The Miami Heat clearly rank supreme in the Southeast division as well as in the Eastern conference. Having won back-to-back titles, they show no signs of slowing down. LeBron James is dazzling basketball fans around the world, making them wonder if he really is the best to ever play the game. The Heat will win this division, but there is hope for some other teams in the Southeast, like the Wizards, who have a chance to make the playoffs. Let’s look at how the division will play out (*denotes playoff team).
1.) *Miami Heat
If I were a betting man, my money would be on the Miami Heat to pull a three-peat and win the NBA championship. They have all of the pieces and even found a way to improve their team from a year ago. They signed Greg Oden, an injury plagued center who has not lived up to his #1 overall pick six years ago, and Michael Beasley, a talented but immature small forward who was once considered the best player coming out of college. These are two low-risk, potentially high reward picks could significantly help Miami’s bench. Of course, distractions are part of the game, and there will be a huge focus on LeBron’s impending free agency and whether he will return to South Beach next year. The X-factor for the Heat is Dwyane Wade’s health. Although Dwyane is working with Tim Grover, the legendary trainer who has worked miracles with athletes and their injuries, he still has a lot of miles on his knees and has clearly shown deterioration in his explosiveness. Chris Bosh is another important player for the Heat as he stretches out opposing defenses with his mid-range game, opening up the hole for LeBron and D-Wade to attack. If Bosh improves on the defensive side of the ball, the Heat will be tough to beat. The Miami Heat has great talent off the floor as Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have brought in viable role players who have meshed with the big three quite well. Riley and Spoelstra will be busy managing the media scrutiny about LeBron’s free agency while also formulating a plan for the future in case LeBron decides to leave. Watch for the Heat in the headlines as they create a lot of excitement on and off the court.
2.) *Washington Wizards
The Wizards take a big step and reach the playoffs this season with their young stars starting to pay dividends. After John Wall returned from a serious knee injury last year, the Wizards finished the season with a .500 record, which would have been good enough to make the playoffs considering the Bucks got in under .500. John Wall received his much-desired max contract extension, they drafted Otto Porter, a versatile wing player who can defend and Bradley Beal showed significant improvement as the season wore on. The Wizards also have some expiring contracts in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza that could be traded for some younger assets to help the Wizards in the long-run. But the Wizards lack post presence, as Nene has not been able to stay healthy, Emeka Okafor is not the player he once was, and the Wizards don’t have any reliable back-ups. This put the onus on Wall, Beal and Porter to carry the offense and both Wall and Porter are inconsistent shooters, which is partially why the Wizards ranked 27th in field goal percentage last season. If the Wizards can attack more, and trade Okafor and/or Ariza for a viable big man, the Wizards could vault themselves from an 8th seed to a 6-7th seed.
3.) Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are positioned for a rebuilding year as they let Josh Smith go to Detroit and they fired Larry Drew. And while the Hawks have a solid core of Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Lou Williams, they are still several significant upgrades from making the playoffs. In the NBA, there are teams who are consistently mediocre with little potential of advancing but are not the dregs of the league. The Atlanta Hawks are the quintessential example. They missed out on Chris Paul and Dwight Howard but signed a nice complimentary piece in Paul Milsap while also re-signing Kyle Korver. The Hawks also had a nice draft by selecting Dennis Schröeder, a talented point guard who could be a surprise ROY and might even take over the starting job from Jeff Teague. He still needs time to adjust to the NBA game but has the potential to be a cornerstone of this franchise. The Hawks are young and need more pieces to be contenders.
