Only one team finishes the NBA Playoffs truly happy. For everyone else, well, there's always next year.
As we progress in the playoffs, we're taking a look at each team that's been eliminated, examining their strengths, weaknesses, what brought on their playoff demise, and what to keep an eye on heading into the 2013-14 season.
Every team will get analyzed individually but stay tuned to this list for all the facts you need to know about Eastern Conference teams as they're sent home for the summer (Click on the team to get to the in-depth team analysis).
Bucks: Good hustle, Milwaukee. The Bucks were 38-44 this season, went through a couple of coaches and had to go up against the Heat in the first round. On a positive note, Larry Sanders has already emerged as an elite defensive player and if they go in the direction of building a defensive team around him, they will have more success than their current run and gun style. Jennings and Ellis are both free agents and the Bucks have some tough personnel choices to make in addition to finding a new coach.
Celtics: Boston may have seen the last of the KG and Pierce era. Both players are under contract for next year, but many people predict that the Celtics will look to get younger and let Rondo take a more prominent role as the teams true leader. The question is, how do they do that? Can they get anything of real value for KG and Pierce or will Doc Rivers try to lead his team back to playoff glory next year with Rondo back.
Hawks: After a quiet playoff exit, the Hawks may be approaching full rebuild mode. They have only two of their key players under contract for next year and looks like the Josh Smith era has ended. Atlanta has more roster and salary flexibility than anyone and it is an attractive free agent destination, so the Hawks could make some serious noise this summer. Al Horford is the foundation moving forward and it will be interesting to see if the Hawks can build around him enough to make a bigger playoff impact next season.
Nets: In their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets left something to be desired. They got the fourth spot in the east but lost to an undermanned Bulls team. The Nets have too much talent to be so disappointing, but some of that talent really brought them down this year. If they are able to find a coach that can get the players to play as a team they will improve, even though they don't have much flexibility to make roster improvements.
Bulls: Despite playing the entire season without Derrick Rose and finishing near the bottom of the league offensively, the Bulls managed to get to the playoffs, win a game 7 on the road, and make the Heat work. Coach Tom Thibodeau deserves a lot of credit for the team's accomplishments, but we shouldn't overlook how talented and deep the roster is when healthy. We have a tendency to overreact to the most recent playoff performance, but the Bulls front office shouldn't go out and try to load up on offensive fire power just because they failed to score in these playoffs. The Bulls need to get back to being an elite defensive team and the offense will take care of itself.
Knicks: A disappointing end to the season can be blamed on a few guys. JR Smith didn't do anything in the second round, Carmel failed to put the team on his back, and Mike Woodson played guys that couldn't score. But the real problem is that the team stopped moving the ball; all those other problems were secondary. The Knicks went from 15.5% of their regular season offense coming from isolation to 26.6% in the playoffs. That -- in addition to the extra pressure -- was a recipe for an early exit.
Pacers: The Pacers were the second best defensive team this season and were the only team with three players in the top ten in Defensive Rating. Paul George is approaching superstar status and the Pacers aren't going anywhere. But if they want to take the next step, they'll need to bring David West back and add some depth, especially in the back court. They don't have a ton of cap space, but the Pacers front office has done a beautiful job putting this team together, so Pacers fans should remain optimistic.
2012-13 NBA CHAMPIONS:
HEAT: After dominating during the regular season thanks to elite play on both ends of the floor, the Heat were tested in the playoffs. Their lack of size became an issue during the Eastern Conference finals, but D-Wade, LeBron and "his" shooters carried them past a formidable Spurs team. Despite finishing at or near the top of the league in most categories, the Heat need to address their poor rebounding, even though they were able to gather important rebounds when it mattered most. The team's salary cap situation is verging on disaster with the looming "repeater" tax and a payroll dominated by the Big Three. With very little flexibility, it looks like this same group will be making a run at a three-peat next year.