The view from the Southeast: A Hawk's eye perspective
This week I thought I’d cast an eye over each of the teams in the Southeast Division and offer some thoughts about their current situations and how they went over the week.
|Team||W||L||Week Results (8/3/15 -14/3/15)|
|x – Atlanta (1)||51||14||2-2|
x = Clinched playoff spot
Hawks eyeing playoffs
The Atlanta Hawks became the first team in the NBA to lock in their playoff spot and hold the league’s second best record. With losses to the 76ers and Nuggets over the last four games, you get the impression the Hawks are tired of playing with the dead mice and need the live prey of the playoffs to get themselves motivated again.
One Hawk who remains motivated is Dennis Schröder, who is continuing his impressive play, lifting his averages to 14.1ppg and 6.7apg over his last 7 games. Schröder’s situation with Teague might eventually play out like the one involving Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe with the Clippers. While Teague is no Paul, he is now one of the better point guards in the league and it looks like the Hawks will eventually have to choose between the two down the track, especially if Schröder remains set on starting one day.
It will be fun keeping an eye on Kyle Korver’s bid to become the first ‘official’ 50-50-90 club member, with only his field goal percentage of .499 barring him from entry at this point . Steve Kerr is ‘unofficially’ in the club, from his 95-96 season, but did not meet the minimum field goal and free throw requirements.
The Beal Deal
The Wizards started the week with a loss to the Bucks, but were able to finish the week positively with two blowout wins over the Hornets on the road and then at home against a Grizzlies team resting key players, which made John Wall feel disrespected.
The Wizards won’t be challenging in the East if they can’t get more out of their injury-prone shooting guard Bradley Beal who has been in and out of the lineup all year. As a result the self-proclaimed ‘best backcourt in the league’ has had little continuity, with Beal struggling to find his impressive form from last season and Wall is starting to look worn down from carrying the extra load. It’s a situation Beal is aware of, and he spoke about it recently:
“My game definitely has to escalate, and it has to escalate now. I know it starts with John and [me]. I have to definitely step up my play. He’s been playing well all year and I’ve been on a roller coaster. I definitely have to be aggressive and be the star that people think I should be.” – source
When healthy, Beal is the Wizards best offensive weapon and his ability to create his own shot is a vital skill come playoff time.
Mo money in Charlotte
The Hornets had a good win on the road against the Pistons, then lost two costly games at home to the Wizards and Kings before rallying to beat the Bulls from 19 points down to end the week. They currently sit in the eighth spot in the East with a half-game lead over division rivals Miami.
Mo Williams has given the Hornets just the pep they need to make a playoff push after being brought over at the trade deadline. In his 12 games in the teal and purple he has averaged 21ppg and 7.9apg while guiding the Hornets to a 7 and 5 record.
His play with the Hornets has already earned him an Eastern Conference player of the week award, which made him the only player this season to win this award in both conferences.
Another positive for the Hornets is the return of Kemba Walker this week, who was sidelined with a knee injury earlier and required a part of his meniscus removed. It is the same injury Derrick Rose is currently dealing with, which saw Walker missing around 6 weeks, so hopefully it’s the same timetable for Rose.
It will be interesting to see how Walker coexists with Williams going forward. Both are dangerous scorers, but Williams is comfortable playing off the ball. They should see some time together in an effort to boost the scoring of the team ranked 27th in the league for points per game.
The bad news is their low post savant Al Jefferson will miss time with a calf injury, joining Cody Zeller who sprained his shoulder.
It’s not just the players in Charlotte getting injured these days, it’s the fans too (nice save guy in orange!)
Hassan’s dark side
While Hassan Whiteside’s impressive play this season has shown the basketball world why NBA GM’s have drooled over his talent, recently we have seen a glimpse as to why they shied away from paying for it. Whiteside was ejected twice in a week, firstly against Phoenix for his wrestling take-down on Alex Len, then a ramming elbow into the back of Boston’s Kelly Olynyk.
His hit on Olynyk was a cheap shot and earned him not only a one game suspension but the ire of Dwyane Wade. With the Heat in a tight finish to make the playoffs Wade knows they can ill afford Whiteside’s selfish behavior, especially now that he has established himself as one of Miami’s key players.
Looking at the Heat’s other big recruit in Goran Dragic, it will be worth keeping an eye on his movements this off-season. His stats remain virtually identical in Miami as they were in Phoenix, with his usage rate with the Heat of 20.9, slightly down on the 21.4 with the Suns. Dragic was unhappy this season about not having the ball in his hands as much as last season when his usage rate was 24.6 and he was 3rd team All-NBA. He would have to leave money on the table to find a better fit for himself, although it would be hard to bet against Pat Riley in this situation.
Dwyane Wade appears to be benefiting from Dragic’s arrival, finding some vintage form during the week averaging 28.8ppg, 4.8apg on 53.5% shooting over the 4 games.
No Magic fix
The Magic started the week with a home win against the Celtics, then had 3 road losses against the Pacers, Bucks and Celtics.
It’s been a disappointing year for the Magic who will again dip into the lottery. The individual pieces on the roster look appealing on their own, but they don’t seem to fit together to make a good team. Payton looks promising at the point, Oladipo is blossoming into one of the top two guards in the league, Harris can score in a variety of ways as a hybrid forward and Vucevic has taken over the title of ‘Best Scoring Center’. Yet when you add it all up they rank near the bottom of the league in points , points against, rebounds and assists.
The most important addition the Magic can make this off-season is a good coach who can get all these pieces to gel. It’s unlikely to be interim coach James Borrego who has an uninspiring 6-9 record since taking over and a lack of belief in magic it seems:
“There’s no magic pill here. There’s no magic scheme. There’s no magic defense. There’s no magic offense right here. There’s just a mentality we’ve got to break through right now and we will.” – source