4.) Charlotte Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years now as they have consistently drafted players who have turned out to be busts including Adam Morrison, Brandan Wright and DJ Augustin. Fan attendance is low and the Bobcats don’t have a player worth advertising. Insert Al Jefferson. Although Jefferson may not be a star, he has a consistent game of 18 points and 9 rebounds per game, solid numbers for a new NBA game that focuses on perimeter play. This signing is important for the growth of the Bobcats and for showing the fan base that the team can attract free agents. But even with the Jefferson signing, the Bobcats don’t have enough talent to get out of the lottery, which is a good thing for them as they traded a protected 1st round pick to the Bulls back in 2010 and that pick still has protection until 2016. The Bobcats also have a Blazers protected top twelve pick and a Pistons protected top eight pick that the Bobcats may get this year as the Blazers and Pistons look to make the playoffs. Given how stacked the draft is expected to be, a midrange pick could turn into a star, so the Bobcats have a great opportunity on the horizon. Multiple picks can change the course of their franchise in just one night. This might be the last year for Bobcat nation to root for tanking and hopefully owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho can turn this team around. As for this season, the Bobcats need Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to find a jumpshot, Cody Zeller to play physical against bigger players and for Kemba Walker to become a more efficient shooter. I don’t like this team now, but next year, it may be an entirely different story.
5.) Orlando Magic
The Magic will be one of the worst teams in the NBA, no doubt about it, but they do have some exciting young players such as Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic. These players will become complimentary pieces to the high first round lottery pick they will draft this year. The question becomes what kind of player will they draft, as Victor Oladipo has played point guard throughout the summer league as well as in preseason. If the Magic get the #1 overall pick, there is no question who they will take Andrew Wiggins; if they fall to a lower spot, and they think Oladipo will be more of a shooting guard, then the Magic may draft a point guard, potentially Marcus Smart, a player they wanted last year who didn’t declare for the draft. Other possibilities are Dante Exum, an Australian player with good height and play making ability or Andrew Harrison, a physical guard who can play both guard positions and will know how to play under pressure because he will star for the University of Kentucky this season. The Magic will also get the lesser pick of the Nuggets-Knicks trade that involved Carmelo Anthony, which could turn into another valuable asset. This season will not produce many wins for the Magic but the future is looking brighter.
I said previously that Anthony Bennett was the most talented and best player in this draft. The Cavs clearly agreed with me and took Bennett off the board. The Cavs now have a strong player who can pick and pop with Kyrie Irving. The Cavs are definetely on the rise and have one of the best young lineups in the league.
2.) Orlando Magic- Victor Oladipo Indiana
Victor Oladipo is probably the safest pick in the draft this year and will immediately change the culture of the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo’s offensive game needs improvement there is no doubt he can become one of the elite defenders in the league. The Magic still other significant help but Oladipo is a great start.
3.) Washington Wizards- Otto Porter Georgetown
Well Otto Porter doesn’t have to move anything from his Georgetown dorm as he is staying the DC area. Otto is another complete player in this draft with no real glaring weakness but could improve in all areas. The Wizards now have a wing player who can help guard Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Paul George. The Wizards are on the rise but still will probably land in the lottery again next year.
4.) Charlotte Bobcats- Cody Zeller Indiana
Jordan has done it again…but it is not winning world championship. This comes as a big surprise from MJ’s Bobcats as they have many holes to fill. While Zeller tested off the charts at the combine, he needs to get bigger to defend the elite power forwards and centers. Zeller can run the floor well and with Kemba Walker they could be one of the fastest combos in the NBA. The Bobcats are still a strong a contender for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes in 2014.
5.) Phoenix Suns- Alex Len Mayland
Alex Len is one of the most interesting rookies in the league because of his size and potential. In college, Len was not a dominant player averaging only 12 ppg, 8 rpg, and 2 blk. Len has the ability to block a lot of shots, but does not play good overall defense. He has bad footwork, which prohibit him from using his offensive skills and physical gifts. However, if the Suns can teach Len the correct footwork and gives him the right amount of play time, Len could turn into the star that the Suns desperately need. They are in one of the worst positions in the league because they do not have a young star or experienced veterans.
6.) New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Philadelphia 76ers) – Nerlens Noel Kentucky
Nerlens and a 2014 protected first round pick (1-5) were traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday. By trading the Jrue Holliday, the Sixers have clearly gone into rebuild mode and also have put themselves squarely in the competition for Andrew Wiggins next year. Nerlens Noel will help the Sixer fans get over the huge disappointment of Andrew Bynum and will also provide energy and hustle to a very mediocre squad. Nerlens still needs to improve his offense and his post game but should develop into a solid starting center with a high motor.
