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Road To A Championship: NBA Southeast Division Predictions

Ruled by John Wall and the marching Washington Wizards, most of the Southeast division is currently in rebuilding mode. However, both the Wizards and Hornets will look to be a contender in the coming years. After many offseason changes, the Southeast division will ultimately be accompanied by the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, and Orlando Magic.

Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards are on the rise as a serious NBA title contender. With a strong core of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards are heading in the right direction for the future. Both Wall and Beal are signed to long term contracts and seem to have no problem with the direction in which the team is heading and with a strong supporting cast built around them, the Wizards are just a few years away from being an NBA championship favorite. Coming off a 49-33 season along with a second round playoff exit, the Wizards did not make any major offseason moves and will be relying on player progression for record improvement. With that said, the Washington Wizards are entering next season with the following lineup.

PG- John Wall

SG- Bradley Beal

SF- Otto Porter Jr.

PF- Markieff Morris

C- Marcin Gortat

Wall is an emerging superstar and has the ability to score while also delegating to his teammates and setting them up for easy looks at the basket. However, Walls jump shot has plagued him in the past and has potential to hold the Wizards back in the future. Bradley Beal is best described as an overpowered sharpshooter. Progressing towards an NBA all star appearance, Beal has been forced to ameliorate his dribbling and finishing skills in order to provide the proper second option for the Wizards. Otto Porter Jr. made some impressive strides last season averaging over 13 points per game while shooting 51% from the field and 43% from behind the arc. If Porter continues to progress at this rate, he will be an instrumental part in a Wizards dynasty.

Season Prediction: 50-32

Image result for washington wizards

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks have officially joined the can’t beat LeBron James club. After multiple seasons of mediocracy, the Atlanta Hawks have officially admitted defeat. Following the loss of both Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, Atlanta will look to build around young point guard, Dennis Schröder. However, it will take a few years for Schröder along with this Hawks team to grow into themselves. Until then, it will be nothing but disappointments and early season exits for Atlanta. The Hawks will bring back veteran shooting guard, Kent Bazemore, who despite his off year, still oozes potential to me. He will no doubt be a focal point of the Atlanta offense behind Dennis Schröder which should provide him with the opportunity he may need in order to break out. However, despite all of these negatives, the Atlanta Hawks 2017-18 projected starting lineup consists of the following players.

PG- Dennis Schröder

SG- Kent  Bazemore

SF- Taurean Prince

PF- Ersan Ilyasova

C- Dewayne Dedmon

Schröder is a rising point guard that studied under former all star, Jeff Teague for multiple seasons. Eventually, however, Atlanta traded Teague and handed the offense over to Dennis who gladly embraced the role. Though, this season will be a different story as he will be the sole focal point of the team rather than Paul Millsap, who signed with the Denver Nuggets in free agency. This should be the year where we really get to see whether or not Schröder is capable of running an offense himself without the help of other all stars. That’s not to say that Dennis is expected to carry Atlanta to a playoff spot, but he will be forced to drastically improve his 18 PPG and 6.3 ASTS from last season. All in all, the best possible accomplishment for the Atlanta Hawks this season, would be a Dennis Schröder all star appearance.

Season Prediction: 27-55

Image result for atlanta hawks players

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat were one of the leagues best Cinderella stories last year. Following an atrocious 11-30 start, Miami went on a 30-11 run, giving them a final record of 41-41. Sadly, this Cinderella run did not lead to a playoff appearance, and Miami was forced to sit back and watch the playoffs unfold. However, the Heat are back and more determined than ever. Returning franchise cornerstones in Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, Miami added Kelly Olynk who proved his worth in game seven of the eastern conference semi-finals. Olynk is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 9.0 points per game on 51.2% shooting. Also, a returning piece for Miami is Dion Waiters who, although inconsistent, has streaks of greatness and looks like the second coming of Michael Jordan. All these pieces come together to ultimately form the following starting lineup.

