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Will Galen
10-03-2004, 06:42 AM
Sekou Smith
October 3, 2004


Shaq might have shaken up the NBA by moving east to Miami, but there were myriad offseason moves that will affect the upcoming season. Here are the 10 most significant:

1. Miami swapped three starters for three-time NBA Finals MVP Shaquille O'Neal.

Impact: The Heat won the Shaq sweepstakes but had to part with promising youngsters Lamar Odom and Caron Butler and veteran Brian Grant. The potential reward is an NBA title, though Shaq, Dwyane Wade and Eddie Jones will have to do almost all of the work. The immediate return is instant contender status in the Eastern Conference and the luxury of having the hottest NBA ticket on the planet, thanks mostly to Shaq's return to his MVP playing weight. Heat president Pat Riley capitalized on a no-lose situation.

2. Houston acquired Tracy McGrady in a deal that sent Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and others to Orlando.

Impact: A 1-2 punch of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming vaults the Rockets into contention in the Western Conference. The Rockets' eight-player roster overhaul, however, is what will keep coach Jeff Van Gundy smiling (or something close to it) throughout the season. Quality veterans Juwan Howard and Tyronn Lue, not to mention unproven second-year point guard Reece Gaines also made the trip from Florida to Texas.

3. Denver snagged All-Star forward Kenyon Martin in a sign-and-trade deal with New Jersey.

Impact: The Nuggets continue their rise up the Western Conference food chain, thanks mostly to daring general manager Kiki Vandeweghe. Martin brings a fierce brand of toughness and leaguewide credibility that the Nuggets have lacked for years. He'll also form a potent inside-out punch with Carmelo Anthony, Andre Miller and super-sub Earl Boykins.

4. Utah signed free agents Carlos Boozer (Cleveland) and Mehmet Okur (Detroit).

Impact: Lost in the drama of the Boozer ordeal is that Utah, a surprising team last season after the retirement of John Stockton and the departure of Karl Malone, became a playoff factor in the process. Boozer brings a tenaciousness that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan should love. And Okur, who didn't find his niche in Larry Brown's system, could flourish in a starter's role.

5. The Los Angeles Lakers added Odom, Butler and Grant in the O'Neal trade and brought back veteran center Vlade Divac.

Impact: Nothing, not even four quality players, can make up for the loss of Shaq. An NBA finalist in four of the past five seasons with Shaq and Kobe Bryant leading the way, the revamped Lakers will be hard-pressed to return to such lofty heights this season. The Lakers also lost Derek Fisher (Golden State) and Gary Payton (traded to Boston), leaving the point guard duties in the hands of journeyman Chucky Atkins and rookie Sasha Vujacic.

6. Orlando acquired Francis, Mobley and Kelvin Cato from Houston in the McGrady deal.

Impact: The Magic mishandled the McGrady affair and then let him get away for a star player, Francis, who is not in McGrady's league. But Francis and veteran Mobley will help top overall pick Dwight Howard navigate the rigors of jumping straight from high school.

A healthy Grant Hill, who reportedly looked good during summer workouts, will aid that cause tremendously.

7. Dallas added Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris in a draft day deal with Washington and later grabbed coveted free agent center Erick Dampier in a deal with Golden State.

Impact: The Antawn (Jamison)-Antoine (Walker) experience blew up in the Mavericks' face last season, as they failed to return to the Western Conference finals despite having a roster that was billed as the league's deepest. Now Dallas is trying again, this time with a much more logical crew. And if Dampier plays like he did during his contract season last year, watch out for the Mavs.

8. Detroit re-signed free agent power forward Rasheed Wallace to a long-term deal.

Impact: Adding the multitalented Wallace last season transformed the Pistons from an Eastern Conference contender into NBA champions. Keeping him ensures the Pistons will stay among the league's title contenders for at least the next few seasons, provided Wallace's body holds up. The addition of Antonio McDyess, when healthy, and Carlos Delfino provide even more depth for the league's best team.

9. New Jersey broke up the nucleus of a team that made consecutive NBA Finals in 2002-03.

Impact: Not every team that was active during the summer got better. With the departure of Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles to Western Conference teams, the Nets lost two key members of their success the past four seasons. With Jason Kidd fighting to come back from knee surgery, the Nets might temporarily return to the bottom of the Eastern Conference until they can work out some of their many issues. And if Richard Jefferson doesn't shake off his Olympic hangover, things could get ugly in a hurry.

10. Phoenix wooed free agent point guard Steve Nash from Dallas with a lucrative offer.

Impact: A young Phoenix roster that includes Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson got a major jolt when the Suns' brass convinced Nash to return to the place he began his NBA career. Now that the hierarchy in the Western Conference has been scattered, the Suns could rebound from last season's uneven effort and return to the playoffs. Plus, Nash is a much better fit for this team than was former captain Stephon Marbury.

MSA2CF
10-03-2004, 08:58 AM
I think New Jersey made the biggest moves.

Just not good ones.