No Rush on Declarations Regarding the NBA’s Lesser Contenders

Changes are abound in the NBA, as free-agent agreements trickle in and trade rumors circle overhead. The offseason bonanza is one of the league's premier events, as the summer offers a sprawling showcase of player movement and possibility, as talented contributors skip from team to team in search of top dollar and best fit. 

But all of that excitement tends to accelerate the appraisal process a bit. While it's only natural that each roster move would be met with an evaluation of sorts, full estimations of a certain team's abilities are useless without the benefit of a more complete context. We know that the Lakers will be a better team next season thanks to the addition of Steve Nash, but we don't know how much better until we see how the rotation shakes out on the wings and if L.A. can pick up some additional perimeter shooting. We know that the Boston Celtics are still going to be among the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but we won't know exactly how competitive they'll be until we're briefed with more information on Avery Bradley's injury and see the end of Boston's courtship of Courtney Lee.

Free agency may seem like it's flying by, but it technically hasn't even begun. The moratorium officially comes to a close on Wednesday, meaning that all we have up to this point are handshake agreements and conjecture, all of which can get a bit flimsy when forced to carry the burden of weighty analysis.

The Oklahoma City Thunder should enter the 2012-2013 season slightly better than they were the year prior due to natural evolution, skill development and slight additions, while the Miami Heat will, too, be improved by adding Ray Allen. They are among the surefire contenders, but every other title contender is conditional. The Spurs are close but need to reload and sharpen their defense, the Lakers need to fill out their rotation and establish the natural flow of their offense, the Pacers need to bring back Roy Hibbert and...

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