- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Kevin Garnett fills a gaping hole at power forward, and Paul Pierce gives Brooklyn another offensive option. And both will teach a spiritless bunch how to hate the Heat. But the Nets' biggest addition was their last: Andrei Kirilenko, who was signed for a paltry $3.2 million for this season and will be deployed on LeBron James, Paul George and Luol Deng. Said one Eastern Conference head coach, "Of all the moves they made, that's the one that pissed me off. He is a pain in the ass."
Houston is incomplete—" Dwight Howard, James Harden and Jeremy Lin alone aren't winning that conference," said a Western Conference scout—but the Rockets landed the big fish in Howard and have an appealing asset in center Omer Asik to dangle as trade bait.
After three—three!—microfracture knee surgeries and having not played since 2009, Greg Oden won't be game-ready for months. But if—and, yes, this is a big if—Oden can round into shape by the playoffs, he is exactly what Miami needs, a 7-foot, 270-pound defender to help slow down Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah and bolster the league's worst-rebounding unit. For $1 million, Oden is low-risk, high-reward.
It's safe to say Mark Cuban's gamble to gut and rebuild the Mavs' 2011 title team failed. In the last two years Dallas has whiffed on free agents Deron Williams and Howard, leaving Cuban to flesh out the roster around Dirk Nowitzki, 35, with Monta Ellis (three years, $25.1 million) and José Calderón (four years, $29 million). Unless the Mavs can pull off a trade, the last of Nowitzki's prime years will have been wasted.
It's Melo Ball or bust in New York, where the Knicks coughed up a first-round pick for another one-dimensional shooter—forward Andrea Bargnani —to space the floor around Carmelo Anthony. J.R. Smith had knee surgery four days after signing a three-year, $18 million deal, and New York is counting on Metta World Peace, 33, to improve a D that ranked 18th in efficiency. Where's Isiah Thomas when you need him?
After replacing James Harden with Kevin Martin last season, OKC now has to replace Martin (who signed with the T-Wolves) with second-year guard Jeremy Lamb, who spent most of last season in the D-League. That puts even more pressure on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook—who is coming off knee surgery—to carry the NBA's most efficient offense last season.