NBA East in 2012: The Heat will rise; the Hawks might, too

That's Al Horford on the right. Don't recognize the guy on the left. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

That's Al Horford on the right. Don't recognize the guy on the left. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

As we take our leave of pro basketball, we look beyond the impending lockout — hey, every sport has one — to the next season, assuming there is one. With much pending, here’s a snapshot of the NBA East, which is the half of the league that concerns us:

1. Miami Heat (58-24): They lost in the finals as millions cheered, but next season could be a long one for us Heat-bashers. Half the Miami roster figures to be gone, and good riddance. Beyond the Big Three, who’s worth keeping? Udonis Haslem? Mario Chalmers? Mike Miller? Whenever the NBA hammers out a new collective bargaining agreement with its players, South Beach will remain a powerful lure for mid-level free agents: No state tax, no snow and the chance to win a title. And the Heat, as we know, don’t need more superstars. Just better complements. Stock: Still rising, darn it.

1A. Chicago Bulls (62-20): The team that missed on the big-ticket free agents last summer actually finished ahead of the team that hooked the Big Three. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget that the Bulls have Derrick Rose, who became the NBA’s youngest most valuable player. Don’t forget that the Bulls, who had the NBA’s 26th-highest payroll last season, should have $10 million to spend on the needed shooting guard. But don’t forget this: Jerry Reinsdorf isn’t known to splurge. Stock: Rising.

3. Boston Celtics (56-26): When next season commences, Boston’s Big Three will be an aggregate 105 years old. There’s a chance Paul Pierce might become the sixth man. (Over time, the Celtics have been big on sixth men.) The regrettable trade of Kendrick Perkins, the retirement of Shaquille O’Neal and the flight to CSKA Moscow by Nenad Krstic (obtained in the Perkins deal) have left the team without a big man other than Jermaine O’Neal. Even with Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers on hand, this could fall apart in a hurry. Stock: Falling fast.

4. Atlanta Hawks (44-38): Unless Rick Sund swings a big deal for Josh Smith, any improvement will need to come from within — the Hawks are nearly at the luxury-tax level already. On cue, Jeff Teague’s performance as emergency starter against the Bulls brings hope that the Hawks might have finally found their point guard. But Jamal Crawford, the hugely influential sixth man, could be lost to free agency, and Jordan Crawford, the talented draftee, was sent to Washington in the Kirk Hinrich trade. Stock: Rising slightly, assuming Teague’s postseason was no mirage.

5. New York Knicks (42-40): They have money to spend and two stars (Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire) under contract. Speculation has long held that Chris Paul will become the third of yet another Big Three, but the Knicks, as ever, are in flux. The widely esteemed team president Donnie Walsh just stepped down, and coach Mike D’Antoni’s job isn’t secure. And for all the hoopla that surrounded Anthony’s Big Apple arrival, it’s still unclear just how good he is. Stock: Risky.

6. Orlando Magic (52-30): Dwight Howard just told NBA.com he plans to become a free agent next summer. The Magic had offered a two-year extension, but Howard indicated he won’t sign it. He said he’s uncertain how committed his teammates are to winning a title. He should also be concerned about this: With the exception of Jameer Nelson, his teammates stink. And the Magic, who spent $89 million and lost to the Hawks in Round 1, have no cap flexibility. (They do, however, have Gilbert Arenas under contract — through 2014.) Stock: Plummeting.

By Mark Bradley

290 comments Add your comment

rawdawg

June 14th, 2011
10:43 am

Mark Bradley

June 14th, 2011
10:48 am

Kudos, rawdawg.

bigcotton

June 14th, 2011
10:56 am

LuvSolDat

June 14th, 2011
10:56 am

I am not opposed to a jsmoove move but Horford has higher trade value and as coachable as he is I found his playoff performance or lack there of to be very frieghtening. Also some team may be more willing to take Marvin off our hands for Horford than they would for Smith.

GStateBen

June 14th, 2011
10:58 am

Mark, Nice work.

The Heat currently have 12 players under contract for a total of $66 million. The salary cap will likely decrease again post lockout. They will have to get better from within as well. They traded their draft picks away and will only have a second round pick (acquired from Michael Beasley trade). This is the Miami team and they still don’t have a PG (Chalmers is a UFA) or big man (Howard, Magloire and Big Z are free agents). I believe they will be no better in 2011-12 and possibly slightly worse in the regular season.

