October 9, 2008
The 2007-08 Southeast Division produced 3 playoff teams, but it also housed the team with the worst record in the league. But every year teams' change and acquire new persona's. Here is my outlook of the NBA's Southeast division:
The setback in South Beach last season can be attributed to a lack of cooperation and the inability to stay healthy. All five starters last season for the Heat missed 13 or more games, which was a historic first in their franchise.
Record-wise, Miami was the worst team in the NBA last season. Coincidentally, they also finished with the same record last season as their inaugural season in 1988-89. The Heat were the NBA's worst rebounding team and were also out-rebounded by their opponents in 2006-07. Surprisingly they're only two years adjacent (2005-06) from the top tier in rebounding, during their championship run, the only one in their 20 year history.
Now for the cleansing sunshine. With a National Championship winner in college, NCAA's Basketball Player of the Year, and a Gold Medalist fixated into the starting lineup, the Heat resemble a team with a brilliant eschatological future for great accolades this season. With the after taste of Olympic Gold, a healthy Dwyane Wade should return to navigate the team along with Shawn Marion, who decided not to opt out this offseason. A roster that will catapult them atop their division. Newly signed point guard Shaun Livingston should add extra padding on the depth chart and if he regains his play making cleverness, Miami will have simply lethal guard play. The Heat will also have the tallest backcourt in the NBA, thanks to the elongated ball handler.
Luckily for coach Eric Spolestra, Miami is stocked with talent. Prior to his promotion, Spolestra was apart of their coaching staff for 13 seasons despite being only 37 years old. With this club immersed in talent, his job will be to effectively manage and guide the team with help from Pat Riley. Wade will do all the heavy lifting, mentoring proteges' Chalmers and Beasley.
Bottomline: Anticipate a scorching resurgence, despite having the youngest head coach in the league. Miami wins the Southeast and finishes as the 3rd seed in the East.
With Childress’ escapade in Greece and Josh Smith’s signing weeks behind them, Atlanta now focuses on the remnants of their club. They have the same lineup as last year but hardly the equivalency of firepower off the bench as they did then. Besides Josh, Salim Stoudemire is no longer a member of their second unit, making advances toward the Spurs. Shooting guard Maurice Evans was brought in to lick the wounds created by the redundant defection of their former second string two guard, and Flip Murray should be an upgrade over Speedy Claxton. Murray started a few games for the Pacers at point guard towards the end of last season after being let go from Detroit. He posted several games of 20+ points, and reached double figures in 56.5% of his games.
Furthermore, Atlanta has been out-scored by their opponents for the last eight seasons, speaking volumes about their offense and their defense.
Bottomline: The Hawks miss the playoffs and finish worst in the Southeast while earning the 9th overall seed.
Donning new uniforms this upcoming season should represent change for the Magic. But, they failed to sign a big name free agent, only had one draft pick which they used to select a position player in which they were plentiful in, and learned Hedo Turkoglu may vacate them next season.
Despite having Dwight Howard for the past four seasons, the boys in blue have been out-rebounded twice and opponents have shot over 75% from the free throw line since the Superman era. While Howard wreaked havoc offensively and proved to be invaluable on defense, he shot 59.0% from the free throw line, which is dead last in the NBA. And JJ Redick is still being held against his will. Perhaps that's the reason why their new uniforms are replicas of the past.
However the Magic went 34-12 in games with 10+ scoring margins, proving that they were a homerun team on any night and Howard led the league in rebounding and double-doubles.
Bottomline: The Magic finish 3rd in the division and squeak into the playoffs as the 8th seed.
The Wizards will look to practice frugality, having wrapped up both Arenas and Jamison this offseason, predictably. They will also have the same lineup as the latter part of last season to open the year. However they still have faults.
Washington has been atrocious in the last 10 years in two specific categories: rebounding and field goal percentage; eight out of the 10 years they have lost both the battles and have walked away with unfulfilled, prolonged seasons. The drafting of experimental center Javale McGee should be a remedy for their troubles, and his length will help on defense as well on offense for a club that finished 19th last season in that category.
Getting Gilbert back for Christmas is a nice present for the team and an even grander one for Eddie Jordan, who is on thin ice and will be fired if the team disperses in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
Bottomline: Washington finishes 2nd in the division and as the 7th overall seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bobcats are without debate, one of the most unfortunate teams in the league. In 2004-05, they were established as a replacement for the displaced Hornets franchise who relocated to the Big Easy. In their first four seasons, they've never had a postseason appearance nor a 35-win season. In every year of their existence, their defensive rank has been minuscule, lingering in the 20's (20th in 2007-08, 21st in 2006-07, 24th in 2005-06, and 21st again in 2004-05). They've also never encountered a season in their franchise history in which they had a better field goal percentage than their opponents.
At this point, to label their franchise as in shambles would be an understatement.
Then again they weren't dealt a fair playing hand to begin with. The 2004 expansion draft ordered by the League for the Bobcats, was a boardinghouse for 19 NBA players: Only one of them still remains with the team, captain Gerald Wallace, and only 4/19 still remain in the NBA. They are Zaza Pachulia (Atlanta), Aleksandar Pavolic (Cleveland), Wallace, and Jason Kapono (Toronto). Gerald maybe their best player but his storied history with concussions has prevented him from playing one full season in the NBA, despite being in the league for seven years.
Now for the intrepid matter regarding their draft history. Draft picks Adam Morrison (3rd overall pick in 2006) and Sean May (13th pick overall in 2005) have only played in 55.2 percent of their games since their selections. That excludes 2007-08, in which both were sidelined with knee injuries and were required to have knee surgeries sidelining them for the entire season.
Raymond Felton has been the rogue exception of their June saga's, sustaining a minor injury and his production levels gauged at satisfactory. Felton was only one of three point guards in the Eastern Conference last season to average 14+ points, 7+ assists, and 1 steal per game. Chauncey Billups and Andre Miller were the others. But as it stands, only one out of the 11 players drafted by the Bobcats has ever played an entire 82-game season, which was Emeka Okafor in 2007-08.
Jason Richardson still ranks among the team's commonwealth (in terms of leadership status) despite leading the team in points and shooting percentage last season. Either taken as a slap in the face or a motivational tool, J.R. must continue his scoring if the Bobcats want any shot at a better record this season.
With the hiring of discipline-stricken Larry Brown and a coveted draft class spearheaded by D.J. Augustin and Aleixs Ajinca Charlotte, they look to be heading in a positive direction.
Bottomline: Taking a few years to ferment, Charlotte maybe on the cusp of postseason advancement around 2010. The Bobcats finished last in division and 10th in the East