NBA 2014-15 Division Winners
We are all very aware of Phil Jackson's prowess as a head coach. 11 championships is undoubtedly a tremendous accomplishment. Will this translate to success as the president of the New York Knicks? Well, we do know for a fact that there will be major changes in New York. Woodson has been shipped out, and Derek Fisher is grasping control, setting out to implement Jackson's famous triangle offense. The Knicks acquired Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, and Wayne Ellington from the Mavericks in exchange for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Sure, losing Chandler weakens the defense, but he often looked disinterested on the court last season. Jose Calderon is a very underrated addition to this team. A great passer and 3-point specialist can always fit into Jackson's system. Expect a bounce-back season for Iman Shumpert and a solid improvement from Tim Hardaway Jr. Will Melo finally get a shot at that elusive championship? Time will tell, but his team will definitely be in consideration for a top seed in the east. Toronto, 2013-14 division winner, will give the Knicks a run for their money. Retaining Kyle Lowry was great, but the team did not make any significant improvements. Oh, and having the 76ers and Celtics to beat up on all year will help these guys.
Final Record: 49-33
Everyone's eyes will be on this division. Sure, Paul George's injury knocks the Pacers out of contention, but there is a lot to be excited about here. Derrick Rose is finally looking like himself again. Stan Van Gundy will turn Andre Drummond into Dwight Howard without the attitude problems. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will work beautifully as teammates in Cleveland. Oh, yeah, and that James guy. Having the homecoming king in place is enough to make a team among the league's most popular. If you give him Irving and Love, two players far ahead of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at this point, expect to see a lot of blowouts. There is a possibility of a slight learning curve at the beginning of the season with a completely new team and coach in place, but there is no doubt where this team will be come playoff time. The Bulls are good, but not this good
Final Record: 65-17
The Hawks, Hornets, Magic, and Wizards want a turn. Ever since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, the division crown was pretty much locked up before the season even started. Although the Hawks have an intriguing team, they will not be serious contenders. The Magic are clearly in a rebuilding phase, so let's ignore them for now. This leaves us with 3 serious contenders for the Southeastern Division title. Could the Heat claim it once again? Absolutely. Luol Deng, while not even close to LeBron caliber, is a very good player. Chris Bosh will take his desired alpha-dog role, and the point guard competition will lead to inspired play at the position. A big question mark here is the health of Dwyane Wade. The 32-year-old shooting guard hasn't played more than 70 regular season games since the 2010-11 season. In the end, though, I think it will be someone else's turn here. Paul Pierce's veteran presence and championship pedigree will be a great addition to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards will undoubtedly be a playoff team; probably a top-6 seed. However, the division title will go to MJ's new look Charlotte Hornets. In addition to the name change, there were some solid acquisitions. The 9th pick in the draft fell into Charlotte's lap as a result of the Ben Gordon trade in June of 2012. They used this pick on Noah Vonleh, a highly regarded big out of Indiana. MJ and his crew did a great job of prying Stephenson away from Indiana for the bargain price of $27 million over 3 years. Al Jefferson played his butt off with a plantar fascia injury. A healthy Jefferson will lead the team in scoring and rebounds and be a dominant presence. If Kemba Walker can play consistently, this team will go a long way. Not to mention, having MKG off the bench (or in combination with Stephenson) will give opposing wings fits on offense. I am definitely backing the buzz.
Final Record: 54-28
Who will win the Southeast Division?
Can Russell Westbrook lead the Thunder while Durant is recovering from his foot injury? Their opening night lineup includes the likes of Andre Roberson and Perry Jones. While Roberson should be a force on the defensive end, these are two very raw players. Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers finished only 5 games behind the Thunder. Expect Damian Lillard to have his best year yet. LaMarcus Aldridge is in a contract year and will be looking for a big pay day next offseason. Robin Lopez is not a top center, but is a great display of consistency. Ultimately, the slight edge goes to Oklahoma City. Terry Stotts' crew up in Portland might lead the division for the majority of the season, but expect OKC to come out on top.
Final Record: 60-22
Steve Ballmer. The effect an owner can have on his team is often underrated. Ballmer's energy was on display immediately after the sale of the Clippers. In celebration of the sale, Ballmer was chest bumping and high-fiving fans all around the Staples Center. What a dramatic shift from the racist and inhumane leadership of Donald Sterling. In a recent article for The Players' Tribune, Blake Griffin wrote about the racism of Sterling throughout his career. It was not restricted to the one incident with V. Stiviano. Instead of wearing their warmup shirts inside out this year, the Clippers will proudly flaunt them all the way to the NBA Finals. With the best point guard in the NBA, the second best coach, and two monsters controlling the paint, this team is destined to go far.
Final Record: 63-19
The San Antonio Spurs. No introduction is necessary. They will once again take home the division title. Kawhi Leonard is the biggest superstar that nobody actually puts in that discussion. That is truly the San Antonio way. Leonard is a defensive stopper, 3-point marksman, and terrific rebounder for his size. Duncan will be Duncan, Parker will be Parker, and Ginobili will be Ginobili. The consistency these players have displayed is unrivaled. Not to mention, they have the best coach in the league leading their squad. The record won't be quite as good as last year, but this is due to the improvement of the teams across the division. The Mavericks took a leap forward with the acquisitions of Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler. The Pelicans will be lead to an improved record with stud center and defensive player of the year candidate Anthony Davis. When everything is said and done, nobody will be able to over come the almighty San Antonio.
Final Record: 57-25
There will undoubtedly be some tight division races this season. If the Blazers keep trending upwards, the Thunder will have to watch out. Which of the teams in the Southeast Division are contenders and which are pretenders? The Hornets, Heat, and Wizards will make that division one of the most entertaining in the league. Will there be any surprise division winners that nobody saw coming? Leave your predictions below.