fall.
As for this year's draft, Denver is already hard at work shopping the No. 11 pick. According to Ford (subscription required), the Nuggets have already talked to the Chicago Bulls about swapping their selection for Nos. 16 and 19, and could look to move up—or out entirely—depending on the opportunities that arise.
"We've had a lot of conversations about a ton of different things — picks, trades," GM Tim Connelly told the Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey. "We're pretty active right now."
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love has confirmed what everyone already knew long before ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein broke the story: Love will opt out of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves next summer, assuming the team doesn't ship him elsewhere first.
"Yeah. I mean, obviously, it’s all being handled through my agent," Love told Bleacher Report at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles when asked about the reports. "You know, at the end of the day, all I can say is that I want to win. However it’s being handled, I’m just kind of keeping it out of my control, keeping my head up, continuing to work, like I mentioned, for the World Championships this summer and, you know, wherever I may end up, if anywhere. But, you know, I just keep giving the real generic answer, like I’ll be playing for one of 30 teams next year and keep it rolling."
Love, to his credit, didn't limit his diplomacy to the long list of suitors out there. "It’s a tough thing to talk about in my spot just because Minnesota’s been so great to me and the people there have been so great," Love added. "You know, I’ve done a lot of great things in the NBA and I’m proud of it, but at the end of the day, I just want to win."
Which is something the T-Wolves certainly won't be doing much of next season if Love does, indeed, find a new home this summer.
18. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have finally found their head coach, but that doesn't mean the offseason is going to get any easier.
Derek Fisher will be running the show for the 'Bockers throughout the 2014-15 campaign, though it's still unknown the extent to which he'll be independent versus serving as a sideline puppet for the Zen Master's wishes and whimsy. Phil Jackson will at least help guide Fisher's hand; that much is certain.
Still uncertain is the future of Carmelo Anthony, which is easily the biggest question surrounding this team's future. The most recent report comes from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, which has Melo opting out of his contract, something he'll need to do before the late-June deadline, but that doesn't mean he has to leave.
While opting out allows the small forward to pursue other options, it in no way prevents the Knicks from using Bird Rights to re-sign him to a lengthier deal.
With no draft picks or cap space to speak of, New York has all its eggs in one rather flimsy basket.
17. Charlotte Hornets
Michael Jordan wants a superstar.
"I always thought Charlotte was a great destination," the near-consensus GOAT told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) following an education fundraiser in the midst of the NBA playoffs. "Big Al has proven that you can come here and make a big difference. Hopefully we can look at that and attract some other superstars."
Though it's not entirely certain who M.J. views as the first superstar—"other" implies that one already calls Charlotte home—it's certainly possible for him to use the team's cap space to reel one in. Probable? Well, that's a different story.
The offseason is bound to be an adventure for the now-Charlotte Hornets, just as it was during the summer of 2013.
Though there's plenty of young talent, the ability to land another lottery pick and some cap space conducive to free-agent splashes, Charlotte is still fighting the stigma it earned over the last few seasons. One playoff appearance might not be enough to eliminate that quite yet.
16. Phoenix Suns
Will the Phoenix Suns carry over their surprising success?
This team narrowly missed out on a playoff berth in the brutally difficult Western Conference, but it's still inundated with premier young talent. Well, maybe...
Eric Bledsoe is set to hit the market as a restricted free agent this summer, and it's of paramount importance that the desert-based franchise finds a way either to match the offer sheet he will inevitably sign—even if it's the max deal he covets, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears—or figure out how to replace him.
Nonetheless, Phoenix has plenty of talent.
Goran Dragic emerged as one of the best backcourt players in the NBA during the 2013-14 campaign, landing a Third Team All-NBA selection as a reward for his efforts. The Morris twins, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and Miles Plumlee all impressed as well, though obviously not to the same extent.
Now it's time for Phoenix to take the next step, using its youth and abundance of draft picks to transform itself from playoff contender to title contender.
15. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls did a fantastic job of remaining competitive in the wake of the Derrick Rose injury, but now they're permitted to get excited about the return of the former MVP. After all, he'll be a major draw for free agents and marquee players who might require more complicated methods of arrival (*cough* Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony *cough*).
