By Rahul Lal
So many of us set New Year’s resolutions every year as a way to better ourselves or become more successful in some way. Maybe I didn’t go to the gym as often as I set out to, but the intention was there. And, frankly, I’m already in pretty good shape. (Stop judging… I can feel you judging.)
NBA teams, like people, always have some room for improvement, no matter how good they already are. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I offer my advice to the Eastern Conference. If they follow these resolutions, their (post-salary cap jump) fortunes are sure to soar.
Atlanta Hawks: Establish An Identity
The Hawks look like an offensively dangerous team some nights, a defensive unit other nights and some weird mash-up of the two occasionally. Regardless, they have to establish an identity moving forward, and that begins by allowing Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore to run at a fast pace alongside Paul Millsap.
Boston Celtics: Don’t Act Like A Surprise Team Anymore
The Celtics have been a surprisingly dangerous team in the East for the last couple seasons. But with the signing of Al Horford and emergence of Avery Bradley, the Celtics need to develop Jaylen Brown and other role players and show the East they’re competitors.
Brooklyn Nets: Rebuild Completely
This team is a long ways away and has never really competed since their move to Brooklyn. Brook Lopez has a lot more value for the Nets on the trade market than he does on the court. It’s time to embrace the future and get some young building blocks in Brooklyn.
Charlotte Hornets: Accumulate More Talent
The Charlotte Hornets have been an incredible surprise this season, improving right along with Kemba Walker. But the team needs to acquire more high-level talent. This offseason, the Hornets should look to pair another scorer with Walker and add to Batum’s all-around production.
Chicago Bulls: Don’t Let Rondo Ruin Chemistry
The Frankenstein-like experiment in Chicago just isn’t working, and these Bulls get worse and worse with each passing month. Rajon Rondo has been a clear liability this season. It’s important to let him finish the season and become a free agent so the team doesn’t turn into the Sacramento Kings.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Rest, Rest, Rest
The Cavaliers seem to have their formula to beat the Warriors: let Kevin Love start out hot, hand the game off to LeBron and finally have Kyrie finish it out. The Cavaliers need to stay healthy and keep their guys fresh in order to be at full strength this postseason.
Detroit Pistons: Don’t Give Up On Stanley Johnson
Stanley Johnson has been subject to trade rumors all season after struggling in the first couple months. Johnson is a talented young player, but the key word is young. It’s incredibly important to remember how much a year or two of patience has done for other former top-10 picks.
Indiana Pacers: Create A Bigger Role For Myles Turner
Myles Turner is averaging 18.7 points, 9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game in 36 minutes and has great percentages shooting the ball. Prioritizing Turner as the second star behind Paul George may seem premature. But he has star potential and is a great complement to Thaddeus Young moving forward in the front court.
Miami Heat: Trust In The Youth Movement
The Heat are officially a team in rebuild mode. It’s time for Heat fans and Pat Riley alike to act like it. Grab some young players in free agency this coming summer to build the next core around Hassan Whiteside.
Milwaukee Bucks: Continue To Build Chemistry Together
The Bucks saw Khris Middleton, a key part of their team, get injured before the season even began. The emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo as a superstar is encouraging, not to mention significant improvement from Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and John Henson. Just stay course and build chemistry.
New York Knicks: Give Up On The Triangle
The Triangle Offense has won rings in the past, it’s also had some of the best players operating within it. This current Knicks group would be more benefitted by an offense centered around Kristaps Porzingis, with Carmelo Anthony as more of a secondary star.
Orlando Magic: Even Out Roster
The Orlando Magic have one of the biggest roster logjams in the NBA, adding Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka to big men Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon in 2016. With Green and Ibaka set to be free free agents, the Magic should look to add backcourt help to the talented but limited group of Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja.
Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t Rush The Process
We’ve seen signs of the process bearing fruit, but there’s no need to rush Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons’ health. The future is bright in Philadelphia, and those are their stars, regardless of whether big men Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel stays next season.
Toronto Raptors: Allow Bench Lineup To Grow Together
The Raptors have most commonly used a starting lineup that allows Cory Joseph, Norman Powell, Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson to wreak havoc on the rest of the NBA’s second units. Keeping this unit together and dangerous is important, as having depth in the playoffs is critical against the deep Cavaliers.
Washington Wizards: Don’t Max Any Non-Superstar
I get it, Wizards fans, Otto Porter — a former top-three pick — is playing well. But it isn’t worth locking him into a max salary when you need to surround John Wall with elite talent. Bradley Beal’s ceiling is getting lower each passing year, and Wall is getting more frustrated. It’s time to make a tough decision.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.