Change is good, but chaos is better.
The Indiana Pacers would like to make some drastic moves this summer but they don't have any headroom under their current salary cap so they need some help. Moving an expiring contract or three would create the flexibility to change the roster but teams won't be begging to deal for those expiring contracts unless they too feel the twinge of desperation to make a deal.
Fortunately, this year's NBA playoffs have left a wake of destruction as seemingly every team has been forced to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and consider serious offseason change. For some teams, the need for change is dictated by key players hitting the free agent market. For other teams, getting exposed in the playoffs revealed the need to try something new.
This is all good news for the Pacers since every NBA transaction could have a ripple effect that creates an indirect opportunity for the Pacers. Since teams that don't make the playoffs are always looking to get better, nearly every team in the league is game for a new direction save a couple of young, up can coming teams like Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Portland. Still, even those teams can't stand still with their solid situations.
We're already seeing some major change begin to take shape with Denver's reported interest in dealing Ty Lawson to move up in the draft and the Phoenix Suns losing GM Steve Kerr with Amar'e Stoudemire also looking elsewhere. Let the games begin!
I thought I'd go through the playoff teams from each conference to identify the issues facing each team as they head into what should be an action-packed offseason. After the jump, let's begin with the Eastern Conference playoff teams.
Chicago Bulls (8th seed) - Last seen losing to Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 in first round of playoffs. The Bulls have an exciting and young core of talented players to build around, but management decisions will keep things interesting. How hard will they pursue LeBron James? Will they try to move Luol Deng and/or Kirk Hinrich? The Bulls are also starting over again with a Tom Thibodeau taking over as their new head coach.
Charlotte Bobcats (7th seed) - Last seen getting swept out of the first round by the Orlando Magic. The Bobcats finished the season strong after making some moves at the trade deadline. They didn't take every move, though, since we know Charlotte left T.J. Ford dancing on the tarmac by pulling the plug on a trade with the Pacers at the last second. Larry Brown remains in Charlotte but since he's never happy more deals may be on the way to appease Brown, unless of course, he up and leaves which again will create some issues for Charlotte. Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustine lead an unsettled point guard situation which surely drives Brown nuts.
Milwaukee Bucks (6th seed) - Last seen taking the Atlanta Hawks to the brink before losing their first round series in seven games. The Bucks got a boost from rookie PG Brandon Jennings but also thrived thanks to vets John Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse fitting in nicely. Salmons and Michael Redd (who missed all of the fun last year) have early termination options to go along with free agent Luke Ridnour. Stackhouse is also free to move on. Can't imagine any of these guys, save Redd, would want to leave a strong situation in Milwaukee, but money is always a factor.
Miami Heat (5th seed) - Last seen gettting knocked out of the first round 4-1 by the Boston Celtics. Dwyane Wade is a free agent so the Heat have to secure his services first and foremost. The Heat have a ton of other free agents led by Jermaine O'Neal which leaves the team with a boatload of Biscayne Bay cap room. The Heat will surely be active trying to lure another big name, say, Chris Bosh to join Wade on South Beach. But along with the big names they also have to fill out their roster so they'll be adding plenty of action to the summer transactions around the league.
Boston Celtics (4th seed) - Last seen trying to finish off the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Celtics eased their way into the playoffs but turned up the championship caliber ball once the money rounds started. This may be the last go around for this group, though. Ray Allen is a free agent along with Tony Allen and Nate Robinson. Kevin Garnett isn't going anywhere but his game is slowing down and will likely benefit from some more front-court help next year. Plus, Doc Rivers remains a wild card to return as coach despite the run to the Finals.
Atlanta Hawks (3rd seed) - Last seen getting swept in embarrassaing fashion by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The Hawks went through this past season with tons of enviable talent that appeared to be progressing toward something special. The late season implosion and no-show against the Magic changed the outlook dramatically. Mike Woodson was let go as coach with Larry Drew no set to take over. Free agent Joe Johnson appears set to move onto greener ($) pastures without much resistance from the folks in Atlanta. Mike Bibby may need to be moved to accomodate second-year PG Jeff Teague. One thing is for sure, the Hawks have some talented assets to make whatever moves they see fit.
Orlando Magic (2nd seed) - Last seen getting eliminated 4-2 by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics exposed the Magic as a team that needs more offense from Dwight Howard and more defense from everyone except Dwight Howard. J.J. Redick enjoyed his best pro season and can test the waters as a restricted free agent. Matt Barnes is also a free agent. The Magic would probably be smart to keep things together although it appears relying on both Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis to make a championship run is futile.
Cleveland Cavaliers (1st seed) - Last seen losing 4-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Cleveland is chaos central as we awaite July 1st. LeBron James is at the top of his free agent class and should he spurn his hometown team, the Cavs will be starting from scratch. They already have to find a new coach and GM while trying to keep LeBron in town. They also need some front court help with Shaquille O'Neal's massive contract up and Ziggy Ilguaskas also on the open market.
So there you have it, a quick look around the Eastern Conference elite, showing plenty of opportunities for change this offseason. Which teams offer the best chance to include the Pacers in a deal?