But the offseason isn't all about D-Rose.
Carlos Boozer is a strong amnesty candidate, there's bound to be some semblance of drama when luring Nikola Mirotic across the pond and we can't forget about the excitement of Taj Gibson potentially earning the starting gig he's deserved for quite some time.
The Bulls always seem to be competitive, and they'll likely be considered strong contenders once a healthy Rose joins this year's Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah on the court. But that's not going to stop this front office from finally appeasing Tom Thibodeau by adding quite a bit of talent. That's the goal at least.
14. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks can sit tight and still improve, even if they went from potentially closing out Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers to suffering a disappointing loss in Game 7 that eliminated them from contention.
This was a middling, mediocre team in 2013-14—one that only had a chance to square off against the slumping Pacers by virtue of the weak Eastern Conference and the failed comeback attempts of both a struggling New York Knicks squad and a dysfunctional bunch in Cleveland.
However, the arrival of two players will greatly aid the cause moving forward.
Lucas Nogueira, the high-upside center from Brazil who was drafted in the first round last year, will be joining the team in 2014-15. He's already been working out in Atlanta after an up-and-down season in Spain.
"Nogueira played for Asefa Estudiantes Madrid of the ACB League last season. He left the team for two months to come to the United States for rehabilitation for tendinitis in his knees," reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "In 18 games for Estudiantes he averaged 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 17 minutes. He was named the league’s top defensive player."
Atlanta could certainly use some frontcourt boost, which will also be supplied in abundance by Al Horford. Torn pectorals don't stay torn forever.
13. Toronto Raptors
So begins the chase after Kyle Lowry. The point guard used his bulldog mentality and charge-taking abilities quite well throughout his second season with the Toronto Raptors, winning over general manager Masai Ujiri by virtue of his 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game.
However, he's now an unrestricted free agent, and he is one whose services will be fiercely desired by a number of teams that are hungry for an upgrade at the 1. Toronto simply can't afford to let him go, as he and DeMar DeRozan were the key reasons that the Raptors restored relevancy while advancing to the postseason for the first time since Chris Bosh departed for South Beach.
Should he return, it's going to be awfully hard to overlook Toronto next season.
DeRozan and Lowry make for an impressive backcourt, and that's saying nothing of Terrence Ross. Add in the expected offseason improvements of Jonas Valanciunas, and you're looking at a dangerous squad in the Eastern Conference.
12. Dallas Mavericks
It's time for the Dallas Mavericks to stop striking out on their free-agent pursuits.
Throughout the years, they've missed out on big name after big name. From LeBron James and Deron Williams to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, everyone has chosen to go to another destination, which is a rather strange situation for a team with a respected owner, a willingness to spend, a lack of state sales tax and a strong franchise pedigree.
This season, it's particularly important, as Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and more are all hitting the open market.
Dallas posted a surprisingly strong season during the first year of the Monta Ellis era, but in order for Dirk to go out on a high note, solid roster construction is required this offseason. Missing out on too many players simply isn't an option for the Mavs in the coming months.
11. Houston Rockets
Are the Houston Rockets going to be content entering the 2014-15 season with only Dwight Howard and James Harden qualifying as stars on their roster?
Let me ask that another way.
Is Daryl Morey still the general manager?
It shouldn't be the least bit surprising that Carmelo Anthony has been linked to the Rockets before he's even opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks, nor would it be surprising if Houston freed itself of the poison pills—Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik—in order to create more room for marquee players. The franchise has already taken the first step by declining Chandler Parsons' team option, which gives it an opportunity to either let him walk or use him as bait in a sign-and-trade deal.
The first season of pairing D12 and Harden together wasn't as successful as hoped, seeing as the Rockets advanced to the postseason but fell to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Though the team's ceiling is certainly higher than a first-round exit, Morey surely recognizes that the team does not currently rise quite as high as the level occupied by those who are able to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
10. Golden State Warriors
Welcome to the Bay Area, Steve Kerr.