Remember in 2010-11 they stayed pretty healthy (Wade missed some time). Mike Miller is a year older and slower, Udonis Haslem will be a year older and more injury prone.

Hawks need to stay the course and hold onto Josh. I believe that the Magic continue to Fall and the Hawks could rise as high as #3 in the East.

D-Nice

June 14th, 2011
10:58 am

Trade Josh SMith and Marvin Williams to Orlando and allow Dwight Howard to come back home. I would say Joe Johnson but even Orlando will pass on him and his contract. There is a possibility of a sign and trade double deal with Crawford and 2 future 1st round picks. In any scenario you need to unload Marvin Williams (Chris Paul sure would have looked nicer than Marvin Williams but what did us “only fans” know back then).

GStateBen

June 14th, 2011
10:59 am

Al averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds per game in the Playoffs. Check out the rest of the big men in the Playoffs.

MJC

June 14th, 2011
10:59 am

Despite the negativity around the franchise, I still think the Hawks could have a very, very good year next season. (lockout pending, of course)

The kicker will be whether or not we resign Jamal, and not the way you think. If we resign Jamal, then we will likely run the double ball-stopper lineup of him and JJ out there and lose a lot of games because of it. Having a strong defensive backcourt rotation of Teague-Hinrich-JJ, with Pape Sy or a draft pick developing (Shumpert?), where all three can still create their own shot would be an enormous plus.

On the other fronts, keep Collins and Pachulia, but run the small lineup with Al at the C as much as possible and make sure the coaching staff tells Smoove and Al to get into the damn post area as much as possible. Also, resign Damien. I think his play warrants a new contract.

Brent

June 14th, 2011
11:00 am

Mark, as you so astutely pointed out in a previous blog, it does not pay to remain static in the NBA. In order for the Hawks stock to rise they MUST make a deal hopefully involving Josh Smith. Even if Teague does break through I don’t see the Hawks moving forward without making a roster change.

MJC

June 14th, 2011
11:05 am

Random question: does anyone here think we should try to us the big lineup to experiment running the triangle? I know that it isn’t the easiest of sets to learn, but I think the Hawks personnel could succeed using it.

Darth Thrasher

June 14th, 2011
11:06 am

In 2012, perhaps Bruce Levenson & Michael “Yes, Brucie!” Gearon will each be able to rise to the level of a snake’s belly.

Worthless pieces of manure!

Marcus

June 14th, 2011
11:07 am

What lessons can the Hawks learn from the Mavericks, esp. given this article….!!?!?!?!?

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20110614_Mavericks_won_title_old-fashioned_way.html

I think we have the talent (arguably our own Big 3, if Smoove develops/matures, Al develops and JJ rises from his 2010 malaise), but the consistent performance and downright doggedness to NOT slack off or let your team down…. ehhh, not so much

King LeBron

June 14th, 2011
11:13 am

HATERS NEED TO GET A LIFE!

YOU HATERS JUST WANT TO HATE ON ME FOR MY TALENTS AND MY MONEY!

IF ANY OF YOU COME TO ME AND AXE ME FOR CHANGE FOR A DOLLAR BILL, YOU WON’T GET BUT 3 QUARTERS OUT OF ME AT MAX!

THAT IS STILL MORE THAN WHAT ALL YOU HATERS DESERVE OUT OF ME!

D-WADE!

WHERE YOU AT??

Marcus

June 14th, 2011
11:14 am

LIke I said on the Hawks fan blog … if we could get MIL PF Luc Mah Boute Mah Buote (I know I butchered his name, but *shrug*…) and one other guy to add toughness/dirty work .(would luv Haslem in that spot, move Luc to SF……)

Marcus

June 14th, 2011
11:18 am

MB,
my bad. In the previous blog about lessons for Heat/Hawks .. Item No 1 answers my question in the 11:07 am post.

Question is ….. I thought I had read numerous articles in ‘09 and ‘10 that the Hawks generally liked each other on and off-court … so why/how does mistrust/selfishness manifest sometimes on the court (evidenced in iso-plays, ill-advised shots, and lack of ball movement)?

ant banks

June 14th, 2011
11:18 am

MARK BRADLEY,

it was inexplicable why teague was banished to the bench, in favor of bibby. had miami heat started chalmers over bibby, there might be rings headed to miami. do you have any idea why larry REFUSED to give teague substantial minutes during the season. i swear i believe that larry drew will revert back to his old ways and bench teague.

dummy nique never has anything positive to say about teague when he broadcasts hawks games. what’s the deal?