PG- Goran Dragic

SG- Dion Waiters

SF- Justice Winslow

PF- James Johnson

C- Hassan Whiteside

Dragic is a preliminary all star who is a solid 20 point per game scorer and is capable of leading a team to a playoff run. As I explained before, Waiters is just about the biggest wild card you can have on a team. Coming off a 16 point per game season, Miami signed Dion Waiters to a 4 year, $52 million dollar contract. The Heat are banking off of Waiters progression and hope that he can improve into a consistent third scoring option. Justice Winslow has in no way, shape, or form proven himself in the NBA. Over the course of his two-year career, Winslow has averaged 7.3 points per game on 40% shooting from the field. Although there is still time for Winslow to turn things around, he will need to drastically improve in order to compete at a high level in this league. As for James Johnson, he is a solid power forward who was even mentioned in most improved player talks last year. Hassan Whiteside is a growing center in this league who is a master at altering shots at the rim and a premier rebounder. This is a solid team that is capable of grabbing a playoff spot in a decimating eastern conference playoff picture.

Season Prediction: 42-40

Image result for miami heat

Charlotte Hornets

The Charlotte Hornets are on a quest for mediocracy. After finishing last season out of the playoff picture, Charlotte decided it was time to acquire another star to pair alongside Kemba Walker. Walker, who was coming off of his first all star appearance, proved himself as the face of the franchise and needed another all star to complement him. Although Charlotte is still in possession of Nicolas Batum, Nicolas had a down year and seems to be falling victim to his massive contract. Last offseason, Charlotte inked Batum to a five year, $120 million dollar contract, so one can only assume that Nicolas felt content with his play and decided that it was time to ease off. This decision simply proved that Batum was not worth this deal and Charlotte was just so desperate to ink a superstar contract to what they believed, could form into a superstar player. It’s no secret that Charlotte isn’t attracting any superstar players through free agency. It’s a small market franchise in a small market city. Let’s face it, the most intriguing aspect of playing for the Hornets is Michael Jordan. However, the Charlotte Hornets will sport the following lineup to start the 2017-18 NBA season.

PG- Kemba Walker

SG- Nicolas Batum

SF- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

PF- Marvin Williams

C- Dwight Howard

Kemba Walker is coming off a season where he averaged 23.2 points per game and 5.5 assists on 44.4% from the field. This past season also saw Walker earn his first NBA all star appearance despite the struggling efforts of the franchise. Nicolas Batum, despite the criticism I expressed earlier, is still the second best scoring option on the team and averaged 15.0 points per game and 5.9 assists per game, but shot just over 40% from the field and 33.3% from behind the arc. Both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams are complementary players who will never blow you out of the park. They are simply there to eat up minutes. Dwight Howard is the newest addition to the team and should anchor them on the defensive end. Although Howard doesn’t have the same legs in him, he should still have a positive impact on this Hornets team and could possibly lead them to a playoff appearance.

Season Prediction: 41-41

Image result for charlotte hornets kemba walker and nicolas batum

Orlando Magic

Yes, the Magic are still an NBA franchise. It’s clear that the Magic have formed into nothing short of an afterthought to NBA fans, and until they can finally make a right decision, it will stay that way. The Orlando Magic have made so many sub par trades and draft picks that they are now actually losing trades they aren’t even involved in. It’s gotten to the point where The best aspect of the Magic franchise is Disneyworld, and that’s the sad conclusion Magic fans have been forced to come to. However, there are a few bright spots in the organization as Evan Fourier and Nikola Vucevic are growing scorers in this league who can one day contribute to a winning team. Although neither of them will be the face of a franchise, they both can be a sufficient third or fourth options. However, these are not the only Magic players contributing as Orlando will be heading into the 2017-18 season with the following lineup.

PG- Elfrid Payton

SG- Evan Fournier

SF- Aaron Gordon

PF- Khem Birch

C- Nikola Vucevic

Elfrid Payton is a solid passer, averaging 6.5 assists per game and is capable of growing in that regard. However, his jump shot is horrific, as, over the course of his career, he has shot under 29% from three and under 45% from the field. So although Payton is a solid passer, he will be forced to completely reinvent his shot before he is taken as a serious NBA point guard. Although not mentioned before, Aaron Gordon is a growing star in this league and best reminds me of a young Blake Griffin. A young high flyer oozing potential. However, I do not suspect Gordon will stay with this Magic team throughout his career due to the lack of success and the franchise has made the decision to play him at an unnatural position. Khem Birch has no business being in an NBA starting lineup as, throughout the course of his college career, he averaged a career high of 1.2 points per game. All in all, this is a Magic franchise that has a chance at being the leagues worst team next year.

Season Prediction: 22-60

Image result for orlando magic elfrid payton and aaron gordon

 

 

 

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