Pulse of the NBA

 

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The two biggest free agent prizes this summer played in the Eastern Conference last season and the top four teams selecting in the draft reside in the East.

Here's a brief look at each team, as we break it down by divisions.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

TORONTO RAPTORS

For the Atlantic Division champs to build on their surprising success, they'll need to retain free agent point guard Kyle Lowry, but it won't be easy since he seems to be on the radar of a number of teams, including the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Whether or not free agent Carmelo Anthony stays in the Big Apple, Phil Jackson will need some luck in building a championship contender because recent history has told us that having cap space, which the Knicks won't have until the summer of 2015, doesn't guarantee that you'll get the free agents you're targeting.

BROOKLYN NETS

Brook Lopez, who was laid up in bed for nearly three months following surgery for a fractured foot, is expected back on the court July 1, and will work out with the Nets summer league team in Orlando.

BOSTON CELTICS

Team president Danny Ainge has plenty of options to consider this offseason. Will he deal Rajon Rondo or keep him and look to add another star player? The Celtics also have the sixth and 17th picks in the draft, and there are reports that they're looking to make a deal for the top overall pick from the Cavaliers.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

There are some indications that the Sixers will draft Joel Embiid with the third pick, and I think it's worth the gamble, given his level of talent. If they choose to pass on the Kansas center, they could very well go for Australian guard Dante Exum.

CENTRAL DIVISION

INDIANA PACERS

Even with all the side-show stuff you get from Lance Stephenson, it would be a big loss for the Pacers if the free agent shooting guard signs elsewhere.

CHICAGO BULLS

The Windy City is a possible landing spot for Anthony, but Lowry would be a much less expensive and possibly better option for the Bulls.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

With the foot injury to Embiid, Cleveland will likely choose either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker with the top pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday. In a poll in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which over 1,100 votes were cast, Wiggins was the clear choice, receiving nearly 87 percent of the vote.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

New team owner Marc Lasry indicated that the Bucks will not draft Embiid either and will take Wiggins or Parker with the second pick of the draft.

DETROIT PISTONS

New team president and coach Stan Van Gundy will have to decide if he wants to retain restricted free agent Greg Monroe and see if he can find a way for Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith to flourish playing together on the front line after the trio struggled in their first season together. Smith has been mentioned in recent trade rumors, with the Sacramento Kings as a possible landing spot.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

MIAMI HEAT

Dwyane Wade is probably the key to whether LeBron James remains in South Beach. If Wade opts out of his contract and settles for a less expensive deal which gives the Heat flexibility to upgrade the roster, then James would likely re-sign with the Heat. By the way, Wade is obviously past his prime, but his skills have not diminished as much as a lot of people seem to believe. Sure he had a disappointing NBA Finals, but he still averaged 19 points per game during the regular season and led all shooting guards with a phenomenal 54.5 shooting percentage.

ATLANTA HAWKS

The Hawks managed to make the playoffs despite losing Al Horford to a torn pectoral muscle in late December and nearly shocked the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out in seven games. The Hawks could have close to $14 million in cap space to spend this summer. They could make themselves a real factor in the East if they can add another quality player to join with Horford, first-time All Star Paul Milsap and Jeff Teague.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Owner Michael Jordan will have somewhere in the area of $20 million in cap space to work with and he hopes to land a star player to pair with Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. "I always thought Charlotte was a great destination," Jordan said. "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."

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

John Wall is looking for the Wizards to be a major factor in the East next season. The Pacers eliminated Washington in six games in the second round, and Wall thinks the Wizards will benefit from that experience. "We know what we can be," said Wall. "We felt like we had an opportunity this year. We just lost a couple games by not having that experience like Indiana had down the stretch to pull out those games. We were two games away from the Eastern Conference finals so now our next goal is to get there and give ourselves a shot for the Finals." Re-signing free agents Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza will go a long way to helping Wall and the Wizards take the next step.

ORLANDO MAGIC

The Magic, who own the fourth pick in the draft, are linked to multiple rumors in an attempt to move into the top two. They supposedly have offered the fourth pick, 12th pick and Arron Afflalo to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top overall pick and also have offered the fourth pick, 12th pick and Afflalo to the Milwaukee Bucks for the second pick.

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