The new head coach might not have any experience running the show for an NBA squad like the Golden State Warriors, nor has he sat on the sidelines as a coach at any level, but it's already terrifying to think of the offense the Dubs could employ with him at the helm.
Maybe Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will finally transform into quality shooters now that the legendary sniper is going to spend an offseason giving them pointers. Oh, they already are? Well, maybe they'll just get even better.
The Warriors were ultimately doomed by two things during the 2014 postseason: the absence of Andrew Bogut and the lack of offensive creativity. Both of those voids should be filled going into the summer, which is rather significant since there isn't much ability to upgrade elsewhere.
Devoid of cap space and draft picks, Golden State is left to rely upon internal developments and boosts from the coaching staff.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
Is this the offseason that the Memphis Grizzlies finally upgrade their perimeter shooting?
Scratch that. Let's start over.
Is this the offseason that the Memphis Grizzlies finally upgrade their perimeter shooting in a way that actually works?
Last year's additions of Mike Miller and Jamaal Franklin didn't pan out particularly well. Even with them on the roster, the Grizz still made 81 fewer three-pointers than any other team in the Association, per Basketball-Reference. On top of that, the lack of perimeter volume came despite the team shooting at a 35.3 percent clip from downtown, one that left Memphis in the bottom third of the league.
Shoring up this weakness is a must, as the starting lineup will remain intact for next year, assuming Zach Randolph picks up his $16.9 million player option rather than hitting free agency and leaving for a new locale. Whether it's done through veteran minimums and cap exceptions or by using the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, shooting must be added in order to space things out for the team's interior-based offense.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard's buzzer-beating heroics in Game 6 of the Western Conference playoffs' first round will live on in the memory of Rip City. However, that doesn't mean the second-year point guard's shot has to remain the best moment the franchise has experienced.
Going further in the postseason next year would be nice, especially after the San Antonio Spurs manhandled Portland in a 4-1 series beatdown in the second round. But how?
Improving the bench is a must, as there was an inordinate amount of pressure on Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez this season. Somehow, each member of the starting five remained almost completely healthy throughout the year, which isn't something that's easy to repeat going forward.
HoopsStats.com shows that Portland's bench finished No. 27 in defensive efficiency and dead last in offensive efficiency during the 2013-14 campaign, a combination that doesn't exactly seem conducive to success. Using free-agent dollars and draft picks on the second unit is of paramount importance if Portland plans on continuing the success it experienced during a shocking season.
7. Brooklyn Nets
In case you've forgotten, the Brooklyn Nets have a player who averaged 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 56.3 percent from the field before he succumbed to yet another major foot injury.
His name? Brook Lopez.
The big man might have to change his style of play to avoid future maladies, but he's still a dominant player who carried the Brooklyn offense while improving his rim-protection skills prior to being lost for the season. Don't forget that Jason Kidd's initial offensive system seemed to be throwing the ball into Lopez's hands and hoping for the best.
However, a potential ownership change could shake everything up. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is listening to offers, largely driven by Steve Ballmer's $2 billion purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers. He continues to stake his claim as one of the league's more interesting—and mysterious—figures.
6. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards aren't going to go away for a long while, even if Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat leave for a new team during the offseason. After all, they have one of the most promising backcourts the NBA has to offer.
John Wall established himself as an elite point guard during this latest run through the Eastern Conference, and he's still young enough to continue improving rather significantly as he justifies his max deal. Then there's Bradley Beal, who looked like an unquestioned stud during the team's brief postseason run.
Building around that backcourt bodes well for the future, especially if Otto Porter looks better during his sophomore season. Getting hurt prior to the start of his rookie year delayed his development, preventing him from breaking into the rotation while he was still fresh out of Georgetown.
But if he can contribute next year? Then the Wizards will be all the more dangerous, as they're already a team on the rise in the NBA's weaker conference.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
Let's take some time to avoid the Donald Sterling situation, which continues to develop new twists and turns, even after former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer purchased the team for a record $2 billion. What's happening on the court and on the depth chart should remain the focus.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all played well enough to be considered a Big Three during the 2013-14 campaign, but that won't mean anything if the team keeps coming up short during the postseason. Granted, strange officiating decisions worked against them at various points during this past playoff run, but the Clippers still didn't play well enough to justify their regular-season performance.
