NBA Southeast Preview: Who Will Prevail?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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