NBA Preview: Southeast Division

southeastBy Stefan Anderson

The Southeast Division provides the Eastern Conference as well the NBA with a great amount of talent and will be making its mark this season.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are back and looking to build off their playoff success for the first time since 2009. With the Al Jefferson running the post as traditional back to basket player, with a trio of young wing players that include Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd Gilgchrist and Lance Stephenson, the buzz is definitely back in Charlotte. Rookies P.J Hariston and Noel Vonleh can provide some valuable minutes and provide that spark for their bench this season.

Charlotte has a great chance to be the winner of the Southeast Division and will make noise whether conquer the division or not.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has had one the more underrated team in the past few seasons, clinching a playoff berth for the past 7 seasons. Establishing a winning culture and but failing to capitalize when they obtain the postseason success.  Adding players like Adrian Payne and Thabo Sefeloshia, give the Hawks and added presence but it will not be enough for this season especially in the Southeast division.

Atlanta should be in the hunt for the playoffs will fail to do so but expect to see them in the 9 or 10 spot competing regardless of their standing.

Miami Heat

Losing LeBron James sent shock waves but Miami did not panic. With the face of the franchise returning with his other co-star Chris Bosh, the Heat look to stay alive but not as a good as they have been for the past 4 years. Adding veterans like Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts, Miami has assembled a playoff roster this season. Rookie Shabazz Napier can bring a great impact to Miami and provide valuable minutes starting or coming off of the bench.

Miami doesn’t have much concern other than having Dwayne Wade on the court, as he’s been injured in the past few years but the supporting cast of Miami should propel to them to the playoffs.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are going to back in the same position they were in last season, rebuilding. Drafting Aaron Gordon and Alfred Payton to add along Vucevic and Oladipo give Orlando some hope for the future. The young team has promise but still have yet to add the pieces needed due to their many different reasons.

The Magic have a ways to go before reaching the success they want to see but have the potential to be there soon.

Washington Wizards

The Wiz Kids look to keep dazzling the NBA with young superstars John Wall and Bradley Beal at the helm.  Adding Paul Pierce might be just what the Wizards lack in the past season, a veteran with championship experience and can be the hand and glove fit needed.  They remain physical with Nene and Gortat, bringing many different dimensions and can make the next step this season.

The Wizards can be the other team to compete with the Bulls and Cavs this season to take the Eastern Conference.

Southeast Division Standings:

  1. Wizards(Playoff Team)
  2. Hornets (Playoff Team)
  3. Heat (Playoff Team)
  4. Hawks
  5. Magic

NBA Preview: Central Division

centralBy Stefan Anderson

The Central Division brought the Eastern Conference’s best team last season and brought great competition amongst its members. With former MVP’s returning, new coaches and budding stars the Central Division should get interesting this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Return of the King, David Blatt and his new European style of coaching and Kevin Love, the Cavs look like they are built to take the Eastern Conference and potentially the NBA Championship. The Cavs still lack a rim protector but their offensive so overpowering that a true big would be overshadowed. Dion Waiters is poised to have a great season playing with great talent with James, Love and Irving.

The Cavs should be in a great position, but with injury prone players like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love who have yet to play a full 82 game season yet, could put a heavy work load on the King once again.

Chicago Bulls

Doug McDermott, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, the emergence of Taj  Gibson and Jimmy Butler, Chicago has assembled a surrounding cast to go along their premier players Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose.  The Bulls are the other favorite out of the East, and their battles with Cleveland should be legendary this season.

Those regular season and postseason battle between them Cleveland should determine who represents the Eastern Conference in the Finals.

Detroit Pistons

Under the Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons experiment should see brighter days this season.  Pending what happens with 3 big men they shuffle through (Smith, Monroe, and Drummond); the roster should be back at a normal state. Look out for Andre Drummond to become the next prominent big man in the league and either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith to be traded by the Trade Deadline. Role players like Caron Butler and Jodie Meeks will have an impact in SVG’s system.

I believe this is the year that Detroit returns to the playoffs this year and can build off of it for seasons to come.

Indiana Pacers

With their star Paul George injured for the season, the departure of Lance Stephenson, what is next for the Pacers this season? Their locker room leader David West , is on record saying that would not contend this season, what does Indiana expect to achieve this season? Look for Chris Copeland to score a lot of points as he is known to do, and can Roy Hibbert look like the player everyone expects to him to be.

I do not see the Pacers returning to the postseason this year due to their various issues personnel wise but things can turn around but I don’t see it happening.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak, prolific shot blocker Larry Sanders and the NBA’s newest star Jabari Parker, the Bucks have a great future ahead of them. Unfortunately for them ,they will have a lot of problems playing the Central Division. With new head coach Jason Kidd, it gives him a fresh start and opportunity to give guidance to the young talent in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are a season or two away from reaching the success they envision once again, but will be one of the scariest teams in the future.

Central Division Standings:

  1. Cavs (Playoff Team)
  2. Bulls (Playoff Team)
  3. Pistons (Playoff Team)
  4. Pacers
  5. Bucks

NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

atlantic

By Stefan Anderson

With the 2014-2015 NBA season starting shortly, here at the Starting Point, we will give our preview and what to expect for the upcoming season.

We will start our preview in the Eastern Conference with the Atlantic Division.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are still riding the emotional high of reaching the playoffs and winning the division for the first time since 2007.  Adding players like James Johnson and Louis Williams to their bench to give an added dimension the Northern Neighbors. Lookout out for Demar Derozan to have a breakout season following his rejection from the USA World Cup team and Kyle Lowry will be amongst the top tier of Point Guards in the league.

