Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - I don't make New Year's resolutions.
Sure, there is a lot in my life that needs changing, especially from a physical stand point, but I won't adhere to it. I'm like everyone else - Jan. 2 - 5 life will be good, but after, it'll return to habit.
Change isn't my strong suit, either. I'm a status quo guy, who can improvise when needed, but enjoys regimented planning.
However, in the spirit of embracing change, I've decided to incorporate the New Year's resolution into my life ... with a twist. I won't be making any, rather, these are resolutions for all 30 NBA teams. Take this as solid advice for the remainder of this season and beyond.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS - RELY on Paul Pierce. The reason he's there is to help get them over the hump and so far, the results are there. He's scoring the same as last season, he's defending decently still and he's leading. John Wall and Bradley Beal are the stars, but Pierce will be the one to do something large if Washington makes any noise in the postseason.
MIAMI HEAT - SHOW pride. Things were going to be bumpy this season when LeBron bolted South Beach, but this group should not be five games under .500. They rank 27th in scoring and 30th in rebounding. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both missed time and Josh McRoberts is done for the season, but this team shouldn't be 10-12 in this Eastern Conference.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS - HEAL. Again, I believe the Spurs are in some trouble this season (http://tinyurl.com/oj55w4d), but a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are essential for any kind of run. Tim Duncan's minutes need to decrease, but this team is capable of a strong stretch to give itself breathing room. They need to be healthy.
INDIANA PACERS - TRADE pieces. The bench is performing extraordinarily well right now, so trade while the value is highest. To me, everyone on this roster can be had. They're professional playing this kind of defense without hope for any sort of meaningful run this season. Luis Scola, C.J. Miles, C.J. Watson, Lavoy Allen, George Hill and even David West could all be had for the right price.
HOUSTON ROCKETS - CREATE consistent rotations. With the acquisitions of Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Joey Dorsey, the Rockets are building some decent depth. When Terrence Jones comes back, they'll have a legitimate 10-man rotation. Kevin McHale should stick with it and bring consistency to the Rockets.
PHOENIX SUNS - ACQUIRE a star. The Suns have a lot of nice pieces and fringe stars like Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and the Morris twins. Alex Len is an emerging prospect. The biggest thing keeping the Suns from contending (other than defense), is the lack of a superstar. Phoenix has assets to move, including Dragic. He's a free agent at season's end and he's really playing incredible ball of late. Dragic could fetch a high price if the Suns don't believe they'll re-sign him. Who that superstar might be is more confusing since so few are available.
ORLANDO MAGIC - FIND players to go with the core. Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris form the nucleus in Orlando. Elfrid Payton is the leader of the future and Aaron Gordon barely got going before injury. These players are a great start, but none is the breakout star needed to succeed in the NBA at the moment.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS - BEG anyone to take Lance Stephenson. Their defensive efficiency has tailed off from last season's surprising playoff run, but Stephenson's presence has done more harm than good. Include a first-rounder down the line, or maybe even Noah Vonleh, or Cody Zeller to sweeten the deal. I wouldn't want to give up either player, but Stephenson is going to be very tough to deal. He has a bit of a reputation and this season is not changing it. Kudos to him for having one of the more painful-sounding injuries in 2014 - sprained pelvis.
BROOKLYN NETS - KEEP Deron Williams coming off the bench. Lionel Hollins showed moxy keeping Brook Lopez and Williams as reserves when they returned from injury. Facts are facts. Mason Plumlee and Jarrett Jack are playing better than their much higher-compensated friends. Lopez started recently when Kevin Garnett didn't go, and Lopez starting again is fine with me. Williams is a sad shell of his former self. He makes a billion dollars, so trading him will be tougher than a diner steak. Keep him with the second unit. The growing trend of teams not worrying about finances when it comes to basketball decisions is refreshing.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES - SCOUR available wing options. Jeff Van Gundy said it a few weeks ago during an ESPN broadcast - the Grizzlies need a better wing scoring option to truly contend. Tony Allen is a defensive stud. Courtney Lee is sold at best. Vince Carter and Tayshaun Prince have been really good of late, but can't be relied on for too much at the points in their career. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are playing at unbelievable rates and Memphis may never have a better chance at a ring. Gasol is a free agent this summer and could very easily leave. This is easier said than done since the Memphis doesn't have much to entice trade partners with outside of BBQ and the blues. But the lack of a prominent scoring wing player could keep them from a Finals appearance.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - RELOCATE Kevin Durant to a protective bubble. This team is going to click massively. Durant and Russell Westbrook have been sensational when healthy of late. They are angry and ready to go. Keep Durant healthy the rest of the way, and I think OKC could get as high as fifth in the Western Conference. This team is very, very good.
