The first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs was arguably the best in the history of the league. Fans were treated to a record five Game Sevens, ten overtimes, 14 four-point plays and a pair of stone-cold buzzer beaters from Vince Carter and Damian Lillard. Future Outlooks for Eliminated NBA Playoff Teams Every series besides the Miami Heat and Charlotte Bobcats was extremely competitive and can’t-miss entertainment. The Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks took their opponents to seven games despite being eight-seeds. The Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors showed they have nowhere to go but up. Despite early exits, some of the eight eliminated teams have nothing to be ashamed of, whereas others have some disappointing offseasons ahead filled with tough decisions.
The Rockets had legitimate title aspirations after bringing in Dwight Howard this past offseason, but ultimately fell way short after succumbing to the Trail Blazers in six games. This team has big question marks moving forward concerning its defense and its bench. Another issue is that after more than one go-around, James Harden is proving to be quite unreliable in the playoffs. He disappeared in the NBA Finals a few years ago with the Thunder, and now has posted back-to-back seasons with the Rockets with horrid playoff performances. Harden has shot under 40 percent in eight of his 12 playoff games the past two years. Houston may need to bring in another big-time player if they intend on winning a title, and most definitely a couple bench guys.
The Bulls crashed and burned behind a pathetic offensive showing against the Washington Wizards in round one. Their need for another scorer is urgent, as they had the worst scoring offense in the NBA. Rumors are already swirling that Carmelo Anthony could wind up in town, which along with the return of Derrick Rose (hopefully) would give them a triumvirate which would rival any in basketball. Health and free agency could turn this team into a serious threat.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors’ season has left a bad taste in the mouths of fans. It is unclear how and where this team can improve. The bench was good, the Andre Iguodala signing worked, and the Dubs stayed healthy. Head coach Mark Jackson could be on his way out since this team has now fallen short of expectations. The Warriors are very much in a strange position.
The Raptors’ fans had the best showing of any fan base in basketball, and they proved that if this team is ready to compete, they are 100 percent behind them. Even though the Raptors fell just short in round one against the Nets, the future is very bright north of the border. A lot depends on Kyle Lowry’s free agency, but this is an incredibly young team that will only continue to improve. Guys like DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas took big steps forward for the Raptors and will all get better. Whether or not Lowry returns will play a big role, but this team was arguably the most surprising in the NBA this year. After dealing Rudy Gay early on, the Raptors took off and got the role players they needed to fortify the roster. Great days are not far away for the Toronto Raptors.
Memphis has sustained a solid level of success for a few years now, and should be a great bet to be a threat once again next season. In order for the Grizz to take another step, they are going to have to add another scorer or two. Zach Randolph’s suspension derailed what could have been another deep playoff run, but the team proved it isn’t going anywhere in the near future. Mike Miller added a great dynamic to the offense, but they still need one more piece.
The Bobcats once again return to being the Hornets next year. They, along with the Raptors have two of the brightest future in the Eastern Conference. For the brief time period before Al Jefferson got hurt, the Bobcats looked like they could give the Heat a run for their money. Charlotte made big improvements this year and showed that it is one of the league’s premier defensive teams. They also have two first-round picks and an abundance of young talent, setting the franchise up for a very nice future.
The Mavs collapsed in Game Seven in San Antonio, but overachieved most of the year behind great bounce-back seasons from Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. Dirk may not have a ton of time left, so Dallas is clearly still in “win now” mode. They too will be back contending next year and will need one or two more younger athletic guys on the roster to push them to the next level and try to make another title run before Dirk calls it quits.
The Hawks shocked the world with their seven-game brawl with Indiana, the East’s top seed. Atlanta was a prime tanking candidate heading into this year, much more so after Al Horford went down for the year. This team showed grit behind the growth of Jeff Teague and the leadership of Paul Millsap. The bench is solid, and this team does not have a lengthy rebuilding process ahead of them like many believed. Atlanta may not compete for a title soon, but it will be sticking around for a while.
Commentary by Justin Hussong