MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The next time the Miami Heat take the court against an Eastern Conference foe, they may need a couple of name tags.
Eastern Conference teams have undergone some major makeovers led by the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams’ moves are intertwined thanks to a huge trade the night of the NBA Draft. The trade gives the Nets a small window to pursue a championship and puts the Celtics in rebuilding mode.
The Celtics sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to the Nets in exchange for three first-round picks (2014, 2016, 2018) plus Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries, Gerald Walalce, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans.
The deal gives Brooklyn an impressive starting lineup of Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez, plus a shooting guard to be named later. But, Pierce and Garnett showed their age last season and may not have much left in the tank to push the Nets far in the playoffs.
For the Celtics, the team went into full-fledged rebuilding mode and will not challenge in the Eastern Conference for the next few years. The Celtics retained Rajon Rondo and will let the contract of Humphries expire next season. Boston would also like to move Gerald Wallace’s $10 million contract.
The Celtics also hired former Butler head coach Brad Stevens as the team’s new head coach which gives general manager Danny Ainge room for the team to go into the tank next season, which just happens to coincide with one of the better draft classes in recent years.
Going forward, Boston has at least eight first round draft picks between now and 2018. That gives the Celtics plenty of room to make moves and draft talent to go with Stevens’ system for the next few years.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers added guard C.J. Watson to an already impressive squad that pushed the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals during the Heat’s second championship run.
The Pacers also opted to bring back power forward David West, who along with center Roy Hibbert, have proven deadly to the Heat’s defense.
The New York Knicks continued to try to push for a championship by resigning J.R. Smith to a four-year, $27 million contract. The Knicks also agreed to a 3-year, $6 million contract with point guard Pablo Prigioni, who came on for the Knicks late last season.
Even the woeful Charlotte Bobcats have gotten in on the free agent frenzy by signing Al Jefferson to a three-year, $41 million contract.
All the while, the defending NBA champion Miami Heat are waiting for the initial dust to settle to see if any cheaper veteran can help the team next season. The Heat are well over the luxury tax and have few free agent moves they can make.
The Heat will likely re-sign power forward Chris Andersen and got good news when Ray Allen opted in to the second year of his contract.
Past that though, unless a decent wingman or big man becomes available for the veteran minimum, the Heat are not likely to make any free agent noise.
Miami will be playing the guessing game for most of the coming season as speculation builds for LeBron James to make a decision about resigning with the Heat. James has an opt-out of his current deal to become an unrestricted free agent in 2014, which no one knows if he will exercise.
The Heat can still pitch back-to-back championships to LeBron along with the ability of Pat Riley to build a roster around James that can easily win another championship or two. Plus, Miami will be able to offer James the most money of any team in the NBA next year if he becomes a free agent.