7.) Sacramento Kings – Ben McLemore Kansas
The Kings got the steal of the draft when they drafted Ben McLemore with the 7th overall pick. Many people believed that Ben would be the number one pick overall or at least a top three pick. Unfortunately for Ben, he will end up with the Kings, one of the worst organizations in the league. McLemore is the most talented player in the draft because of his incredible athleticism and scoring potential. Last year, Ben scored 16 ppg, grabbed 5 rpg, and dished 2 apg. Ben has the best shooting stroke in the draft, which led people to believe that he could be like Ray Allen. Ben McLemore will never be a great scorer because he cannot create his own shot because of his poor ball handling.
8.) Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell Pope Georgia
KCP is a great pick for the Pistons because he has the range that makes for great shooters. At Georgia, he was forced to score and now in the NBA he won’t have that same pressure. This pick also confirms the Pistons’ plan to keep Brandon Knight as their future point guard. KCP also has the quickness to create off the dribble and use his 6’6 frame to elevate over defenders. I like this pick and I also believe KCP could be a surprise ROY.
9.) Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to the Utah Jazz) – Trey Burke Michigan
The 2013 player of the year in college was the best point guard in this year’s draft. The leader of the Michigan Wolverines averaged 18.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Burke was lucky to be traded to the Jazz because the Wolves have too many point guards and the Jazz have a few nice big men that can help Burke grow. Burke will succeed because of his ability to run the pick and roll with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Burke is a good defender and shooter as seen from his epic performances in the NCAA tournament. Burke may run into problems because he is only 6 foot and does not have a great shot selection. Over time, his selection will improve and he may become an All-Star in the future.
McCollum should be a great addition to the Portland backcourt with fellow mid-major draft pick Damian Lillard. CJ has the ability to create for himself and also distribute for others using his great court vision. Similarly to KCP, CJ had to carry his team by scoring points and now he has the opportunity to balance his play more as he plays with better teammates. This is another solid pick from the Blazers and the Damian/CJ backcourt is going to be deadly from 3 point range.
11.) Philadelphia 76ers – Michael Carter-Williams Syracuse
After trading away their All-Star point guard, Jrue Holiday, for Nerlens Noel and next year’s first round pick, the 76ers needed a point guard of the future. They hope that Williams will be an All-Star like Jrue Holiday. Williams is tall for a point guard, 6’5″, which allows him to see over the defense and set up his teammates. However, Michael is an inconsistent shooter, who needs to improve his offensive game if he wants to match Holiday. Many scouts are wondering if Williams can translate his skills to the next level. At Syracuse, Williams averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists. Many Syracuse point guards, Wesley Johnson and Johnny Flynn, have been unable to succeed at the next level, even though they have the physical attributes and succeeded in college.
12.) Oklahoma City Thunder – Steven Adams Pittsburgh
The Thunder made a solid pick here with Adams. He has the ability to defend and rebound on both the offensive and defensive glass. While he needs to improve his offensive game some as well as his free throw percentage, he is still a better option then Kendrick Perkins and could compete for the starting job. The Thunder filled a significant role and in a few years Adams could develop into a solid center.
13.) Dallas Mavericks (traded to Boston Celtics) – Kelly Olynyk Gonzaga
Olynyk plays like small forward with the size of a center. The 7 footer has the ability to handle the ball and a consistent jump shot. However, Olynyk is one of the least athletic players in the draft, who may have trouble in the NBA. Kelly was an efficient player for Gonzaga averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block. Kelly will likely play small forward because of his shooting ability. In Boston, he will have the chance to play major minutes and improve his game. Kelly is not a good rebounder and will have trouble inside against the strong and more physical players.
