Now Entering Russ's World
In order to predict the future in the NBA you only need to look to the immediate past. It’s true that teams can entirely blow up in an off season, but still that is unlikely. What you tend to find in the NBA is that there is a measure of flow from season to season. Last year we saw the Bruce Levenson owned Atlanta Hawks surge to the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to a 60 win regular season (franchise record). Many people are down on Atlanta this season but we are not one of them. Here’s a look at the Southeast Division and where the Hawks stack up. Favorites: Miami Heat With a year to gel together in the wake of LeBron James departure and an off season to get healthy we can’t help but put Miami’s Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade ahead of every other Southeast Division duo. They have the Championship experience and a full cast of roleplayers (Luol Deng, Gerald Green, Hassan Whiteside) in order to help them get back to another ship. Coach Pat Riley can go a long way toward cementing himself as a true NBA great if he can get this team back into Championship contention. Darkhorse: Atlanta Hawks At the end of last season we saw the Hawks get sold by Bruce Levenson to billionaire mogul Antony Ressler. The new ownership will have a ton to live up to if they want to match what Levenson’s Hawks accomplished. Still, this is a deep team with starter level players at least 6 to 7 deep. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and Al Horford round out one of the best starting line ups in all of basketball. The continued growth of Dennis Schroder into a Reggie Jackson type player could also happen to help turn this team into another real contender. Runner Up: Washington Wizards Last season we saw that Washington could be a legitimate team in the playoffs even without a third star player to pair alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal. This past off season they lost one of their most clutch performers in Paul Pierce and now they’ll look to young Otto Porter to fill in the gaps. So why do we think Washington is a dark horse candidate? Well, they are a well rounded team with legitimate wing star players. That alone gives Washington an edge over teams like Miami and Atlanta who don’t have the top quality point guards in the division. The Wizards will need another All Star season from John Wall along with major growth from Bradley Beal in terms of efficiency and health in order to get there. Not Quite Ready: Orlando Magic The Orlando Magic are steadily amassing one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, but they are still a few years of maturation away from showing those skills off. Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton could be the foundation of one of the strongest back courts in the NBA in a few years. A little more seasoning and Orlando will rise to the top of the division.