Here’s second part are those who made roster changes that may sound good on paper but will have to make us wait to eventually see the team duplicate or exceed their 2018-19 success:
Key losses: Malcolm Brogdon, Nikola Mirotic, and Pau Gasol.
Key additions: Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez, and Wesley Matthews.
The Bucks are expected to again dominate the East this year. As of the moment, no other East team is expected to put serious threats on this claim.
It is interesting to see the Bucks’ offseason moves by shedding off length in exchange for supposed better shooting.
One of the strengths the Bucks had was that their wing players are athletic, long players who can hit the three. They lost one of them in Mirotic.
The Bucks, though, did address the lost shooting with two veterans who are proven dead shots from downtown.
The Bucks finished first in the East, lost only one game in easily dispatching Detriot and Boston early in the post-season, before failing to solve the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.
I see them still topping the Eastern regular season standings and climbing the playoffs with ease. I am, however, not ready yet to hand them the East title this coming season. This “wait and see” status fits the bill as of this moment.
This could change quickly though if the Bucks can make Robin Lopez even a poor man’s version of twin Brook in the three-point shooting and effiency and the aging Korver and Matthews can contribute enough minutes and production to support Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
Key losses: Bojan Bogdanovic and Wesley Matthews.
Key additions: Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb.
The Pacers are low in pre-season predictions because they seem to have flown under the radar despite their surprising success last year. Many seem to forget that before the team lost Victor Oladipo to injury, they were in the thick of the fight for a 3rd seed in the East.
The Pacers had a quiet but strong offseason as they acquired Malcolm Brogdon to replace a defecting Bognanovic and signing Lamb to a very reasonable deal in replacement of Matthews.
With Oladipo on the mend, the Pacers are should be rightfully back to be one of the darkhorses in the East again.
The thing with these changes are they did nothing but let them remain a status quo this season. Nothing much changed as far as line-up improvement is concern.
The sufficiency of this lineup’s firepower to ably compete with the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics is still questionable and Oladipo’s becoming a foundation of an Indiana championship contending team has even more doubts.
Along with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, this team undoubtedly has some very young players who can potentially become stars one day. The arrival of that day, however, may come not so soon, not next season.
The Pacers finished fifth in the East and were swept by the Celtics in the first round. I can see them finishing with a similar seeding spot and the same playoff exit. Any better expectations are all wait and sees.
Key losses: Josh Jackson, and Jamal Crawford.
Key additions: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, and Frank Kaminsky.
The Suns biggest reason of being down in the standings last year was youth and inexperience.
Their resident superstar, Devin Booker, is a 2015 draft pick who turned just 22 when the season started. Two of their other prominent starters were Jackson, whom they picked 4th overall in the 2017 NBA draft, and Deandre Ayton, who is the 1st overall selection in the 2018 NBA draft.
They were all nice but raw pieces.
This offseason saw the Suns made some moves to get out of this condition and may eventually get them out of the cellar in the Western Conference standings.
While giving up early on their lottery pick Jackson, they were able to bring NBA experienced players, some can be classified veterans, who can lend leadership on the floor and on the locker room.
The Suns finished tied as the second-worst team in the league last year, winning only 19 out of the 81 season games.
They will surely improve their record. A 30 plus-win season should not surprise anyone. They are not making the playoffs, though, in the tough West.
The thing for me is can Booker finally show he is ready to take the baton for the long-suffering Suns fans and consistently elevate the team to greater highs to be able to compete against the superpowers of the Western Conference?
His supporting crew may not be as good as other teams’ superstars have but, hey, a first overall bigman draftee, a bruiser power forward who can hit the three, a lengthy wing who has a decent trey, and a veteran point guard who did have some exciting battles with Russell Westbrook just a year ago should be enough for the sixth player in NBA history who scored 70 or more points in a game to show what he really has to offer for the Phoenix franchise.
With that said, I will only believe he can lead this franchise to higher levels when I see the wins come.
By Armando M. Bolislis
Banner illustration by Don Ray Ramos.