Eastern Conference, Southeast Division: Season In Review
2011-12 Record: 46-20, 2nd in the Eastern Conference
2012 Draft Picks: 27
Needs: C, PG, SF
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Norris Cole (2011 - 28th overall), Dexter Pittman (2010 - 32nd)
Overview: There are some serious concerns barring the "Big Three"s future together. Even as Chicago lost reigning MVP Derrick Rose for a large portion of the season, the Bulls still managed to lockdown the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Individually, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are all stars in their own right. LeBron fills up the stat-sheet night-in and night-out, while Wade himself isn't far behind as each garnered plenty of MVP attention of their own this season. Although his numbers were not quite as good, Bosh played much better in his second season in South Beach, improving the chemistry of the talented trio.
But it's just everyone else on this roster that cannot be counted on and its instability could lead to the demise of the Miami Heat as we know it. They will always be contenders, but can they win the big one with three key players and sub-par at nearly every other position?
Needs: Shane Battier was not the player the Heat had hoped for, nor has Mike Miller, who is a possible amnesty clause candidate to open up some room for an effective wing player.
Mario Chalmers was sufficient at the point, posting career-highs in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage with plenty of open looks, but his average ball-handling and passing can make him a liability at times. Backup and 2011 first-round pick, Norris Cole started off hot, but sizzled in March and April when his shooting percentages plummeted in the low-30 percent range. If Cole wants to stick in the rotation, he needs to be able to hit from the perimeter and create when he has the ball in his hands.
As a team, Miami was good, but not great on the glass, particularly the offensive glass. Chris Bosh tends to float too much to the perimeter, taking him out of position. Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are okay, but limited due to their lack of size. LeBron and Wade are the team's best assets on the glass given their size and athleticism.
2011-12 Record: 40-26, 5th in the Eastern Conference
2012 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 23, 43 (from Phoenix Suns)
Needs: C, PG, SF
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: N/A
Overview: Routinely a playoff team for the last five seasons, Atlanta is amongst the Eastern Conference's upper echelon teams, yet a tier below the elite; this doesn't expect to change with Joe Johnson and Al Horford locked up in long-term deals, however, the Hawks do have some flexibility as these are the only two players signed beyond the 2012-13 season- Josh Smith, Marvin Williams (player option) and Jeff Teague will all be free agents and could be dangled in the future.
Atlanta is a middle-of-the-pack/below-average offensive team, but excel on the defensive end, mainly due to a career-season by Smith filling up the stat-sheet with rebounds, blocks and steals. They would be wise to invest in him as he posted his team's best (and his personal best) P.E.R. this season and yet he isn't even 27 years of age yet.
Needs: While Jeff Teague hasn't be great as the starting point guard, he hasn't be terrible either- he is more of a scoring-minded guard with a decent outside game and a decent court-sense to set up teammates. In a weak point guard draft, Atlanta could certainly search for an upgrade. The other position of need is a true small forward- this would enable Al Horford to stay at center and keep Josh Smith at power forward, while pushing Joe Johnson to his natural position of shooting guard.
Marvin Williams is a back-up at best given his talent and production thus far and current wings like the aging quad of Tracy McGrady, Willie Green, Jerry Stackhouse and Vladimir Radmanovic simply won't cut it. A true center is also a small possibility which would again reshuffle the lineup and push Horford to PF and Smith to SF.
It doesn't help that the Hawks don't have a single player drafted in the last two seasons on their roster- trading away Damion James and then Jordan Crawford in 2010 and surrendered their 2011 18th overall selection to Washington in the Crawford deal.
2011-12 Record: 37-29, 6th in the Eastern Conference
2012 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery):19, 49
Needs: C, SF, SG
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Justin Harper (2011 - 32nd overall), DeAndre Liggins (2011 - 53rd), Daniel Orton (2010 - 29th)
Overview: The on-again, off-again circus better known as Dwight Howard will remain in town, for at least one more season. He can't make up his mind, keeping management in limbo. Aside from the potential of losing a franchise-centerpiece six-time All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the entire roster is made to support a dominating low-post center. If he jets town, Orlando had better have a backup plan to trade the 26-year old and get some worthy pieces in return. If not, this franchise is destined for the lottery for years to come.
And he isn't the only issue on the horizon- point guard Jameer Nelson is a free agent at next season's end if he declines his player option for about $7 million. More importantly, this year's breakout player, versatile 24-year old forward Ryan Anderson, is also a free agent after next season. At 6'10" is a deadly shooter from the perimeter, especially in catch-and-shoot situations, a perfect complement to Howard with his ability to spread the floor and create personnel mismatches, but he is a underrated rebounder, averaging nearly 8 per game this season.
If Orlando's management and its fans are willing to hang on tight for the roller coaster ride ahead, then maybe losing Howard isn't all that bad. After 2013-14, two years down the road, Gilbert Arenas' amnestied contract, Hedo Turkoglu's largely over-valued contract will be off the books, giving the Magic plenty of money to work with.
Needs: First and foremost, Orlando either needs to secure Dwight Howard into a long-term deal or trade him while the value is still there. If healthy and motivated, Howard is the best center in the game. The team is built around him, so losing him would set the franchise back years as we are seeing with Toronto and Cleveland. Is 2010 first-round pick Daniel Orton his successor? No- he barely has 20 career games under his belt after providing Kentucky with limited time during his only year in college.
