State of the NBA (Part 3: East; Southeast)
In case you actually were following my blog consistently (thanks, mom), but somehow missed part 1 and part 2, there are the links. Those cover how I see each NBA team in the Atlantic and Central Divisions in the East. But I know nobody was really interested in those divisions, so I saved the best (at least from an interest perspective) for last. As always, I will do this in reverse order of standings based on the 2010-2011 regular season. So if you want to read about the Heat, scroll down to the bottom. I don’t care, you’ve already clicked on the blog – counts as a “view” for me.
Let’s start with the Washington Wizzards, or as they have become crudely known on twitter: “jan vesley hot girlfriend kiss.” For the three or four Wizard fans out there, your entire season, and really franchise for the next five or so years, depends almost entirely (I want to leave room for team abduction or nuclear war with China) on the development of John Wall. Yes, Jan Vesely will have an effect, but Wall needs to improve dramatically for the team to progress. Wall showed flashes of his awesome athleticism (and his dance moves), but in reality Wall shot 41% from the field and 30% from 3. Oh, and he also averaged just 17 points per game and almost 4 TOs. Right now Wall is Derrick Rose very, very light. He needs to get much closer to Derrick Rose levels if Washington is going to be successful. That said, Washington fans should be very excited about the team they’ve built. McGee, Vesely, Singleton and Wall are all talented (and highly athletic) prospects that can very well develop. And don’t forget they have Blatche, Josh Howard, and Nick Young. Potential should be Washington’s middle name for the next few years. Final Grade: B+
Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats are another purgatory zone team, which has not won more than 44 games (or less than 30) for the last 5 years. But now it looks like the team is in the process of blowing itself up. After dumping its four best players of the last couple years (Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor), the Bobcats have clearly decided to completely renovate the team. Unfortunately, this means there’s nothing good in store for Charlotte on the court for the next 2 years. Biyambo and Walker (the Bobcats’ two first-round draft picks) really don’t excite me too much, because, as I’ve said before, I do believe that Kemba is too small to be a bigtime star and Biyambo is just far too raw. And, I mean, how high a grade can a team get who has no idea how old its 1st round pick is? Final Grade: C+ (plus or minus 2 years)
It’s hard to imagine that just 4 years ago, the Atlanta Hawks were the young team on the rise. Increasing their wins each of the seasons under Mike Woodson, the Hawks really looked like a threat to make the jump to NBA championship contenders. Now, though, Atlanta seems to have peaked and their roster, so promising just 2 years ago, looks riddled with overpaid and underperforming players (Kirk Hinrich, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford, and even Joe Johnson). So now the Hawks are threatening to enter the purgatory zone with little hope for an on-the-fly revamping of the team. When your best hopes are to rebuild quickly, you can’t get a grade higher than a C
Two years ago, the Orlando Magic, like Atlanta, was a team on the rise. Their victory over Cleveland to get to the Finals (though they lost to LAL), was supposed to be their coming out party, ushering in a decade of Orlando dominance. Even with the team a seeming wreck this year (including multiple multi-player trades midseason), the team still won 52 games. But the gaudy wins on the surface belie the huge issues brewing under the surface. The Magic were bounced in the first round for the first time in 5 years, Dwight Howard is threatening to leave in free agency and the team is absolutely buried in horrible contracts. I can’t imagine with the way things are going financially for Orlando, that they’ll have any chance of keeping Dwight simply because the team is in a financial bind for the next 3-or-so years. And just wait until it gets worse under the new collective bargaining agreement. I really don’t see any good outcome for this team in the next couple years. Final Grade: C
If I remember correctly, it’s been exactly a year since the Decision propelled the Miami Heat to instant international superstardom. Since I’ve already written multiple full-length blogs about the Decision and Lebron, I’ll let those topics rest and talk about the team roster-wise, because outside of Miami’s PR wreck, the team is in fantastic shape. The Big Three are still under contract through 2016, which means we’re going to see a lot more of Miami every June. Consider that Miami had two players, both in the bottom 12 of playoff PER ever, log a combined almost 1000 playoff minutes, and that the SuperFriends were still just two 4th quarter collapses short of an NBA Championship, prospects are looking very good for the team, in my opinion. Also, it cannot be ignored that Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem played very injured in the playoffs. Miami will add a couple pieces here and there, but the onus will always remain on Lebron to produce. If he can, there’s still hope for the Heat to win “not two, not three…” Final Grade: A+ (This grade is based entirely on future championship prospects)
Alright, there’s the East for you. As you can tell, I’m not hot on very many teams, which means that there’s a lot of room in the near future for surprises like Washington, New Jersey, New York and Cleveland to make deep playoff runs. The only locks I see for the future is that the Bulls and Heat will be contenders for the next 5 years.