NBA Season Preview Series by Danny with the J: Southeast Division
The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…
- Offseason: The Hawks added Atlanta native and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in center Dwight Howard and point guard Jarret Jack in free agency. However, the Hawks lost 4-time NBA All-Star Al Horford to the Celtics as an unrestricted free agent. Atlanta also traded away Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers in a 3-team deal that gave Atlanta the number 12 pick overall in the draft, which was used on Baylor small forward Taurean Prince by way of the Utah Jazz (the third team in the Teague-trade). Atlanta also drafted DeAndre Bembry out of St. Joseph with the 21st pick and Isaia Cordinier in the 2nd round (44th overall) who had played for French club Denain ASC Voltaire last season.
- 2016-17 Outlook: Trading Jeff Teague meant that the Hawks were ready to hand the keys of the car to backup point guard Dennis Schroder, who is entering his third year in the league and letting Horford go in free agency allowed the Hawks the cash to spend to bring in Dwight Howard. As far as predicting their season, the Hawks look to be in playoff contention, but it will be a tight race in the division.
Jay: The Hawks make the playoffs if Dwight Howard returns to DPotY form; they lost Horford who is a solid defender and Howard’s defensive prowess was hard to find at times in Houston. Hopefully the Hawks treat him better than James Harden did.
Daniel: The Hawks have a playoff pedigree, and adding a player that has been to NBA Finals shouldn’t hurt in theory. However, the fit between Paul Millsap and Howard will be interesting to watch develop. Millsap, in my opinion is the best player, but they need Howard to provide some semblance of elite level defense if they want home court in the playoffs. While there might be a drop-off in play-making and floor leadership with Teague gone, Schröder definitely could add a change of pace with his fast-twitch, sneaky aggressive game.
- Offseason: The Hornets had a busy offseason. They resigned Nicholas Batum to a new deal, traded the 22nd pick, Malachi Richardson, to the Sacramento Kings for Marco Belinelli, and used free agency to let some players go and new ones come in. Charlotte signed Roy Hibbert, Ramon Sessions, Christian Wood and Brian Roberts. The Hornets also lost Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson to free agency.
- 2016-17 Outlook: The Hornets, like most teams in the eastern conference still have a long way to go to compete with Cleveland for eastern conference champ, but like the Hawks, they are in playoff contention. Frank Kaminsky is still in development, Kemba Walker is still as underrated as ever and they still need a third piece that can take away pressure from Walker to create offense and wreak havoc for opposing teams on the defensive end of the floor.
Jay: Charlotte misses the playoffs on top of the All-Star game being relocated. Kaminsky does take a noticeable step in development, but it isn’t enough to get past Atlanta or Washington.
Daniel: Losing Lin was HUGE. Time and time again Lin could either relieve Walker during the games when the defense would load up on him or his shot just wasn’t there. Then there were the times, namely during the playoffs, when they could play off each other and serve as an above average tandem in the backcourt. With Lee gone also, the depth of this team took a hit. Adding a dinosaur of a big man in Hibbert could end up being a net zero of a move. Trading him by the trade deadline is the best case scenario. Without adding anything or hurting the team, his presence should go unnoticed. Kaminsky could take a step, but it won’t be enough to help them gain playoff contention.
- Offseason: Bradley Beal was resigned to a large extension according to the previous standard set by last year’s salary cap; much like other NBA teams did with their “indispensable” guys. The Wizards’ notable free agent losses include Ramon Sessions, Nene, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson. Outside of Ian Mahinmi, there weren’t any other noteworthy free agent pickups. Washington didn’t have a draft pick, but they did hire former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
- 2016-17 Outlook: The Wizards have new coach with a similar group of guys. Something they seemed to have been missing in the past couple of seasons. Can they finally take the division from Atlanta or Miami?
Jay: I say they make the playoffs. John Wall puts up better numbers and dare I say puts himself in the MVP discussion as a dark horse? They’re talented. I hope Brooks can put it together.
Daniel: If Bradley Beal can stay on the court he could have a special season. The one thing about Brooks is that he rides his stars, for better or worse. The ball should be in Wall and Beal’s hands for most of each possession. If Brooks can bring some ingenuity, (something he’s never been known to consistently possess) this backcourt, with the pieces around them, can be an Eastern Conference contender.
- Offseason: The Magic helped shakeup the basketball landscape this offseason by trading away Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova and their number 11 pick, which turned into Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga), to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka. The Magic also drafted center Stephen Zimmerman out of UNLV. Orlando had a busy free agency period as well; they brought in Bismack Biyambo, Jeff Green and DJ Augustin. Orlando also let go of Brandon Jennings and traded Shabazz Napier to Portland.
- Outlook 2016-17: Magic fans can be excited for this season; Ibaka paired with Nikola Vucevic looks pretty appetizing to watch along with Aaron Gordon being the modern human highlight reel.
Jay: Playoffs aren’t far from Orlando. It’ll come down to the final 10 games of the season, but they will miss the playoffs this year. They will be respectable though. They will look to be one of the more competitive teams in the east in spite of not making the playoffs. The team doesn’t have the coaching to get there in my opinion.
Daniel: New head coach Frank Vogel has manned a top ten defense for the last five seasons. That’s what they are going to have to hang their cap on. They have the athletes to be an absolute wall defensively in the interior. Shooting will be a problem. Ibaka is an elite shooter but he HAS to be fed the ball. Sophomore Mario Hezonja has shown signs of developing into a reliable shooter and offensive threat. The point guard position with Elfrid Payton is going to be intriguing as he may be starting caliber.
- Offseason: A new era has begun in Miami; Dwayne Wade is gone, Whiteside is the new face of the Heat, and there is a bunch of young developing talent. The Heat added Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams along with retaining Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. The team unfortunately didn’t have a draft pick this year.
- 2016-17 Outlook: Chris Bosh has yet to be cleared to play by Miami team doctors, so until then, Heat fans should get used to seeing Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and Derrick Williams running the floor. Young is the best way to describe this group that is most likely to be around after veterans like Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem are gone.
Jay: I wouldn’t expect playoffs this season. Maybe next season if Richardson, Johnson and Winslow take large steps in their development by the season’s end, but not this season with Bosh not cleared to play.
Daniel: Ummm, what happened with the Heat? No Wade, and they gave “Bumpy” Johnson a 4/$50 million a year contract. Pat Riley has to be sick to his stomach with the events of the last 2-3 seasons. The Bosh ordeal has just been saddening. They had a nice year last season, but it won’t be as pleasant for the “Timberwolves East.”