What's the long-term solution at small forward? Orlando must find better options than Turkoglu and Quentin
Richardson who have seemingly aged exponentially the last few seasons and can no longer be counted on for consistent production. Ditto for Jason Richardson, the starting 2-guard. Back-up JJ Redick plays off of the double-teams and space created by Dwight Howard's presence. Losing Howard means Redick would have to create more for himself, a skill he lacks.
2011-12 Record: 40-26, 5th in the Eastern Conference
2012 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 2, 32, 46 (from Dallas Mavericks)
Needs: SG, C, PF
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Jan Vesely (2011 - 6th overall), Chris Singleton (2011 - 18th), Shelvin Mack (2011 - 34th), John Wall (2010 - 1st), Kevin Seraphin (2010 - 17th), Jordan Crawford (2010 - 27th)
Overview: Washington won six straight games at the end of the season, something the team had not done since the beginning of the 2007-08 season- it a fluke or a sign of things to come for this young franchise? Look at the list of players selected in the 2010 and 2011 Drafts above- all received significant minutes this past season.
Second-year point guard, John Wall, began the season about as slowly as one could- shooting in the 30 percent range from the field with nearly 4.5 turnovers per game in the first 20 games, but post All-Star weekend, he cut down on his turnovers and dished out more assists. The downside? He shot 7 percent from 3-point range this season. Along with mid-season acquisition Nene, Washington seems to have two bookends moving forward. JaVale McGee and his immaturity could no longer be handled and thus, he was shipped off for the Nugget center.
2011 first-rounders Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, both small forward, impressed with their late season play. Singleton started a majority of the games as he was simply more NBA ready, especially defensively, but struggled on the offensive end with his jumper. Vesely was super-effective coming off the bench playing more of a power forward role with his size and length. Frenchman Kevin Seraphin was another young prospect that played exceptional down the stretch, so he will likely be expected to take on a much bigger role next season. All three are just 22 years old still and have a bright future in front of them if they can develop a more diverse offensive game in the offseason.
The former starting forward Andray Blatche, the same Blatche that elevated his scoring each of his first six years in the league to 16.8 points per game last year, dropped down to 8.5 points and just 26 games played due to "conditioning issues". With Nene in the fold, Blatche will likely find himself on the bench to start next season or be involved in trade discussions this summer. He is owed over $23 million in the next three seasons.
Rounding out the rotation, combo-guard Jordan Crawford took the place of Nick Young, who was traded to the Clippers midseason, but is simply too inconsistent shooting the ball to be a threat; his shot selection is horrendous regardless of the time left on the shot clock or score of the game. He shot 24 percent in his rookie season and "improved" to 29 percent from beyond the arc as a second-year wing, but overall is still under 40 percent from the field.
Needs: There are quite a few holes to fill for a team that hasn't sniffed .500 in five seasons. John Wall, Nene and a combination of Singleton/Vesely/Seraphin or even all three will be in the starting lineup for years to come, meaning Washington desperately needs to fill a shooting guard and power forward/true center void (which would shift Nene to his more natural position of power forward), but this franchise can't be picky.
Overall, the Wizards were in the bottom six of the league rankings in offensive and defensive efficiency, rebounding rate and assist rate. Washington was only slightly better, but still placed in the bottom-third in turnover rate. Bottom line, they need talent in the worst way.
2011-12 Record: 7-59, 15th in the Eastern Conference
2011-12 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 1, 31
Needs: SF, PF, SG
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Bismack Biyombo (2011 - 7th overall), Kemba Walker (2011 - 9th), Cory Higgins (2011 - Undrafted)
Overview: What area does Charlotte not need to improve in? Statistically, they were the losing-est team in NBA history this past season and aside from having the potential No. 1 selection in the 2012 Draft, lottery pending, the future doesn't look much brighter. Again, statistically speaking, they were the worst offensive and defensive team in the league last season, so its no wonder they could only put together 7 wins.
2011 first-round picks Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo have high bust potential given Walker's size is proving to be more of a weakness than his quickness could make up for and Biyombo's offensive game is somewhere around a middle-school level. But both have long-term deals with team options and should be in the organization's plans for the next few years at least.
24-year old wing, Gerald Henderson, the team's starting 2-guard, posted his best season as a pro as he is beginning to scratch the surface of his athletic potential, but still remains a poor shooter, one of many on the roster. Alongside Henderson on the wing is volume-shooter Corey Maggette who is one the books for at least one more season. His field-goal accuracy was atrocious, but with the lack of offensive weapons surrounding him, he had no other choice but to jack up jumpers.
Needs: Kemba Walker was drafted as the team's future at the point guard spot, leaving no room for another undersized DJ Augustin in the backcourt. Biyombo has a long road ahead of him to be a respectable offensive player, capable of scoring around the rim with his long, lanky frame, but defensively, his development is directly linked to the team's future success.
Other than those two, there aren't many pieces on this roster to get excited about; even both of them have serious question marks surrounding them. It will be a major disappointment if the Bobcats don't pull the lucky combination of ping-pong balls for the top overall selection this year. Anthony Davis is a stud difference maker, a potential franchise-changer, but after him, there is certainly talent, but no one like Davis; he is in a class of his own, one that Charlotte desperately could use.