- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have finally hired a coach, we can pretty much put a punctuation mark on the offseason. There will be a few more signings here and there, but, really, when the rumor mill is abuzz with hot topics such as Nikola Pekovic's specific eventual salary and Lou Amundson's possible landing spot, it's time to get ready for training camp. It's also a good time to take stock of everything that has happened.
Shakespeare has been on my mind, so let's start out with a line from "Measure for Measure" that serves as a nice summary of the fortunes of an NBA franchise: "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall."
In the former class, you can place the Brooklyn Nets, who might be accused of avarice after a summer of wild spending and reckless basketball management. Yet there is a consensus belief, borne out by statistical projections, that the Nets are going to be better on the court this season. As for the latter group, think of the aforementioned 76ers. Philly is going to be bad this season by design, and most people are perfectly fine with that because the arrow for exiting mediocrity points down.
So, although the fortunes of every team have shifted this summer in one direction or the other, let's take a look at the teams on the outer edges of this evolution. What follows are the teams with the largest projected changes in scoring margin, positive or negative. This leaves out teams such as the Nets and Houston Rockets, who not only are expected to be better but probably would head up any discussion of shifts in championship probability. However, both were playoff teams last season, so their upgrades still qualify as marginal.
Here, we're looking at the three teams at either end of the spectrum who moved the furthest from where they ended last season.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+5.7 increase in scoring margin)
With so many quality young players on hand, the Cavaliers would have been poised for improvement even if they had brought back the exact same roster as last season. Instead, Cleveland buoyed its talent with the No. 1 draft pick in Anthony Bennett, one of the top incoming rookie shooters in Sergey Karasev, one of the league's top reserve guards in Jarrett Jack and the ultimate low-risk, high-reward free agent in Andrew Bynum. Anderson Varejao is due back from injury, and up-and-coming combo forward Earl Clark was signed to further bolster the Cavs' depth.
14hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins