NBA Summer Preview: Southeast Division

Again, we are having a guest writer in for some fun, easy NBA summer team previews.  I have no inside knowledge whatsoever and these are just meant to give an idea of where teams are at as a whole as we head into draft and free agency season. This is part 2 of the series – click below for previous versions:

 

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Miami Heat

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 3rd place, eliminated in second round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Chris Bosh (19.1)
    • Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside (11.8)
    • Assists: Goran Dragic (5.8)
    • Blocks: Hassan Whiteside (3.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Tyler Johnson
  • Unrestricted free agents: Luol Deng, Gerald Green, Udonis Haslem, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Dorrell Wright
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Heat may have been the 2nd most talented team in the Eastern Conference last season, with a veteran group that included Bosh, Wade, Deng, Dragic and the midseason acquisition of Joe Johnson. Unfortunately, Bosh missed the second half of the season with serious medical issues. Despite that, Wade’s craftiness and a nice boost from Dragic along with the improved play of Whiteside got the team past the Hornets in the first round and saw them push the Raptors to 7 games before running out of gas.

Summer outlook: With most of their team as free agents, and no draft picks, it’s a big summer for the Heat. Wade isn’t expected to go anywhere, though you never know. Hassan Whiteside will likely look for a max contract and will be a hot commodity around the league – expect him to be the biggest decision the Heat make this summer. With the number of free agents and the uncertainty around Chris Bosh’s future, this team could either look exactly the same or completely different next season – it very much remains to be seen.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 4th place, eliminated in second round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Paul Millsap (17.1)
    • Rebounds: Paul Millsap (9.0)
    • Assists: Jeff Teague (5.9)
    • Blocks: Paul Millsap (1.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Mike Muscala
  • Unrestricted free agents: Kent Bazemore, Kirk Hinrich, Kris Humphries, Al Horford
  • Draft picks: 21st, 44th, 54th

Last season overview: The Hawks regressed slightly from their monster 2014-15 season last year, falling into status as a good but not great team that never really had a shot to win the title. They have a strong starting five (Horford/Millsap/Korver/Bazemore/Teague), a mix of veteran and young talent and a team focused approach to the game, but they never really felt like much of a threat. They took out the Celtics in six games in the first round and then promptly got swept out the playoffs by the Cavs.

Summer outlook: Another team with some decisions, the Hawks are seeing a couple of key pieces (Horford/Bazemore) become unrestricted free agents. There’s also been much speculation around a Teague trade for quite awhile now, given the emergence of backup guard Dennis Schroder. Very curios to see what they decide to do.

 

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Charlotte Hornets

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 6th place, eliminated in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Kemba Walker (20.9)
    • Rebounds: Marvin Williams (6.4)
    • Assists: Nicolas Batum (5.8)
    • Blocks: Marvin Williams (1.0)
  • Restricted free agents: Troy Daniels, Jorge Gutierrez
  • Unrestricted free agents: Nicolas Batum, Tyler Hansbrough, Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin, Marvin Williams
  • Draft picks: 22nd

Last season overview: The Hornets overachieved by any measure last season – Walker turned in a Most Improved-worthy campaign, Williams finally fulfilled some of his potential, and free agent signings Batum and Lin outperformed expectations. Coach Steve Clifford ran a tight ship and the team played the right way. They lost a four way tiebreaker for third place and wound up with the 6 seed, giving the Heat all they could handle before losing on the road in Game 7 to get eliminated in the first round.

Summer outlook: The Hornets have a lot of decisions to make as well this summer, with some major players hitting unrestricted free agency. Their priority will likely be Batum, who really made major steps in an advanced role this season.

