Lakers got hype, but other teams got better too

Lakers got hype, but other teams got better too

Published Aug. 23, 2012 12:43 p.m. ET

Even with many of the league's superstars working in London, the NBA managed to conjure a summer of vigorous landscape shaking.

Yeah, we all recognize the off-the-charts upheaval caused by the Lakers.
But with the start of training camp only a few weeks away, we're sifting through the rubble to determine which transactions that barely moved the needle in July or August could really create a seismic ripple next spring.

And we're beginning in ... well, LA. Although the Lakers certainly expect to enjoy a gargantuan bump in hype/production with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, let's not overlook the other tenants of Staples Center. Sure, the Clippers currently are waiting for Blake Griffin (knee) and Chris Paul (thumb) to heal. But those franchise superstars are expected to be fine in relatively short order, leaving this summer's additions as key contributors on what should be a Western Conference powerhouse.

While enjoining Howard's Kobe Bryant impersonation, you may have forgotten that the Clips have increased their perception of depth by adding senior stopper Grant Hill and Lamar "I Don't Do Dallas" Odom. If Hill's knee responds to this summer's Bavarian therapy and Odom makes the readjustment to Tinseltown, the Clippers will have two battle-tested veterans capable of making important postseason contributions.

With director of player personnel Gary Sacks doing serious offseason work after general manager Neil Olshey left for Portland, the Clips also added guard Jamal Crawford and re-signed Chauncey Billups. Crawford just happens to be a cold-blooded late-game sniper, while the importance of Billups can be traced to how the Clippers struggled after he ruptured an Achilles' tendon last season.

These deals -- executed without having to part with point guard Eric Bledsoe -- may not enable the Clips to gain enough traction to overcome the Lakers, but they'll be a tough playoff out for any team in the conference.

By the way, even the Lakers (Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks) have made important additions that have been greatly overshadowed by their marquee changes.

Anyway, also checking in as a team with undervalued upgrades: Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks. True, with free agents bouncing all over the league, you may not have noticed the Mavs seem to have become better than last season's edition -- without wrecking future salary-cap flexibility. And improving upon a team swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year's first round didn't require much hocus pocus.

But Dallas did acquire a good, young point guard in Darren Collison, a young shooting guard who plays both ends in O.J. Mayo, a competent center in Chris Kaman and a nice rotation player in Elton Brand. Together, their cumulative price tag for next season is a reasonable $17 million.

This team probably still won't pose much of a postseason threat, but Collison and Mayo (player option for 2013-14) could become excellent role players for a franchise that will have the ability to spend next summer.

The Phoenix Suns also check in as an extremely busy Western Conference concern. In a summer that included the departures of Nash and Hill, the Suns were able to land Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Wesley Johnson and Jermaine O'Neal.

OK, so that's not exactly a series of playoff-clinching maneuvers. But one addition who could provide a vigorous productivity boost is forward Michael Beasley. Although his career has inspired widespread questions regarding overall focus, Beasley has the physical ability to give Phoenix the scoring threat it hasn't had since Amar'e Stoudemire rode off for New York.

This New York-based segue into the Eastern Conference does not have anything to do with the Knicks' decision to wave bye-bye to point guard Jeremy Lin. That would fall under the big-news category, and we're here to chew on what seem to be underrated or undervalued decisions.

Regarding the Knicks, Marcus Camby fits the under-the-radar move. Camby returns to Gotham as insurance for Olympian Tyson Chandler and -- to a lesser extent -- Stoudemire. Gold-medalist Chandler has six fouls and no international referees to deal with now, but having Camby to defend the rim and contribute on the boards could help New York put up a better playoff fight.

The Eastern Conference team with the most profoundly unnoticed summer: the Boston Celtics. Don't act like you're surprised, either. These guys are too crusty to just go away. So a few weeks after coming dangerously close to eliminating LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the C's reloaded for another go as pesky postseason challengers.

Bringing back Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass was a great start, while drafting power forward Jared Sullinger could be a boon to the second unit. Boston also absorbed the loss of Ray Allen by hiring Courtney Lee and sixth-man sniper Jason Terry. Coach Doc Rivers may have some playing-time issues once Avery Bradley is fully healthy, but Doc is one of the league's smartest managers of professional ego.

By the way, Boston's greatest addition could be recently re-signed forward Jeff Green. Green, who missed last season after having heart surgery, could provide punch and versatility if he can get back up to speed.

The aforementioned Heat did send a tremor through the league by adding Allen as a spot-up threat to feast upon the defense-piercing drives of James and Dwyane Wade. But Miami also picked up amnesty king Rashard Lewis, who could be really swell at standing in the corner and knocking down 3s.

Another team that posed a tangible threat to Miami during the 2012 title run -- the Indiana Pacers -- seem to have made a couple of (relatively) quiet upgrades. Ian Mahinmi, who arrived from Dallas in the Collison deal, gives Indy some help at two inside positions; the Pacers replaced Collison by bringing in D.J. Augustin to work with George Hill.

Also coming aboard is Gerald Green, whose circuitous route from dunk monster to solid NBA pro included a successful stop in New Jersey last season. The postseason inconsistency of Danny Granger and Paul George made Green an important acquisition.

Ah, yes ... Brooklyn. Wow, didn't the Nets spend a lot of loot this summer? Well, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez are back and will be paid a combined $25 million this season. The $84 million payroll of Mikhail Prokhorov includes $19.7 million for Joe Johnson and $17.1 million and $9.6 million, respectively, to bring back Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace.

But for only $1.6 million, the Nets will have backup power forward Reggie Evans, whose offensive-rebounding prowess should give his wealthy teammates second and third chances to earn their money.