Friday, September 12, 2008

Southeast Division (E) - July 23, 2008

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have been developing for several years and it is about time that the draft picks meet the potentials expected of them. Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson along with the nucleus of young studs in Al Horford, Acie Law, Marvin Williams, Josh Childress and Josh Smith. However, the Hawks are in sight of losing all this prosperity through free agency with the possibility of losing both Josh Childress (to Europe) and Josh Smith. Childress would be entering his 5th year in the league. He puts up a consistent 10 points and 5 rebounds making him a solid 6th man or occasional 5th man but he has accepted an offer of 3 year- 20 million dollars with one of the best teams in Greece. Still, Childress should not be the biggest concern of the organization. There have been numerous rumors surrounding the restricted free agent, Josh Smith. There has been interest expressed in him since the beginning of free agency making it unusual that the Hawks would allow him to sit around this long. Smith is known for his great defense finishing last season 2nd in blocks and 19th in steals but that isn’t the half of it. Smith is also a great rebounder on both ends and he has seen a consistent increase in point totals from year to year making him a prominent presence on both ends of the court. Without Smith, it is difficult to see the Hawks squeeze into the playoffs let alone make any forward progress. He is a must resign that has been out there way too long. It would be a shame to see a talent walk out the front door, but recently there have been rumors of sign and trades which will not hurt the team as much as simply leaving him out there. The Hawks have to tighten up and not be so sloppy. Both the organization and the team on the court are a bit floppy and need some order to go into the right direction; with the addition of a displinitive figure the Hawks should be on their way to success.

Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are similar to the New York Knicks in that they have a lot of talent on the team but for one reason or another the team cannot come through and put together a winning season. The team has been rattled by injuries this past season which is a likely source of the underachievement; however this year looks bright especially since the team has based itself on defensively sound players. Emeka Okafor is one of the best shot blockers and rebounders in the league. He has a great mentality and understands what it takes to win, but the relationship seems to have taken a hit since negotiations between Okafor and the Bobcats have gone sour over the course of the offseason. Okafor is essential to keeping the paint closed and eliminating easy baskets for opponents. What ever city that finds itself the next home for Okafor will be quite pleased with his play. With that said the Bobcats should be looking to trade Okafor in the near future to avoid losing his value completely. Most teams wouldn't mind adding a player like Okafor who brings solid defense and a great mentality. Detriot is in the Josh Smith sweepstakes but if that falls through then Okafor should become a likely candidate. Another team is Denver which recently unloaded Marcus Camby. We're still waiting for the move everyone thought that they were making; it shouldn't be surprising if Okafor is the plan. If the Bobcats plan on keeping Emeka and just hoping to make a run this season then sights are good. Along with Gerald Wallace, one of the real grinders in the league, and Raymond Felton the Bobcats are defensively sound. Felton also happens to be one of the better point guards in the league. With a healthy Jason Richardson, the team should be able to come together and win some games. The team has also gathered a fine set of promising youngsters in D.J. Augustin, Alexis Ajinca, Kyle Weaver, Jared Dudley, Jermareo Davidson, Sean May, and Adam Morrison. It is doubtful that they will all become All-Stars but the Bobcats are sure to get some decent years from most of them since they are all known for fine work ethic. The team should be focused on retaining at least two of their 10 year veteran free agents to help keep order on the squad. The only real concern is that the team lacks a dominant post scorer since Okafor isn't known for his offense and will likely be gone anyway. Basically the near future of the team lies in how the organization deals with the Okafor situation.

Miami Heat

To sum up the last several months for the Heat: terrible fortune through injuries has turned into a great opportunity for contention. Marion and Banks for O'Neal was a nice trade for the team but unfortunately the team was struck by numerous injuries to just about everyone on the roster leaving them with the best odds for the first overall pick but become luckier when the lose the spot to the Bulls and end up drafting the best player in the draft in Michael Beasley instead of the stock-soaring Derrick Rose. The team managed to snag Mario Chalmers in the second round and all of a sudden the Heat should be in contention with Dwayne Wade, Shawn Marion, Michael Beasley, and Udonis Haslem. This should be a tough match up in any sport considering this is one of the most impressive set of athletes on any roster. The Heat also have some nice vets in Jason Williams and Ricky Davis. The only concerns for the team should be injuries and the center position. Pending on Alonzo Mourning's return to the NBA the Heat may need to go out and find a defense minded center that can clog up the paint. If Mourning returns that will be great for the team, if not then the Heat should seriously consider acquiring Emeka Okafor. Andris Biedrins is also out there in free agency and can bring a similar shot blocking ability. If the team can solidify the paint to help avoid easy baskets by opponents inside then the team can achieve greatness this upcoming season.

Orlando Magic

It’s not magic, just a group of overachieving playmakers that are having career breakout from hard work and dedication. It is a safe assumption to consider Dwight Howard some sort of beast. Does he even qualify as a human? His body is perfect to simply overpower any opponents anywhere on the court and even when he isn’t on basketball wise he all has an enormous amount of presence in the paint on both sides of the court creating mismatches and trouble for opposition. Rashard Lewis is one of the better scorers in the league and is deadly behind the three point arc. In combination with Hedo Turkoglu teams have to be real careful not to get caught in picks or screens otherwise there will be a lot of open threes. If that’s not enough the team acquired Brian Cook last season and Mickael Pietrus; both whom are solid shooters and provide an active body on the defensive end. Last season we witnessed the breakout of Keith Bogans as another shooter. The only downs for the team was been the small guard play. Jameer Nelson is inconsistent and is prone to turnovers which are already bad enough with Dwight Howard on the court. J.J. Reddick has also failed to translate his game to the NBA which is turning to be a disappointing pick considering that he rocked the college basketball world. The team has back up point guards Anthony Johnson and Carlos Arroyo but it is doubtful that either can put up the play to allow the team to reach its full potential. There are rumors of the Magic’s interest in Shaun Livingston which is good that they are looking for a point guard. A European guard whose fundamentals are sound would be a nice addition to run the offense but that would have to be another year since it would require draft principles. Last season was great for the Magic; however, it will not be as easy considering that most of the troubles in the division last season were sourced by injuries.

Washington Wizards

Like some other teams in the East the Wizards are a fine collection of talent, the team is just waiting for something to click. Arenas, Butler, Jamison (all of whom have great stories too) are some of the best talents in the league. We saw a glimpse of the greatness a season ago when the Wizards took the Eastern conference by force until they fell to mediocrity after All-Star Weekend. We know that most of the Wizards are capable of performing when called upon: Haywood came up as one of the better centers in the league toward the end of last season. Antonio Daniels was key in the absence of Gilbert Arenas proving he is a liability in case of need. DeShawn Stevenson came out as a solid shooter too in the wake of injuries and when Haywood wasn’t on, Andray Blatche came out of no where to provide blocks. Nick Young also had a good rookie season averaging a bit under 10 ppg but with great accuracy. The talent is there, the team is pending its ability to come together and pull out some victories. The team has clear skies ahead of them under the wing of Eddie Jordan. There are no real suggestions for the Wizards outside of practice; the players must develop an understanding for each other’s tendencies considering that the team hasn’t played together in a while.

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