Gucci

June 14th, 2011
11:20 am

We need Josh Smith. Imagine our defense without Josh Smith. People would penetrate all the time not having to worry about Josh block their shot. Josh has a lot of talent that can’t be replaced. On the other hand, we’ve all see what AL does at the PF position. Look at playoffs. We should keep both of them and bring in some hard nose vets.

Mark Bradley

June 14th, 2011
11:23 am

The Hawks have been together a while, Marcus. Let’s just say that, OK?

dap01

June 14th, 2011
11:25 am

The hawks will be better because they have guards that can actually play defense. If Teague is allowed to PLAY (who knows with Larry)our team will run, run and run.

We need a tough center (a real center) to back up AL. Al needs to shut up and play center if needed. We then need to get a backup SG who can shoot and defend.

We will be ok.

Who Cares?

June 14th, 2011
11:28 am

““Wikipedia: The Atlanta Hawks:

A so called professional basketball team that has been established in the City of Atlanta since 1968!
This Franchise has never been to an Eastern Conference Final or an NBA Finals since its existence in Atlanta..”

Prediction: THE STREAK WILL CONTINUE………………

Dawglasville

June 14th, 2011
11:31 am

1. Teague 2.Hinrich 3. Joe 4. Al 5. Dwight Howard.

We need to find some heart to play defense. As good as Teague was against Chicago we missed Hinrich’s defense against Rose. If we keep Josh maybe we should put him in the middle of the zone (I have a feeling the zone will get a second look after seeing how well Dallas ran it) so that he doesn’t have to worry too much about switching out. Just stand there and block shots.

Who Cares?

June 14th, 2011
11:31 am

Dream on MB. The Hawks wont be relevant as presently configured.

bird

June 14th, 2011
11:36 am

Howard’s not coming here if Josh isn’t here.

Dawglasville

June 14th, 2011
11:42 am

Josh – we have been paying for potential for how many years now? I think he makes @ $11 million a year. He had one game against Chicago where we all said, “Man, that is the Josh Smith we need. If we just got this every night.” We aren’t going to get this every night. We won’t even get that Josh some of the nights.

JeJe

June 14th, 2011
11:43 am

Get rid of Marvin or bring him off bench. Josh should be able to do anything Marion did in the Finals. Get a physical center

Grandmaster JeJe

June 14th, 2011
11:44 am

There’s plenty of teams as talented as Dallas (especially without Haywood, Butler in the Finals)

but you must ALWAYS have effort + camaraderie

DeShawn said the Mavs are family

Dawglasville

June 14th, 2011
11:45 am

bird – I know they are buddies but Dwight showed no mercy to Josh two years ago in the playoffs. In fact, he chalked his head up pretty good and Josh wanted no piece of him.

Grandmaster JeJe

June 14th, 2011
11:45 am

Sign DeShawn Stevenson

He is far cheaper than Jamal, hits 3s, commits hard fouls, has guys’ backs, plays defense

That’s what you need – not a soft 20ppg player who doesn’t score in the 2nd round of the playoffs

John

June 14th, 2011
11:50 am

People don’t want to admit it, but Josh is far more valuable to this team than Al. He is a better defender, has better post moves, and is nearly as good a rebounder. He makes more boneheaded plays, but Al makes some too and is given a pass for them. Trading Josh kills our D which is not great to begin with. Let Jamal go and sign some good young players that can contribute off the bench, not aging big men who are making their last stop before retirement.

John

June 14th, 2011
11:51 am

I would like to see us get Stevenson as well. Marvin’s game will improve back to what it was with Jamal gone. He took all of Marvin’s shots and minutes.

JoJo the Godfather

June 14th, 2011
11:53 am

Hawks worked out Mickael Gelabale, remember him? A skinnier Pape Sy. 6′7″ and a little over 200 lbs. Quick, pretty good defender. Not much to offer on offense other than hustle.

thUGA

June 14th, 2011
11:53 am

i’ll never go see a hawks game as long as they are owned by the asg – atl suck group

Grandmaster JeJe

June 14th, 2011
11:54 am

Jamal’s points-by-game in the Chicago series:

22
11
7
12
2
8

Grandmaster JeJe

June 14th, 2011
11:55 am

Tyson Chandler is EXACTLY what EVERY team in this league needs. I feel he could’ve dominated the Finals even more.

