1. No Dwayne, no Chris, now what? The end of an era has come in Miami as Pat Riley and the Heat will try to stay competitive without the man who will likely go down as their greatest player ever and Chris Bosh. With a potentially solid nucleus of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, and newly acquired Dion Waiters, I would not declare Miami dead yet. Pat Riley usually has something up his sleeve.
2. Does Dwight Howard “move the needle” for the Hawks? Atlanta has been a solid team for the past few years as a perennial playoff participant. This off-season marked definite change as Al Horford said goodbye and moved on to Boston. Howard replaces Horford as the starting center. A much-needed change for Dwight as he decided to end a tumultuous stay in Houston. Has Dwight peaked at 30? Can he alone elevate Atlanta, I don’t believe so.
3. Will Frank Vogel get Orlando to play up to their potential? The fact that Orlando was able to get an accomplished coach like Vogel was impressive, all props to owner Rich DeVos and GM Rob Hennigan for grabbing a coach Vogel who has had only one losing season. Vogel does have a tough job ahead as he has a young team that has not won much. Also, he is now in charge of developing guys like Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon (they are the core of the team). Scott Skiles failed at elevating this team, can Vogel do it?
4. Can the Wizards get back to contention? The Wiz hope to get back to postseason play, and with the change to Scott Brooks as coach there is some optimism. Brooks was known to cater his offense to his stars in Oklahoma City. I don’t expect that to change a whole lot in Washington as he has John Wall and Bradley Beal. I do wonder though if Brooks encourages Wall to take more shots (attempted almost 18 shots per game last year)? Washington does have some intriguing pieces with Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, and Trey Burke. An interesting to keep tabs on for sure.
5. Did Charlotte do enough to improve? I don’t know if they did. Losing Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, and Al Jefferson puts a “dent” into what they had as a roster, especially the bench. Now, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looks healthy so that provides a boost, but I wonder if Marco Belinelli, Ramon Sessions, and Roy Hibbert can replace what they lost. Belinelli was not very good last season with career lows in field goal and three point percentage. Sessions is a decent backup. Hibbert is trying to find his game again.
5 Best Players
1. John Wall, Wizards Proved his worth as a top-flight point guard, one of only three point guards to average 19 points, 10 assists, and four rebounds per game last season.
2. Paul Millsap, Hawks A model of consistency, has averaged at least 17 points and eight rebounds the last three seasons. Be interesting to see what happens to his number now that Dwight is there.
3. Kemba Walker, Hornets Took a monster leap last season carrying the Hornets to the post-season. Seems like he made every big shot Charlotte needed. He is now “the guy” for the Hornets, especially from a leadership standpoint.
4. Nikola Vucevic, Magic When we talk about “big men”, he should be in the conversation as one of the better centers. Has averaged a double-double three of the last four seasons. Can shoot and play in the post. I get the feeling Orlando might trade him though because Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo can also play center.
5. Hassan Whiteside, Heat Could have put Bradley Beal here as well, but I am going on potential here. Whiteside was a real catalyst for Miami’s playoff run. Great rim protector and rebounder. Offensive game needs a bit of polish, but has “oodles” of potential. Hopefully, he stay focused on improving and not let the big contract derail him.
Best Coach: Erik Spoelstra, Heat
Surprise Player: Otto Porter, Wizards Quietly had a good year last season, averaging 12 points per game. I think he becomes an even bigger part of the offense this season, watch out for him.
Disappointing Player: Bismack Biyombo, Magic Made his money with his playoff performance, I don’t know if he will do that for an entire season. Orlando’s frontcourt is stacked as well.
Order of Finish: 1. Atlanta 2. Charlotte 3. Washington 4. Miami 5. Orlando