Nine teams changed coaches in the offseason, but only two of them were over .500 last year and none of them won as many games as Golden State’s 51. A first-round playoff ouster overshadowed the team’s best record in 22 years and swept out Mark Jackson, who – in three seasons – led the Warriors to two of their five winning records in that time period. In comes Kerr, who seemed destined to coach for old friend Phil Jackson in New York but was spirited away by the Warriors at the last moment. Kerr won five titles as a player, but he’s never coached an NBA game, and his last move from behind the analyst’s headset didn’t go so well as GM of the Suns from 2007-10.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Derek Fisher joins Phil Jackson in New York
When Steve Kerr chose a decent roster with the Warriors over attempting to grind out wins for his old boss Phil Jackson with the Knicks, Jackson turned to the other five-time NBA champion with no coaching experience on his speed dial. Fisher, like Jason Kidd before him a season ago, is going straight from the court to the coaches’ bench. Kidd made the playoffs in his one season with Brooklyn, but there are good reasons Kerr viewed Golden State as a better place to coach than New York. Who knows how long Jackson, 69, will have the patience to attempt to fix a busted franchise, and no one ever called building around Carmelo Anthony easy.
David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsDavid Butler II
Danilo Gallinari gets healthy in Denver
The Nuggets plummeted from 57 wins in 2012-13 to 36 last season, and one of the biggest reasons was Gallinari missed the entire year after needing two surgeries to fix the ACL he first injured in April 2013. The 6-foot-10 3-point specialist averaged a career-high 16.2 points two seasons ago and finally was living up to his status as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 draft before the bum knee put a stop to his ascent just before the 2013 playoffs. Denver fans will be happy to see him again spotting up behind the 3-point line, but they might not want to get used to the sight. Before hurting the knee, he missed 11, 23 and 20 games in the previous three years.
David Banks-USA TODAY SportsDavid Banks
Lionel Hollins takes over in Brooklyn
Hollins helped turn the Grizzlies into a consistent winner when he coached them from 2008-13, but the team didn’t renew his contract after he led it to a franchise-record 56 wins and a spot in the Western Conference finals during his last season. After a year away, the 61-year-old seems like a better match for an old-school Nets roster than he did with a Grizzlies management team that wanted to emphasize statistical metrics. Hollins will replace Jason Kidd, who spent only one year in Brooklyn as a rookie coach mismatched with that veteran roster.
David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsDavid Butler II
Stan Van Gundy is back – on a team that needs him
A year ago, the Pistons decided to give a jolt to their youth movement with the big-name veteran additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and the results were, well, the same as the year before when Detroit was also 29-53. With further roster-shuffling options limited on what should be at least a .500 team, the only solution seemed to be adding a big-name coach in Van Gundy. In seven-plus seasons with the Heat and Magic, Van Gundy never finished with a losing record, and he is known for getting the most out of veterans – even if he rubs them the wrong way sometimes. He could be just the thing to get the Pistons back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Paul Pierce tries on another new uniform
The Wizards brought in Pierce to add leadership on a young team hoping to get closer to the top of the Eastern Conference, but even at age 37 he still can contribute on the court. His minutes dipped to a career-low 28 per game last season with the Nets, but his shooting percentage rose from the year before and he proved he can accept the same type of platoon role he’ll have this season in Washington. After all those years with the Celtics, it’s getting less strange to see Pierce in another uniform now that he’s on his second team in two seasons.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Isaiah Thomas helps the Suns go even smaller
The Kings, the team that lost Thomas in a sign-and-trade during the offseason, seemed to need him a lot more than Phoenix, which ended up with a player who racked up 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game last season. It’s hard to see the 5-foot-9 Thomas putting up anywhere near those numbers on the same roster as fellow high-scoring point guard types Goran Dragic (6-3) and Eric Bledsoe (6-1), but it’ll be fun to see coach Jeff Hornacek try to make this all work. In Friday’s preseason win against the Jazz, the three combined for 50 points in 30, 29 and 28 minutes. But will there be enough minutes and shots to keep them all happy when the games matter?
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY SportsRichard Mackson
Byron Scott returns to an empty cupboard in LA
Coaching the Lakers isn’t the job it used to be, which is why the team had to settle for Scott, who is in his second straight no-win situation after leading the Cavaliers in three non-LeBron years. This time around, he’s armed with an aging Kobe Bryant and not much else, which seems unfair for a coach that did fine work in his first two coaching stints with the Nets and in New Orleans. As a player, Scott was the shooting guard for the Showtime Lakers, but it’ll take a free-agent migration to L.A. in future offseasons to get this team anywhere near those lofty heights. Here’s hoping Scott can make it through all the losses to the other side.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY SportsJake Roth
Goodbye Bobcats, hello Hornets
After 10 years with the Bobcats moniker, Charlotte has taken back the Hornets’ name that ushered the NBA into the city in 1988. The team’s purple-and-teal uniforms are as ugly as they were when the original Hornets were born, but the NBA’s newest court design is a thing of beauty. Love the honeycomb.
