It's mid-July, and most of the league is convening for the Las Vegas Summer League. Teams all over the league have altered their destinies with a variety of blockbuster transactions from draft picks to trades and, of course, free-agent signings -- 25 of the top 30 free agents are off the board. While there are still free agents to be signed and trades to be made, most of the roster overhauling has already occurred, as the league prepares to enter its unofficial "slow" period, the six-week stretch between the end of summer league and the beginning of informal team pickup games that usually commence after Labor Day. Here's an evaluation and rank of the five most improved teams this summer and why.
Re-signing Chris Paul: Putting the Clippers in first place was actually an easy decision. Of all the teams with successful offseasons, the Clippers risked losing the most. Re-signing Paul, the No. 2 free agent on my Big Board, was the difference between solidifying the Clippers -- long thought of as L.A.'s "other" team -- as a winner or going back to the Dark Ages. By keeping Paul in the fold, the Clippers gained the credibility needed to pursue other free agents (both now and in the future) without having to overpay for their services.