Title: Southeast Division Season Recap
Date: April 20, 2008
Original Source: About.com
Synopsis: With no more pointless weekly divisional reviews to do, I did a season recap for the Southeast Division for About.com. They don’t archive their previous seasons’ articles, but luckily I had backups of the articles…you know, in case you’re really curious how I felt about the 2008 Atlanta Hawks season.
Recap Rewind: The Hawks finished 37-45, their best finish and first playoff appearance since 1998-99, ending the league’s longest playoff drought. They face Boston in a very tough first round match-up.
Notable News: The big news in the Dirty South was the near-deadline acquisition of point guard Mike Biggy from the Sacramento Kings for spare parts, expiring contracts, and former lottery pick Shelden Williams. Josh Smith continued his ascension to stardom, Joe Johnson put himself back in the elite category, Marvin Williams showed he can score in the big show, while Josh Childress emerged as one of the game’s best sixth men.
Fast Forward: The Hawks are unlikely to beat the Celtics in the first round, so they’ll begin exploring draft pick options with the 15th overall pick. The Hawks are one of the few teams with cap space this summer, but Childress and Smith are both restricted free agents.
Recap Rewind: The Bobcats finished 32-50, a mark just shy of last year’s franchise record 33 wins. The team struggled to do much of anything productive, finishing near the bottom of the league in offensive and defensive efficiency.
Notable News: Charlotte did very little this season, though they did move two expiring contracts (Brezec and Hermann) for Nazr Mohammed. On the bright side, J-Rich and Gerald Wallace proved they could play together at an elite level, a good sign for the future, and Ray Felton notched a career high 7.4 assists. Okafor played his first full season, but his numbers were slightly down across the board, indicating he may have reached his ceiling as a 13-and-10 guy.
Fast Forward: Without a lottery, the Bobcats would be selecting 8th overall and looking at guys like Brook Lopez and Kevin Love for an interior scoring presence to complement Okafor, who is a restricted free agent. The Bobcats have a good deal of cap room yet again, but could conceivably have trouble attracting free agents to plug their holes (a shooting guard or power forward).
Recap Rewind: Not a pretty season in Miami, finishing with a league- and franchise-worst 15-67 record, just two years removed from a championship.
Notable News: It was a tumultuous year in Miami, with the biggest news being the trade of Shaquille O’Neal for Shawn Marion. Dwyane Wade went down for the season well after the team began struggling (opening night), and Marion and Haslem soon followed. For the last 15 games the Heat fielded a team of primarily D-League players, but it was for a purpose.
Fast Forward: Yes, the Heat have the top odds at this year’s #1 draft pick, a coin flip between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Unless the lottery gods punish their all-season tanking, they should end up with one of them. The Heat have some contracts come off the books but will still be close to the salary cap threshold if Marion does not opt out, so they’ll be looking for a sign-and-trade partner to fill out a formidable line-up of Wade/Haslem/Marion/Draft Pick.
Recap Rewind: The Magic finished 52-30, winning the Southeast division and posting the second best mark in club history. They secured the third seed in the East and face the Toronto Raptors in the first round.
Notable News: The Magic were quiet on the trade front, but made a lot of noise for other reasons. Dwight Howard solidified himself as the big man of the future and Hedo Turkoglu made the jump to superstar and crunch time phenomenon. Unfortunately, Rashard Lewis failed to earn his mammoth contract and the point guard play was uninspired. The Magic also failed to acquire a big man to accompany Howard for the playoff run. However, it was mostly sunny in Orlando.
Fast Forward: The Magic appear to be the favorites against the Raptors in round one, but it is certainly the closest match-up of the first round. Regardless, the Magic shouldn’t expect to get past the second round, and will spend their offseason looking for a point guard and power forward to strengthen their impressive line-up. Unfortunately, they have very little cap space and a lot of roster positions to fill.
Recap Rewind: The Wizards came on strong in the second half of the season to secure the 5th seed in the East and a match-up with LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the first round. They finished 43-39, their 4th straight winning season.
Notable News: Washington’s season was a news-heavy one. From the most-of-the-season knee injury of Gilbert Arenas, to the rest of the banged up line-up, to the impending contract situations of Arenas and Jamison, to Deshaun Stevenson calling LeBron overrated, there wasn’t a dull moment for this team. The Wiz made no trades but were constantly at the forefront of sports news, led primarily by the excellent play of Caron Butler and Jamison, who both had career years. Roger Mason, Nick Young, and Antonio Daniels all also made steps in a positive direction, while Brendan Haywood proved he could handle a starting center position.
Fast Forward: The first round will be tough, the third straight first round meeting with Cleveland. The bigger postseason news for the Wizards will be the contract status of Arenas and Jamison, as Jamison is unrestricted and Arenas can opt out. If both stay, they have no cap room to improve, but losing either is a serious loss.