NBAE/Getty ImagesKent Smith
Lance Stephenson heads south
Stephenson’s offseason free-agent move from the 56-win Pacers to the 43-win Hornets went largely unnoticed in the Summer of LeBron, but it could have almost as big of an impact on the balance of power in the East as James’ migration from Miami to Cleveland. Stephenson is just what the Hornets needed -- a player with a little attitude who is a threat for a triple-double in any game. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season in only his second year as a full-time starter, and it seems like he’s just scratching the surface. With Paul George out in Indiana, it won’t be a surprise if Stephenson’s new team far eclipses his old one in the Eastern Conference standings.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsBill Streicher
David Blatt lands a dream job
After years of coaching -- very successfully -- in Russia and Israel, the 55-year-old Blatt fell into quite a first NBA coaching gig. When he was hired June 20, the Cavaliers hadn’t yet signed LeBron James. They hadn’t yet added Kevin Love in a trade. Heck, they hadn’t even yet drafted Andrew Wiggins -- whom they later dealt for Love -- with the No. 1 overall pick. Suddenly, a new coach seems like the least important offseason change in Cleveland, but make no mistake: Blatt owns just the type of creative mind that will be needed to get the most out of the team’s three superstars, James, Love and Kyrie Irving.
Getty ImagesJason Miller
More replays, anyone?
Every year, the NBA -- like all leagues -- tweaks its rules a bit, and rare is the offseason in which the changes are more than cosmetic. This year is no different, but do be ready for more replay delays in 2014-15, as the league has baked in a few more things officials can go to the tape on. Click here if you’re interested in the minutiae. If you’re not, just brace yourself for a few more late-game stoppages than you’re already getting with the seemingly 30-plus timeouts each team has at its disposal.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Kobe heals his wheels
Injuries limited Bryant to only six games last season, so it’s fair to wonder whether -- at age 36 -- he can still be anything close to the 27-point-per-game scorer he was two seasons ago for the Lakers. Judging by his preseason numbers, don’t bet against him. Bryant averaged 19.0 points in just 26.7 minutes, and even though he made only 39.6 percent of his shots he’s not one to shy from shooting until he gets it right. There isn’t enough left on the Lakers’ roster to win a lot of games, but there’s enough spring in Bryant’s step to score a lot of points.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY SportsGary A. Vasquez
Deng it, Miami might be OK
Losing LeBron to Cleveland was nothing less than devastating to the Heat, but Deng is good enough to at least run alongside Chris Bosh and a declining Dwyane Wade, if not lead them the way James did. As long as this somewhat littler and older three can stay healthy – Deng is the youngest at age 29 – Miami will remain one of the better teams in the East. That probably wouldn’t have been possible without the addition of a player who was an All-Star in both 2012 and 2013.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY SportsRobert Mayer
Cleveland isn’t big enough for LeBron and the potential next LeBron
You knew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s draft, wasn’t long for Cleveland when LeBron James announced his intention to sign with the Cavaliers via a first-person letter and didn’t mention Wiggins among the players he was looking forward to teaming with. Wiggins played summer league ball with the Cavs, but after a few weeks of drama it was clear he’d be swapped for All-Star forward Kevin Love, who couldn’t wait to get out of Minnesota. Now the Timberwolves are building around Wiggins instead of Love, and the sky should be the limit for a player who topped the draft board in one of the most anticipated drafts of the past few decades.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY SportsMark D. Smith
Milwaukee lands the best rookie
If Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick because he had the highest ceiling in a great draft class, Parker went No. 2 to the Bucks because he is expected to be the most NBA-ready player this season. Parker did nothing in the preseason to push aside the notion that he’ll win the Rookie of the Year award, averaging 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 31 minutes per game. On a Bucks team in desperate need of scoring, Parker seems more than capable of averaging nearly 20 points a game as a rookie.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
The Mavs get older – but better, too, by adding Chandler Parsons
The Mavericks stole Parsons from their intradivision and instrastate rival by signing him to a three-year, $46 million offer sheet the Rockets elected not to match. Houston wants a third big name to pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden and didn’t think Parsons was it despite the fact he posted career-best averages of 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists before cashing in. But more interesting than the team Parsons left is the one he’s joining. Dallas brought back Tyson Chandler and added Parsons and Jameer Nelson to a high-scoring duo of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis that led the Mavericks to an eight-seed in the West last season. The additions don’t make Dallas a championship contender, but significant improvement is on the way.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
The Bucks land new owners – and a new coach you may know
Milwaukee has long been one of the most stagnant NBA cities, but since April the team has been sold to new owners Mark Lasry and Wesley Edens, dumped nondescript coach Larry Drew, replaced him with the combustible Jason Kidd and selected scoring machine Jabari Parker with the second pick in the draft. Lasry and Edens need public help for a new stadium to keep the team in Milwaukee, and hiring Kidd -- a big name but a big risk given his scrappy personality and quick exit from Brooklyn after his first season as an NBA coach -- will either be a stroke of genius or an impediment to getting Bucks fans on their side. No matter the result, Milwaukee is worth keeping an eye on for the first time since the Big Dog roamed the Bradley Center.