That can change if the frontcourt depth gets better, helping the bench play more effectively while spending enough time on the court to keep Griffin and Jordan fresher for the most crucial portion of the season. Another season of Ryan Hollins, Glen Davis, Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens isn't going to cut it.
For LAC, failing to draft a big man at No. 28 should be a fireable offense unless the team has full confidence it can add quality veterans on minimum contracts during the portion of the offseason that comes after the moratorium lifts.
4. Indiana Pacers
Another year and another playoff exit at the hands of the Miami Heat. In each of the past three seasons, the Indiana Pacers succumbed to the team that's made four NBA Finals appearances in a row, twice in the penultimate series of the playoffs.
This offseason now becomes about figuring out how to get over that hump.
Frank Vogel will still be at the helm for the 2014-15 campaign, and Paul George will still lead the charge as the team's best player. Plus, Roy Hibbert is bound to regain some semblance of confidence after a second-half slump carried over into the postseason and left him as more of a lumbering liability than anything else.
But there are still two huge variables.
George Hill's status as the point guard of the future is firmly up in the air, as Indiana must improve the play of its floor generals in order to move past the Eastern Conference Finals going forward.
On top of that, Lance Stephenson's future is a huge question mark. Will he take a discount for the team he's developed with? Will the Pacers renege on their desires to avoid the luxury tax in favor of re-signing Born Ready and upgrading the bench at the same time? Will he even sign an exorbitant offer sheet with another team during the offseason after his antics with LeBron James seemed to depress his stock?
There are plenty of questions, but no answers have emerged quite yet.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Have the Oklahoma City Thunder reached their ceiling?
After yet another exit without winning the NBA Finals, that's a question that has to be on the mind of Sam Presti and the rest of the front office in OKC. Then again, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka are all on the roster and have yet to reach their athletic primes. There's still a solid chance that all of them could keep improving.
On top of that, the Thunder have to expect offseason improvements from Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb, both of whom flashed plenty of potential throughout the most recent go-round.
But is that enough? Is it enough to overcome lackluster coaching and a ridiculously difficult slate of competition in the Western Conference?
Durant may be coming off his first MVP-winning season, but he'll have to get even better. Either that, or the management must continue the success it's experienced in the draft, hitting with the No. 21 pick in the June 26 proceedings and adding another key piece to the rotation.
2. Miami Heat
For the Miami Heat, dreams of a three-peat—one that would allow them to join the Minneapolis Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers in an exclusive club that remains put at just four members—remained exactly that: a dream.
And after being tortured by the San Antonio Spurs' offense, suffocated by Gregg Popovich's defense and thoroughly humiliated during routs in both Games 3 and 4 of the Finals, the questions now shift to the future. More specifically, they shift toward the future of the Big Three.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have early termination options on their current contracts this summer, and their decisions have plenty of potential to shape this Miami franchise in the coming years. The possible events of this summer range anywhere from seeing all three opt out and take their talents to new organizations to each of them opting out and re-signing for less money, which would allow the team to bring in a star like Carmelo Anthony.
The full extent of the spectrum is fully available in South Beach.
1. San Antonio Spurs
All hail the champions.
The San Antonio Spurs put on a supremely beautiful display of basketball during the NBA Finals, systematically destroying the two-time defending title-winners by virtue of excellent passing, telepathic movement and hot shooting.
Few teams have ever managed to make this difficult sport look easier, as Gregg Popovich's squad consistently made the right play on every single trip down the floor while allowing Kawhi Leonard to submit his name as a strong candidate for future superstardom—not stardom, but superstardom.
So, what happens next?
There's a chance that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich could have all walked back into the locker room for the last time, ending their careers on a jubilant note. And if that happens, the future is a question mark for this excellent franchise, one that now has as many titles as it does seasons without a postseason experience.
Pay your respects, world.