ASG juST SOLD THE THRASHERS. GO INTO THE LT AND MAKE SOME NOISE THIS SUMMER

John

June 14th, 2011
11:58 am

I am upset that Sund does not value late first round draft picks. This is obvious by trading Jordan Crawford and our first this year for Hinrich. I think Hinrich will be solid off the bench, backing up Joe and Teague, but we gave up alot for him.

Ray

June 14th, 2011
11:58 am

Honestly what we need is more than 7 people playing on this team.

As it stands the only people this season I saw a lot of were Marvin, JJ, Josh, Horford, Zaza, Bibby, and Jamal.

Sometimes Collins so I’m going to put 7.5 instead of 7, but that is rather sad.

If Larry Drew wants to have a job next year he’d be wise to play these other guys early on during the grind of the regular season that’s what it’s there for get you ready for the playoffs.

Slimjr

June 14th, 2011
12:05 pm

The streak will continue..Need new ownership….

Curious George

June 14th, 2011
12:05 pm

Do each of those 4th Quarters LeBron James elects to take off in important games count against his employer’s PTO amounts?

Sage of Bluesland

June 14th, 2011
12:10 pm

Come on, the Hawks aren’t even relevant. Enough “talent” to make it into the playoffs–and thus miss out on a high draft pick. Not enough heart or synergy to be a real threat to the big boys like Chicago, Miami, etc.

I wouldn’t subsidize this utter incompetence, which began with Pete Babcock and continues to this day….

(and as a native Atlantan who remembers Dan Roundfield and Larry Drew, I have never been to a Hawks game. That streak will continue, too.)

Sage of Bluesland

June 14th, 2011
12:12 pm

Is Al Horford the most overrated and undercriticized player in this town since Keith Brooking?

Every time I watch a Hawks game, I walk away wholly unimpressed with his “talent” and his alleged “leadership”.

Time to ship him off before it’s too late….It may be already….

gcs

June 14th, 2011
12:18 pm

This time last year, the Hawks could have had Dwane Casey. Now he has a ring and is the hottest commodity out there.

I don’t expect the Atlanta Spirit to do the right thing but they need to fire Larry Drew and go get Casey.

.

JustAThought

June 14th, 2011
12:29 pm

Why do lot of people think that Tyson Chandler will sign with the hawks, and more importantly why do you think he would leave Dallas? Yeah…………that’s what I thought, the sorry azz asfg vs a real owner Mark Cubin. So he is out! Next?

JustAThought

June 14th, 2011
12:32 pm

Not only is this organization at a BIG disavantage with the ownership, but the gm is just as bad or worst.

JustAThought

June 14th, 2011
12:36 pm

the hawks have nobody to handle Desean Stevenson, no coach, gm or owner! So that would be a great mistake. (but that will probably be the what that quack of a gm will do!)

RED ZONE 1

June 14th, 2011
12:41 pm

I’m surprised most of you don’t see it yet…yes we do have to trade away J Smooth (for JaVale Mcgree and a future 1st), but a SF were set. Pape Sy has shown what type of players you need to win in both the regular and post season, (trench diggers) players that arent pretty and dont fill up the stats columns. They hustle/defend nonstop for 48 minutes, they chase loose ball, crash the boards, and foul hard. They score hustle points and embrace their roles on team. I was right about JT, I was right about JC2, and if given the chance I’ll be right about Pape Sy too!!!

Worldwide Clyde

June 14th, 2011
12:42 pm

Grandmaster JeJe

June 14th, 2011
12:43 pm

DeShawn just won a ring and was the X-Factor on that team. THe reason we have no one to handle toough personalities is because this team has no leadership and a joke of a coaching staff.

How many of our assistant coaches are getting called about Head Coaching opportunities?

I doubt one Western Conference team is familiar with the name Bob Bender

Grandmaster JeJe

June 14th, 2011
12:44 pm

Nobody said Tyson would come here. I said he is WHAT WE NEED

Worldwide Clyde

June 14th, 2011
12:57 pm

“Is Al Horford the most overrated and undercriticized player in this town since Keith Brooking?”

Yes

Where was Horford in the Chicago series? We had Collins in at center so what’s the excuse? All-stars step up in the playoffs not lay down.

ASG = JERKS

June 14th, 2011
1:07 pm

SCREW THE ASG.