DETROIT PISTONS - AVOID injury during self-congratulation. The Pistons displayed incredible chutzpah in releasing Josh Smith with two years and $25 million on the deal. (Stretch provision was a God's send.) They are 3-0 since releasing Smith. The group of Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond/Kyle Singler/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Brandon Jennings has won all three by double figures. There are clear jobs and clear positions. Couldn't be working out better for Detroit.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS - CONSIDER depth in the future. The Pelicans wagered a lot to make the playoffs now, which I still haven't fully understood. What happened was the team had six really solid pros in Anthony Davis (biggest star in the league at the moment), Omer Asik (much lower on that list), Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. One went down, and now underachievers like Austin Rivers and Jimmer Fredette have to play key roles. The Pelicans are solid, but no threat as presently constituted. I still say this plan ultimately fails because risking so much of the future on Holiday was not wise in a big-picture way.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS - SPA. If ever there was an NBA team that needed to get away and relax, it's the Cavs. LeBron and Kevin Love can get massages for their bad backs. They should go far away and avoid what's being said and written about them. This group will be fine, although the "takes time to jell" argument is losing traction. I still believe, but without some roster tweaking, this group isn't title-ready. They need size and overall depth.
TORONTO RAPTORS - HIRE a PR group to hype Kyle Lowry as an MVP candidate. He fits every criteria - great team, best player on that team, great numbers. Lowry also carried his team through a devastating injury to the best player - DeMar DeRozan. Steph Curry, Anthony Davis and James Harden are the top candidates to date. Curry has way better personnel around him. Davis won't be there in the end because of New Orleans' record. Harden is my guy and what I like is how he played and led the team when Dwight Howard was out with a knee injury. It's no different, in fact, more successful, with Lowry in Toronto.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS - REST Kobe. After a week off, Bryant played two games and averaged 16.5 ppg, 9.5 apg and 9.0 rpg. The Lakers actually won one of those games. Bryant's shooting was killing the Lakers. They had no choice but to play him that much, however, he needs rest. It would easier to sit him if there were some youngsters that could get some seasoning from playing, but LA didn't build its roster that way. The Lakers are a disaster, but extending Kobe like Byron Scott was doing, didn't benefit Bryant or the team. Kobe came back, spread the wealth and the team played better. Basketball is simple some times.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS - STAY strong. The only thing that can derail the Warriors at this point is themselves. A few veterans gladly stepped aside and left Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green to starting roles. Andre Iguodala, David Lee, or Marreese Speights could make waves about playing time. But, they're all getting along beautifully and winning. The Warriors have to stay that way when things begin to go south. Things happen during a season, but if Golden State stays together, it should be around deep into the postseason.
DENVER NUGGETS - FIRE Brian Shaw. He's unhappy, the team's unhappy and it just looks bad in Denver. Start anew. Shaw doesn't want to play the way that's best for how this roster is constructed. It's a bad fit.
CHICAGO BULLS - PAY Jimmy Butler. It's possible he's a top-five two-way player already. Butler's scoring has exploded this season and he's become the Bulls' best talent. Derrick Rose's health is always an issue. Pau Gasol has been great, but he's not Butler great. Joakim Noah appears to have difficulty fitting in with Gasol. Butler has emerged from all of it. I'm in the group that believes Chicago will be extremely difficult to beat if healthy this summer. I believe Butler is the biggest reason why. He wants max money and that's tricky. The Bulls will have to dump some salary to make it happen, which means, Taj Gibson probably has to go. It's a steep price, but for a 25- year-old, 20-point scoring, lock-down defending son of a gun, it's what the Bulls will have to pay.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS - DEVELOP a bench. The second unit has been much better this season, but they are still 25th in minutes and scoring. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard both rank in the top 10 in minutes per game. Robin Lopez is still out a while. If Chris Kaman, Steve Blake and C.J. McCollum can give them important minutes, it'll help the starting group try to advance in the playoffs.
