NBA Season Preview: Does The East Still Run Through South Beach?
October 14, 2014 - 9:24 pm
Fresh Face The Rookies Of The Southeast Division You Should Know
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
If you watched the NBA Draft this past July, there lots of names you probably had heard before like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Lost in the sea of one and done’s, was Elfrid Payton. A 6-foot-4 point guard, who went from averaging 19 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals per game at the small school of Louisiana-Lafayette, to an NBA Lottery pick (10th overall) expected to run a pro franchise. The young playmaker draws comparisons from Boston Celtics star Rajon Rondo for his court vision and defense, but watch for the youngster to make his own lane down in Disney Country.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
In any other draft but the super talent heavy 2014 class, Aaron Gordon would have been the first overall pick. He’s fast, explosive, strong and can catch anything thrown remotely around the rim. Experts consider his ceiling close to that of Clippers star Blake Griffin. Orlando Magic fans will have a lot to cheer about if he’s half as good, especially right away.
Adreian Payne, Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta doesn’t truly have an identity yet as a basketball team and given all the off-court issues surrounding the former owner Bruce Levenson and GM Danny Ferry have been involved with, team needs have been an after thought. Payne, a four year star from Michigan State University, is a player that can add stability to a locker room and team that’s in dire need of good, high character people.
Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets
Noah Vonleh’s got all star level potential. He scores and plays great defense around the rim and moves like the prototype of an NBA forward. His biggest setback, aside from his surgically repaired hernia that will have him sidelined until November, is that he’s playing with a ton of veterans that play his position. Odds of him getting of the bench this season are slim, but he’ll be an impact player down the line.
Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat
As part of Miami’s plan to keep LeBron in South Beach, they went and got the player he said was “his favorite in the draft.” King James is back in Cleveland of course, but Shabazz Napier is still a part of the Heat’s future plan. The 2014 NCAA Champion has that underdog fight in him, a trait that caught LeBron’s eye. It’s that same passion that will push him to big heights in the league.
What’s Good With The Heat?
Can the Heat really be title contenders without LeBron James? The short answer: yes. Luol Deng, the player who will now play the small forward position that James did for the Heat, is an all star. Dwyane Wade isn’t a washed up veteran just yet and before joining Miami, Chris Bosh was a franchise player, doing more with less (talent) in Toronto. If Bosh can return to that level, which he should, the Heat could very well come out of the Eastern Conference. Business as usual.
So Who Do We Need To Watch?
Organizations love getting their playback for all the years Michael Jordan tormented them on the court by beating up on his beloved bugs. Those days might just be over, now that Jordan has the young talent on his team, finally built to make noise in the East. Making the playoffs last year was step one for the Charlotte Hornets. Now, with a year of playoff experience under their belts and the addition of potential all star Lance Stephenson, the Hornets should take another step in the winning direction.
Overview/Predictions: Will the Miami Heat still be title contenders? Yes, they might win the division, have a shot at winning the Eastern Conference and could mess around and surprise us all by winning one without LeBron. The core still remains and since Bosh didn’t go to Houston, they’re still technically the team to beat.
With that said, the team we’re betting on is the Washington Wizards. John Wall finally emerged as an all star lat year and backcourt mate Bradley Beal isn’t far behind. They took the conference on a wild ride last year, nearly defeating the Indiana Pacers in the semi-finals. The worst thing you can do for a young team is give them confidence. Taking it to the team that won the regular season crown put a new energy behind the young squad.