NBAE/Getty ImagesGary Dineen
Everyone wants Pau Gasol – the Bulls get him
The Lakers made it to three straight NBA Finals, winning two, after acquiring Gasol in a February 2008 trade, and the Bulls would love nothing more than to see their acquisition of the big Spaniard push them over the top in the same way. Unfortunately, Gasol is 33 years old now and has missed 55 games in the past two seasons. The Bulls, though, can’t help but think about how his interior presence and the averages he posted last season in LA – 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks – might translate into their system. If Gasol is healthy and interested – and if Derrick Rose is simply healthy – the Bulls could give LeBron’s Cavs a run for the top spot in the East.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Derrick Rose gets his mojo back
Rose has played in a grand total of 49 regular-season games since winning the 2011 NBA MVP award – 39 before tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, none in 2012-13 and only 10 last season before suffering another knee injury. But he knocked off the rust playing for Team USA over the summer and has shown flashes of his trademark explosiveness in the preseason. Adding Pau Gasol is nice, but Rose’s health will be the determining factor in whether the Bulls return to the top of the Eastern Conference standings after two years as a four and five seed.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY SportsGreg Bartram
Steve Ballmer allows the Clippers to forget about Donald Sterling
Thankfully for the NBA and everyone in the Clippers organization, the offseason provided enough time to wipe away former owner Donald Sterling and usher in Ballmer, the ex-CEO of Microsoft who paid $2 billion for the privilege of trying to help Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and coach Doc Rivers over the hump and into an NBA Finals. The Clippers seemed poised to have a chance at that last season before Sterling’s racist comments took the air out of any hope at a playoff run. It’s too early to say what kind of effect Ballmer will have on L.A.’s future personnel moves, but if he does nothing more than give the Clippers an owner they want to play for he could be worth a few extra wins both in the regular season and postseason.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Paul George goes down – and takes the Pacers with him
George was on the verge of superstar status when the Pacers were riding high with the league’s best record for much of last season, but then came a spring decline by both player and team, followed by postseason struggles and eventually postseason elimination at the hands of the hated Heat. Then, on Aug. 1, George was playing in a Team USA exhibition when he suffered a gruesome right leg injury that likely will cost him an entire season. So the Pacers – who seem to have peaked sometime last winter – now are without George and their second-best player, Lance Stephenson, who left for Charlotte as a free agent. What’s left will have a tough time just making the playoffs.
Kevin Love plus LeBron sure looks good on paper
Trading No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins for Love was a no-brainer after the Cavs were able to lure LeBron James back home. Love put up ridiculous numbers in Minnesota – 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season – but the only numbers that will count alongside James are playoff wins, and Love had exactly zero of those with the Timberwolves. That said, on paper his outside shooting and ability to hit the glass seem to be the perfect complement to James’ game, and it’s hard to bet against any team that adds the NBA’s best player and another guy in the top five or 10 in the same offseason. The Summer of LeBron has turned to fall, but Cavs fans are still pinching themselves.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY SportsNelson Chenault
Now you can root for LeBron again
What else did you expect at No. 1? The last time such a transcendent player changed teams … well, wait, that was James, too, in 2010 – going from Cleveland to Miami. While he was gone, the Heat made it to four NBA Finals – winning two – and Cleveland dropped from 61 wins to 19 before climbing back to 33 last season. Now, with LeBron and friends in place, the goal is to win the championship he couldn’t bring his home state in his first seven-year stint with the franchise. How James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving work toward that goal will be the defining story of the new NBA season.