ATLANTA HAWKS - FOLLOW every step listed for the Trail Blazers. Their starting unit of Paul Millsap/DeMarre Carroll/Al Horford/Kyle Korver/Jeff Teague have been playing too much of late. This Hawks team came out of virtually nowhere to rival the Raptors for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Mike Budenholzer may feel compelled to overly rely on the starters to maintain that pace. He has to remember his first five isn't as young as Portland's. Atlanta is playing with house money at this point, but if it's a real contender (I don't think they are), then the bench needs to play much better.
NEW YORK KNICKS - SHUT down Carmelo Anthony. Why is he still out there? He's a pro that's why, but if he's eventually going to need knee surgery, have it tomorrow and forget this season. It's been a disaster and there's no recovering from it now. Finish out the string and get Melo well for next season. The Knicks will be major players in free agency. Get a better pick to go with whatever core is formed. Anthony has nothing to gain by lacing it up out there anymore.
DALLAS MAVERICKS - PRACTICE hard. The Rajon Rondo acquisition is a game- changer, but it'll take time. This group needs to play as much as possible together to build those on-court relationships. Rondo is smart enough to figure things out. This is an elite offensive team who can defend, but it's not a strength. They are pros and veterans, so work on that chemistry and they'll be a trendy Finals pick.
BOSTON CELTICS - BUILD Marcus Smart into a dominant, two-way combo guard. Evan Turner and Jameer Nelson are not long-term answers at the point guard spot. Smart is, but if he builds a strong offensive game as a shooting guard, where he can score more than distribute, it'll help in the long run. Avery Bradley has locked up one spot in the backcourt. He's an underrated combo guard. Molding Smart in the same way will provide Boston with versatility and flexibility.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS - REMAIN unselfish. The Bucks are one of the best stories of the 2014-15 campaign, despite losing Jabari Parker for the season with a torn ACL. They'd have more of a feel-goodness to them if people didn't hate Jason Kidd for his stint in Brooklyn. Milwaukee leads the NBA in bench minutes and bench points. That's helping them win games and it's not stunting Giannis Antetokounmpo's growth. Guys fall out the rotation for a little while in Milwaukee, but Kidd brings them back and they perform. It's a solid group of youngsters and Kidd is much better suited for that sort of team than a high- profile squad of veterans.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - REALIZE blessings in disguise. The Timberwolves will trade Kevin Martin as soon as humanly possible. Ricky Rubio went down with injury. Same for Nikola Pekovic. Corey Brewer was traded for almost nothing. The decision was made to go with Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Zack LaVine. The results aren't good on the court, but Minny is another example of a team that should have had zero expectations. The T-wolves season should be about development. Playing these pups is excellent for the future of the Timberwolves' organization. They even look decent.
SACRAMENTO KINGS - GET it together. The Kings are 3-6 since abruptly firing head coach Mike Malone. DeMarcus Cousins appeared disinterested at times and even regressed into old ways, getting into a fight with Boston's Marcus Smart. They nearly blew a double-digit fourth-quarter lead on Thursday to the lowly Wolves. It's time for Cousins, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison to say, 'I don't know what's going around here, but I know we can do better.' Owner Vivek Ranadive made a decision to fire Malone so the team could take the next step. It hasn't worked. There needs to be leadership in this organization. Someone needs to show it. Someone needs to pull this group together.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - IMPROVE that bench. The Clippers have been a disappointment. There are reports of discontent in the locker room, which was surprising. (I found them to be one of the tightest groups I witnessed last season.) The bottom line is the Clippers have a starting lineup and head coach that can win a title. Their bench is hideous, especially up front. Jamal Crawford is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but outside of him, there's little. Spencer Hawes has been hurt, but nothing special when healthy. Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu are past their relevance. Doc Rivers has to be creative in trying to find frontcourt bench help.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - PLAY Joel Embiid if he can go this season. When Nerlens Noel missed all of the 2013-14 campaign, the Sixers rebuilt his shooting form and basically everything basketball-related to his game. That's not the case for Embiid. He' NBA ready, at least in terms of his skills. Plus, if Embiid can go, the Sixers owe this fan base something to look forward to and he's it. He's really the center piece. It's not like Embiid playing for three weeks at the end of the season is going to cost them the worst record.