Basketball Insiders chats with Michael Qualls about entering the 2015 NBA Draft, his pre-draft workouts, his game and much more.
What a Difference a Year Makes
The NBA landscape shifted dramatically this season, with the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks finishing atop their conferences. The competition in the playoffs has changed as well. Previous favorites failed to make the postseason and past contenders have already been eliminated. All but one first round series is in the books (the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs will be decided on Saturday night) and many of the advancing teams look different than last season.
Then: Brooklyn Nets def. Toronto Raptors, 4-3
Now: The Nets barely made it into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a sub-.500 record. After a slow postseason start, they pushed the first-seed Atlanta Hawks to Game 6 before being eliminated Friday night. While the Nets may have given the Hawks a tougher series than expected, it’s clear Brooklyn’s formula hasn’t resulted in the type of success the anticipated. This summer, they have to figure out who is part of the plan moving forward.
The Raptors got off to a hot start atop the East and settled into the fourth seed for the postseason. They were swept by the Washington Wizards in a series that brought their season to a disappointing, lackluster end. The Raptors proved they can compete in the East in the regular season, but the postseason competition will only be tougher next season and changes to Toronto’s roster could be coming.
Then: Indiana Pacers def. Atlanta Hawks, 4-3
Now: The Pacers failed to make the playoffs after Paul George was sidelined for most of the season. The team will have their star player back next year, which should give them enough of a foundation to make a push in the East. But with Roy Hibbert and nearly half the roster becoming free agents, George could have a different supporting cast in training camp.
After years of battling injuries, the Hawks remained healthy this season and dominated the Eastern Conference. Their fundamental, team-oriented style of play has led to collective success from the starters to the bench. Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll are free agents this summer, and this playoff run could impact who returns next season.
Then: Miami HEAT def. Charlotte Bobcats, 4-0
Now: One made additions, the other subtractions, but the end result was the same. Neither the HEAT nor the now-Hornets made the playoffs this season.
Even after losing LeBron James in free agency, the HEAT were in the playoff hunt for most of the season. But once Chris Bosh was sidelined due to a blood clot in his lung, their chances of making a postseason run faded and they finished in 10th place in the East.
The Hornets, on the other hand, signed Lance Stephenson last summer in a move that was supposed to take them to the next level this season. Stephenson was never a fit, however, and the team struggled in the win column.
Then: Washington Wizards def. Chicago Bulls, 4-1
Now: The Wizards are fueled by the young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, but it was veteran Paul Pierce who propelled them to a first-round sweep of the Raptors. The Wizards are playing with an edge this season, and with Pierce giving them a championship-winning presence, they are riding momentum as they head into the second round against the Hawks.
The Bulls are clicking with a healthy Derrick Rose and improved Jimmy Butler. Add Pau Gasol to the mix and the injury-free team is showing its potential this postseason. They closed out their first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 120-66 blowout and now face the task of battling James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Then: Los Angeles Clippers def. Golden State Warriors, 4-3
Now: The Warriors are the team to beat in the NBA this season. Led by MVP-favorite Stephen Curry, they have dominated the league from start to finish and swept the New Orleans Pelicans. The Warriors will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round.
The Clippers had one of the toughest first round matchups this season in facing the San Antonio Spurs. They will face off in a deciding Game 7 Saturday night. The question is: Will the Clippers advance and be a legitimate contender or will it be time to make changes to their core group?
Then: Oklahoma City Thunder def. Memphis Grizzlies, 4-3
Now: Russell Westbrook did all he could, but in the end the loss of Kevin Durant to injury was too much to overcome in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. The Thunder barely missed out on the final playoff spot and now look to regroup with newly hired head coach Billy Donovan.
The Grizzlies put together an impressive first round series to knock off the Portland Trail Blazers. They look to upset the Warriors in the next round with their defensive intensity and hustle.
Then: Portland Trail Blazers def. Houston Rockets, 4-2
Now: The injury of defensive leader Wesley Matthews was a huge blow to the Trail Blazers’ postseason hopes. They were eliminated in just five games by the Grizzlies. The future of the team is in question with LaMarcus Aldridge, Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo among others set to hit unrestricted free agency.
The Rockets are rolling with the addition of Josh Smith. They were quietly one of the best teams in the West all season, and made noise in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks with the success of Smith and Dwight Howard in addition to offensive powerhouse James Harden. The Rockets will take on the winner of the Clippers/Spurs series.
Then: San Antonio Spurs def. Dallas Mavericks, 4-3
Now: The defending champion Spurs returned nearly the same roster as last season. They find themselves in a deciding Game 7 against the Clippers to see who moves on against the Rockets.
The Mavericks made one of the biggest trades of the season by acquiring Rajon Rondo. The move failed (Rondo didn’t play out the entire series), Chandler Parsons suffered a season-ending injury and they were bounced in the first round by the Rockets. The Mavericks started off strong and ended the season on a majorly disappointing note.
Myers Wins NBA Executive of the Year
Golden State Warriors General Manager Bob Myers was named the 2014-15 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year on Friday. The Warriors were 67-15 in Myers’ third season as GM.
Myers presided over a roster that produced the NBA’s best record and the most successful regular season in franchise history. The Warriors earned both a Pacific Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since the 1975-76 season.
Myers received 82 total points, including 13 first place votes. David Griffin (Cleveland Cavaliers) finished second with 69 points and Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta Hawks) came in third with 36 points.
Top 10 (as voted by team basketball executives):
1. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors
2. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
4. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
5. Gar Forman, Chicago Bulls
6. Neil Olshey, Portland Trail Blazers
7. Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
8. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
9. Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder
10. Dell Demps, New Orleans Pelicans
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