Sunday, July 27, 2008

Southeast Shaping Up

Since their birth in 2004, the Southeast division hasn’t had a collective winning record. They’re a relatively young division; the average player is about 26 years old. After the draft, recent trades, and young players beginning to embrace their potential, the division is finally looking up.

Let’s start out by looking at the Atlanta Hawks. Last year, Atlanta shocked America with their play against the future champions, taking the number one seed Celtics to seven games. Al Horford had an astounding rookie season, and looks to improve his numbers as well as the Hawk’s record this year. Also, look for Mike Bibby to step up this year; he joined an unfamiliar offense last year when he was traded from the Kings. Bibby also was battling thumb, ankle, and quad injuries, but he’s healing up well and hopes to have a much better season. Joe Johnson remains a reliable scorer, and with Childress gone and the Hawks short on guards, watch for second-year player Acie Law to get in more playing time. Law has potential to be a good point guard, and this is his chance to break out and earn a starting job.

Projected 08-09 record: 44-38

The Charlotte Bobcats have never made the playoffs, and it’s likely they won’t this year either. In the scheme of things, however, they will improve their record. Rookie center Alexis Ajinca is the first step to improving the Bobcat frontcourt. It still needs work, but they won’t be as embarrassing to watch. Emeka Okafor will continue rebounding and blocking shots, however if he could improve his inside scoring ability they would have another option besides Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace. Beware of Jared Dudley this year; he will likely see more playing time. The “sophomore” out of Boston College is a great shooter, and his court vision is top-notch. Expect him to sneak in more minutes as the season progresses.

Projected 08-09 record: 37-45

Although Rose would have been a better fit, Beasley will produce big things for the Miami Heat. Don’t forget about the other rookie, Mario Chalmers, who shut down Rose in the summer league match-up. The Heat may finally be seeing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel they’ve been in. With a healthy D-Wade in the starting line-up, and a consistent forward in Shawn Marion, the Heat have much better chances at making the playoffs this year. The one thing I’m concerned with is the mix-up at the point guard position. At first, it was Chris Quinn, who is way below average for a starting NBA point guard. Some say Marcus Banks will start, and others have generated the idea that Wade might take over at the 1 spot even though he doesn’t want to. If the Heat can trade for, or sign, a solid point guard, expect an immense improvement in their record.

Projected 08-09 record: 50-32

With strictly three point shooters in the starting line-up like Rashard Lewis and Keith Bogans, the Orlando Magic are thankful they have the best rebounder in the NBA, Dwight Howard. Averaging over 14 rebounds per game and finishing with thunderous dunks, Howard is a highlight reel waiting to happen. Howard, too, is thankful that Lewis and Bogans actually make their threes; Lewis finished 3rd last year in threes made, and Bogans 22nd. Let’s not forget about last year’s Most Improved Player-Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu averaged over 19 points a game and helped the Magic win the division for the first time. Orlando recently signed Mickael Pietrus, adding depth to the small forward position.

Projected 08-09 record: 48-34

When you talk about a team plagued by injuries, the Washington Wizards are always in that conversation. Antawn Jamison was the only consistent scorer on the team who didn’t miss more than ten games. Added together, stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler played a total of 71 games, not even a full season. Well, Gilbert seems to be healthy and serious about winning, and Butler is also healed up and ready to go. Andray Blatche is a young player with good potential, and Washington needs help at the center position. With the big three finally re-united, and a center with potential on the roster, the Wizards are a playoff contending team, and also help the Southeast become one of the top divisions in the NBA.


No comments: