Phife Previews The NBA’s Eastern Conference
Here, I expect Paul Millsap to be the All-Star-caliber forward I thought I’d see in Salt Lake City. With Millsap at the 4 spot, it enables Al Horford to remain at the center position, despite only standing at 6’9, maybe 6’10! The two hundred and fifty pounds will be what opposing centers will have to worry about.
It seems like the Hawks’ frontcourt will be playing small ball, but beware of that steady jump shot from 6’7 veteran/Ashton Kutcher lookalike Kyle Korver, which can cause matchup problems at the small forward and/or shooting guard spots. It’ll be interesting to see who solidifies the two-guard spot between John Jenkins and Lou Williams.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the potential of rookie guard Dennis Schroeder. Atlanta will finish 2nd in the Southwest, and possibly can sneak into the playoffs!
Off-season Grade: C-
Truth be told,I thought Kansas guard Ben McLemore would end up being drafted by Charlotte. I didn’t quite understand them picking Indiana’s Cody Zeller, but I’m starting to like Zeller as a power forward at the NBA level, especially after the Bobcats signed veteran big man Al Jefferson.
That move right there alone, points the Cats/Hornets in the right direction.
Not sure if I like Gerald Henderson at the two guard, but hey, he did have a career high by scoring over 15 points per game last season. There’s hope, but barely. Charlotte will finish 4th in Southwest.
Off-season Grade: B-
Who can stop the reigning champs from making a fourth straight appearance in the NBA Finals, and from going for a 3-peat? The Nets? Bulls? Pacers?
No one if Dwyane Wade can stay healthy.
This team lacked in the rebounding department, but whose team defense remains more clutch than the boys from South Beach?
Add in the maturation and dominance of King James, the clutch gene of Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) and the discipline of everyone else, and I can’t see Miami being stopped in the East.
1st in the Southwest, 1st in the East!
Off-season Grade: C
I still think the pinstripes are a huge setback for the Magic. I hate the uniforms!
The bright spots I see here are the defense of Arron Afflalo, the potential of Tobias Harris, consistent double-doubles from Nikola Vučević, and yes, the all-out play of rookie Victor Oladipo.
Simply put, the Magic should just look forward to the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. It’s rebuilding time in Disney World!
I think they’ll finish 5th in the Southeast, and will be headed straight for the draft lottery!
Off-season Grade: D
John Wall can’t do it alone, Bradley Beal needs to have a breakout season and I’m not sure what to expect from rookie Otto Porter, who seemed to struggle during Summer League. It seemed like the return of John Wall saved the job of head coach Randy Wittman.
Originally I had the Wizards finishing 3rd in the Southeast and missing the playoffs, but just recently the Wizards bettered themselves by trading center Emeka Okafor to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat. In return, the Suns also sent guard Kendall Marshall, veteran Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee to Washington, who may all get waived before the season starts.
With all these moves being made right before the season starts, Washington had better get off to a fast start or Wittman may be out of work by the All-Star break.
The Wizards have a chance to battle Atlanta in the Southeast for 2nd place, sneak in through the back door of the playoffs or just miss the post season by finishing as the 9th seed in the East. I think it will be the last one.
Off-season Grade: D
Eastern Conference Playoff Tree
1. Miami Heat
2. Indiana Pacers
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. NY Knicks
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
7. Atlanta Hawks
8. Detroit Pistons