14.) Utah Jazz (traded to Minnesota) – Shabazz Muhammad UCLA
I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves found their future SF and possibly the steal of the draft. Shabazz can score which is what the TWolves need desperately. Coach Flip Saunders has already been quoted saying Shabazz will start on the bench but I firmly believe he will rise into the starting lineup. Shabazz needs to improve defensively and also learn how to differentiate good shots from bad shots. Playing with Ricky Rubio will help Shabazz score and quite possibly develop into an all-star in a few years time.
The 6’10” small forward from Greece was the first foreign player off the board. Giannis looks and hopes to be the like Kevin Durant. The Bucks also hopes he will end up like Kevin Durant. Although the eighteen year old wants to come to the NBA immediately, he will probably have to return to Greece so he can improve his game and mature physically and mentally. Giannis will have to improve his jumper and ball handling ability because he is not an explosive athlete. Giannis has great length, which will make him a good defensive ball player.
16.) Boston Celtics (traded to Atlanta) – Lucas Nogueria Brazil
If the Hawks do not get their man this offseason, D12, they will need a replacement for Josh Smith. Although Lucas does not have the offensive ability of Smith. Lucas has the defensive and athleticism to replace Josh. I see Noguiera as a Javale McGee type minus the bonehead plays. With some time to develop Noguiera could turn into a defensive force.
17.) Atlanta Hawks – Dennis Schroeder Germany
Many people believe that Dennis will be a poor man’s Rajon Rondo because of his build and style. Like Rondo, he is a pass first point guard, who has a great handle of the ball. Dennis may be a better scorer than Rondo because his jumper is better than Rondo’s jumper. Since Schroeder is a young player, he makes poor decisions and throws away the ball too often. Dennis is going to be a solid defender in the league because of his lateral quickness and length. Dennis could replace Jeff Teague if they decide to let him leave during free agency.
18.) Atlanta Hawks (traded to Dallas) – Shane Larkin Miami
The Dallas are another team that is on the verge of rebuilding mode with Josh Smith as a UFA and Jeff Teague is a RFA who might not get his desired contract extension. Larkin is solid pick who can play the pick and roll and create his own shot using various step-back moves. He needs to get stronger to be able to defend the elite point guards but with time he could be a Kyle Lowry type of guard.
19.) Cleveland Cavaliers – Sergey Karasev Russia
Sergey, the fourth foreign player taken off the board, is a proven scorer that could provide a boost off the bench for the Cavs. Sergey wants to come to the Cavs immediately and be like his hero, Andrei Kirilenko. Sergey has a high offensive IQ that allows him to score anywhere on the court. Karasev can score by attacking the rim and shooting from the outside. However, Karasev is a subpar defender and athlete. The lack of quickness and athleticism could give Sergey problems in the NBA. If Sergey comes to the Cavs immediately, he will probably not get a lot of minutes. He will be an offensive spark off the bench.
20.) Chicago Bulls – Tony Snell New Mexico
While there were better 3 point shooters still available the Bulls made a nice choice in Snell. Tony was teammates with Kawhi Leonard in High School and both play similar styles. Snell can knock down the open 3 and plays lockdown defense which is key to the Tom Thibodeau system in Chicago. While I would have liked to see the Bulls draft a better shooter this is still a solid pick.
21.) Utah Jazz – Gorgui Dieng Louisville
Dieng was a major reason why the Louisville Cardinal won the 2013 NCAAB championship. Dieng was traded, along with Shabazz Muhammad, to the Minnesota for Trey Burke. He was a solid producer, 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Dieng is a great shot blocker, who can also hit a mid range jumper. Dieng may end being like Serge Ibaka because of his ability to alter shots and shoot. Dieng will be able to start for Minnesota if Pekovic leaves for free agency. Dieng will be a solid player for years to come and I wish he stayed for one for pick so the Nets could grab him.