 

Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors

Washington Wizards

  • 2015-16 record: 41-41
  • Finish: 10th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: John Wall (19.9)
    • Rebounds: Marcin Gortat (9.9)
    • Assists: John Wall (10.2)
    • Blocks: Marcin Gortat (1.3)
  • Restricted free agents: Bradley Beal
  • Unrestricted free agents: Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, JJ Hickson, Nene, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Marcus Thornton
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Wizards were one of the league’s bigger disappointments last season. After making a 2nd round playoff run in 2014-15, the east side Dubs took a huge step back, getting off to a slow start to the season and playing catchup the rest of the way, ultimately falling short of the playoffs. Coach Randy Wittman lost his job over it, and an overall ugly campaign for a veteran team and a lack of draft picks this summer leaves them with a murky future.

Summer outlook: The Wizards will look to lock up Beal, John Wall’s talented but oft-injured running mate, to a long term deal this summer. They also will look to make a franchise-altering pitch to free agent and hometown kid Kevin Durant, but failing that, hard to see where they go from here.

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Orlando Magic

  • 2015-16 record: 35-47
  • Finish: 11th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Nikola Vucevic (18.2)
    • Rebounds: Nikola Vucevic (8.8)
    • Assists: Elfrid Payton (6.4)
    • Blocks: Nikola Vucevic (1.1)
  • Restricted free agents: Dewayne Dedmon, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson
  • Unrestricted free agents: Brandon Jennings, Jason Smith
  • Draft picks: 11th, 41st, 47th

Last season overview: The Magic were a talented, exciting, young and flawed team that made strides and took the next step towards getting better last season. Their young talent – Vucevic, Oladipo, Payton, Fournier, Hezonja, Gordon – is a strong collection that has a bright future, and though they missed the playoffs, they showed flashes of real potential.

Summer outlook: After a very strange parting of ways with coach Scott Skiles after just his first season, former Pacers head coach Frank Vogel comes in to make his mark. It will be interesting to see where they go from here and whether they continue to build by having their young talent develop, or whether they look to turn some of their assets into veteran players to start winning now. Either way, this is a team that looks ready to start to make that next step.

 

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NBA Summer Preview: Atlantic Division

Have a guest writer in today to dust off the ol’ NBA team summer previews just for fun here.  I have no inside knowledge whatsoever and these are just meant to give an idea of where teams are at as a whole as we head into draft and free agency season.

Atlantic Division

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Toronto Raptors

  • 2015-16 record: 56-26
  • Finish: 2nd place, made Eastern Conference Finals
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: DeMar DeRozan (23.5)
    • Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (9.1)
    • Assists: Kyle Lowry (6.4)
    • Blocks: Bismack Biyombo (1.6)
  • Restricted free agents: Terence Ross
  • Unrestricted free agents: Bismack Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Luis Scola, Jason Thompson
  • Draft picks: 9th Pick, 27th Pick

Last season overview: Coming off their best season in franchise history, the Raptors have some work to do. After a strong regular season led by All-Stars Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors had an up and down playoff run, looking bad at times and good at times as they struggled to get past two overmatched opponents in a pair of 7 game series wins against the Pacers and Heat in the first two rounds. In the conference finals they found themselves unable to hang with LeBron James’ Cavs, getting escorted out in six games, though they left their home floor to a standing ovation from their adoring and passionate crowd.

Summer outlook: This is a franchise on the up and up, but they have some big decisions to make, primarily with center Biyombo and All-Star DeRozan. DeRozan had a big season, but struggled in the playoffs with ineffective shooting as a low-percentage volume scorer. He might command the max, but is he worth it? Biyombo is an interesting case as well, a raw but athletic 23-year old center who stepped up bigtime in the playoffs. He may have earned himself some big money.

 

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Boston Celtics

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 5th seed, lost in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Isaiah Thomas (22.2)
    • Rebounds: Jared Sullinger (8.3)
    • Assists: Isaiah Thomas (6.2)
    • Blocks: Amir Johnson (1.1)
  • Restricted free agents: Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller
  • Unrestricted free agents: Evan Turner
  • Draft picks: 3rd, 16th, 23rd, 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st, 58th

Last season overview: The Celtics overachieved last year with a hard-playing roster of role players under coach Brad Stevens, scrapping their way to a solid record and a four-way tie for third place. Tiebreakers saw them lose homecourt advantage in the playoffs and they were outplayed by Atlanta, eventually losing in six games in the first round. Still, the emergence of Isaiah Thomas as a team leader, Jae Crowder as a top-tier glue guy and their other players made this last season a success, and for a team that’s building assets they have positioned themselves very well moving forward.