22.) Brooklyn Nets – Mason Plumlee Duke
Instant reaction: Nooooooooo. I do not know why the Nets went after Plumlee. The Nets currently have Reggie Evans, who does the same things as Plumlee. I hope this does not prevent the Nets from signing Andray Blatche. Blatche can be a key contributor to the team. Although Mason may be a better defensive and offensive player, the Nets needed a backup point guard or small forward. The Nets should have selected Tim Hardaway Jr or Tony Mitchell. Tony Mitchell would be the ideal candidate because he is a solid defender and can shoot the three. The players who broke out this post-season, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, all have a similar body type and attributes to Mitchell. The Nets will need a backup for Pierce since he is too old to play major minutes.
23.) Indiana Pacers – Solomon Hill Arizona
Solomon Hill is a 6’7″ small forward that will be like the Warriors Draymond Green. Hill was successful in Arizona averaging 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. Hill will play behind George or Granger. He will be a solid back up that can do anything when he is on the court.
24.) New York Knicks – Tim Hardaway Jr. Michigan
No. Tim Hardaway Jr is not as good as his dad but could be a very valuable pick for the Knicks. Hardaway can knock down 3s with relative ease but still needs to improve on the dribble drive aspect of his game as well as his defensive mentality. Since JR Smith is a free agent this year it seems like Hardaway Jr could fill JR’s role on the team. This is a solid pick for the Knicks filling a critical scoring need off the bench.
25.) Los Angeles Clippers – Reggie Bullock UNC
Bullock will be a solid role player for the Clippers. He is a good three point shooter that can spread the floor. As seen in the finals, three point specialists are in high demand and can alter an entire series. Last year, he shot 44 percent from three. Bullock is 6’7″, which means that he will be able to get his shoot off easier than other smaller players. Bullock is an okay defender who tries hard. Reggie will fit with the Clippers because they need youth and energy on their bench, which he can provide. Bullock will probably end up being like a Shane Battier in the latter stages of his career.
26.) Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to OKC) – Andre Roberson
Roberson is small for a PF but has a niche that will suit him well in the NBA, rebounding. As Pat Riley once said “No rebounds, No Rings” and Roberson could be a key to a OKC title run. While Roberson is limited offensively, he stays in his lane and does his job well. I see him having a Reggie Evans type career, which on the right team is very important.
27.) Denver Nuggets (traded to Jazz) – Rudy Gobert France
In one of the worst trades of the night, Rudy Gobert end up in Utah for practically nothing. The center from France has the longest reach of any player who went to he NBA draft combine. Rudy’s standing reach is 9’7″. To put in perspective, the rim is 10′ off of the ground… Due to his great size and hands, he is great at protecting the rim, alley-oops, and tapping the ball into the basket. He is a solid defender who can block shots as well as guard the pick and roll effectively. Rudy needs to put more go to the workout room and gain more strength. He is constantly pushed around because of his light frame. He needs a few years to develop, but Rudy could one day be the defensive player of the year.
28.) San Antonio Spurs – Livio Jean-Charles French Guinea
Livio Jean-Charles might be a typical European-stash pick who could come to the NBA in a couple of years. The Spurs have had great success with international players and maybe Jean-Charles could be the same. He needs to improve his long range shooting to stay in the league but seems to have the fundamentals that Coach Pop loves in his players. A solid late round pick for the Spurs.
29.) Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to Suns) – Archie Goodwin Kentucky
Archie Goodwin was the star of a poor Kentucky basketball team, averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Archie Goodwin was once believed to be a top ten pick at the beginning of the year. Goodwin is an outstanding athlete that can attack the basket at will. Goodwin needs to improve his decision making and jumper if he wants to be a solid contributor in the league. The Suns need more talent and Goodwin can fill their needs. Goodwin will be a good defender because of his athleticism and length. Also he is a solid rebounder. He will form a good tandem with Len.
30.) Phoenix Suns (traded to Warriors) – Nemanja Nedovic Serbia
Fran Fraschilla, an ESPN analyst on international players said Nedovic is a “European Derrick Rose”. While I find that comparison outrageous, Nemanja does have some athletic ability. With Jarret Jack approaching free agency, the Warriors need a sure backup PG and Nedovic fits. He will never be Derrick Rose but he could be a solid backup for his career. This is a good pick for a Warrior team that is on the rise.