Summer outlook: The Celtics are in a great position and will be expected to be active this summer. Their stockpiling of draft picks is paying off this year, but a team can only bring in so many rookies, so look for them to dangle some of their picks in trying to pry talent off of other teams – particularly with that 3rd pick they got from Brooklyn.

 

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New York Knicks

  • 2015-16 record: 32-50
  • Finish: 13th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Carmelo Anthony (21.8)
    • Rebounds: Carmelo Anthony (7.7)
    • Assists: Carmelo Anthony (4.2)
    • Blocks: Kristaps Porzingis (1.9)
  • Restricted free agents: Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway
  • Unrestricted free agents: Arron Afflalo, Lou Amundson, Kevin Seraphin, Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Derrick Williams
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Knicks were up and down last year (mostly down), with a few bright spots here and there, most notably the play of Latvian rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who showed a nice offensive game, hustle and the possibility of becoming a franchise cornerstone down the road.

Summer outlook: Having no draft picks hurts pretty bad, as the Knicks had to give up their #7 selection to Denver. But with Porzingis in the mix, there is hope, as the Knicks need to hope their big market status and Phil Jackson running the show starts making them an attractive destination for free agents again. Anthony isn’t getting any younger, so look for them to make some moves to try to get better quickly.

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Brooklyn Nets

  • 2015-16 record:  21-61
  • Finish: 14th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Brook Lopez (20.6)
    • Rebounds: Thaddeus Young (9.0)
    • Assists: Jarrett Jack (7.4)
    • Blocks: Brook Lopez (1.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Markel Brown, Willie Reed
  • Unrestricted free agents: Wayne Ellington, Sergey Karasev, Shane Larkin, Thomas Robinson, Harry Sims, Donald Sloan
  • Draft picks: 55th

Last season overview: Woof. The Nets suffered though a rough season with a banged-up roster of journeymen and fringe NBA players, never having either hope to be competitive this year or much to look forward to for the summer with them owing their pick to Boston. The worst and lowest point is probably over for them, but it will take them years to rebuild. They’ve started their changes by bringing in first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson and former Spurs assistant GM Sean Marks to turn this ship around, but it’s going to take some time to get back to respectability.

Summer outlook: This is a team without a ton of options at the moment – they don’t have a team quite ready to compete to land the big free agents, and they don’t have a significant draft pick to bring in a rookie. You wonder if they look to trade some of their veterans – Lopez, Young, Jack – for young talent as they look to rebuild.

 

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers

  • 2015-16 record: 10-72
  • Finish: 15th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Jahlil Okafor (17.5)
    • Rebounds: Nerlens Noel (8.1)
    • Assists: Ish Smith (7.0)
    • Blocks: Jerami Grant (1.6)
  • Restricted free agents: Isaiah Canaan, Christian Wood
  • Unrestricted free agents: Elton Brand, Ish Smith
  • Draft picks: 1st, 24th, 26th

Last season overview: After a third straight year of tanking to play the lottery odds and attempt to rebuild through high picks by not even attempting to win, the ownership in Philly finally got sick of losing and parted ways with GM Sam Presti, whose rebuilding plan was taking hits due to bad luck, injuries to young players and just a general ugliness feeling to a franchise that wasn’t even trying. Okafor and Noel looked like capable players, if immature, and Ish Smith provided a spark plug once he came onboard midseason. But overall, this is a team that will likely look much different in a couple years than it did last season.

Summer outlook: The Sixers finally saw some dividends out of losing as they landed the first pick in the draft lottery a few weeks ago, giving them that coveted first pick they’ve been targeting for years. With the Colangelos on board now running the team, expect the team to make a push at getting much better very quickly. The team has a lot of young talent and assets – now it needs to convert that into wins.