I expect to see the Raptors back in the postseason this year and if the team can stay healthy can be fighting to win the Atlantic division once again. Dwayne Casey has established the hard-grit, winning culture that should have Drake and the T.Dot happy excited this season.

Brooklyn Nets

We have seen the Nets make the playoffs every season since switching states, but the 2014-2015 season brings a lot of question for the Brooklyn. The departure of Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce took away to of Brooklyn’s leaders and makes their playoff hopes even more distant. King’s County team might still have the answer bringing in savvy vets like Jarrett Jack and Marcus Thorthon to help their bench situation but are the main concern for the Nets. With an aging Kevin Garnett, a inconsistent Deron Williams and injury prone Brook Lopez , that leaves a lot of the load for Joe Johnson and the supporting cast.

I do not see the Nets making the playoffs this season and this will be the beginning of the darker days in Brooklyn after trading all of their chips away to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Boston Celtics

Being NBA royalty, it’s astonishing to the Boston Celtics struggle the way have over the past few season. It has been a rebuilding situation since the Big 3 split up and went their separate ways. Drafting Marcus Smart and James Young gives Boston more young pieces to build with or either package in a trade to regain a big name in Beantown. The Celtics still lack “that guy” to help overcome their woes in the Eastern Conference. If Rondo gets traded for some pieces, what can happen with the young core(Bradley, Green, Sullinger), Boston can remain to prominence.

This is another year in the rebuilding process of Boston and the Brad Stevens experiment, can lead to something special but I highly doubt it this season.

New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are coming off of the hangover season after being the 2 seed in the year previous. New York, under the regime of Phil Jackson and company .look to bring a different brand of basketball playing the Triangle Offense and Carmelo Anthony looking to reach success like the predecessors (i.e. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan).

The question that remains with the Knicks is defense, health and size, lacking a real rim protector, injury prone stars, and no real defensive player the Knicks has to shore up those holes while learning a new offensive system. I can see the Knicks potentially slipping into the postseason at a lower seed.

Philadelphia 76ers

Tanking is it real or is it a theory? We will find out this season as Philadelphia has yet to put together a winning roster after seeing one of the worst records last season. Nerlens Noel will be the bright spot for Philly this season; his defensive presence will bring him to Rookie of the Year and give the Sixers hope going forward.

This a definitely a “rebuilding “season for Philly and will get them another good draft pick as they gear up to make a great team featuring MCW, Noel, and Embiid.

Atlantic Division Standings

  1. Raptors (Playoffs)
  2. Knicks (Playoffs)
  3. Celtics
  4. Nets
  5. 76ers

Don’t Forget About Me

underdog QBsBy Stefan Anderson

Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Brees , the elite quarterback cohort that often gets mentions and set the standard on what young QB’s should follow. The praise these men receive are given at the right cause due to their performance on the field. But there are some quarterbacks that go under the radar day by day and should make their mark shortly.

When I think about those signal callers that get overshadowed, two of the most accurate QB’s in the game come to mind, Phillip Rivers and Russell Wilson. The two not only share a tie for the highest completion rate at 70.3 percent and the same Alma matter NC State, but if they continue their level of play will be at the top of voters list for Most Valuable Player.

Russell Wilson, returning of the season where received the Super Bowl MVP beating one of the greatest leaders of all time Peyton Manning , still continues to show that he has what it takes to be a great quarterback in the NFL. Since taking over the position in 2012, the Richmond, VA native has had a 27-9 record as a starter, including a career 100.2 QBR.

A lot of critics often give Wilson the label of being a “game manager” but the duel threat has been efficient and consistent since 2012.

Since 2012, Wilson has remained in the top-ten in completion rate, touchdowns and game winning drives just to name a few statistics. This season, Wilson continue to play on a high level as he continues to lead his Seahawks into their title defense, as Seattle posts a 3-1 record, with 8 touchdowns and 1 interception on his account.

The only team that was able to win against the Seattle Seahawks was the San Diego Chargers, led by Phillip Rivers. The former first round draft of the Giants went 284 yards and 3 touchdowns over the leagues most feared secondary “The Legion of Boom”.

Rivers has been in the NFL for over a decade and has been over looked by many but has played with that chip on his shoulder throughout the years and his unprecedented stats speak for themselves.

The Chargers signal caller has been neck and neck with that elite cohort, in each and every category. Amongst active players, Rivers is in the the top ten in the following categories: Passing Yards, YPG, TD’s and has the 3rd highest passer rating of 98.6, where he is ahead of players like Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

If both of these quarterbacks continue to play the high levels that they have been playing at this season they will finally receive the recognition they deserve.

The Underdogs

Ryan+Flaherty+Baltimore+Orioles+v+Kansas+City+_M9SzGl8zAglBy Stefan Anderson

Every year in the postseason, someone makes a legend for themselves and finds themselves amongst the postseason greats. In Baltimore and Kansas City, fans have not had the chance to see their team attempt to make that leap. But times have changed and now give the faithful of Camden Yards and Kauffman Stadium can rejoice once again to see baseball in October.

The road to the Championship was certainly a sight to see, The Orioles faced Detroit in the division sweeping the Tigers and the excellent pitching staff setting up the match with the Royals. The Royals have been riding one of the hottest months in baseball. After rallying back from a 5-2 deficit winning the first of their three extra-inning games in the postseason, the Royals bring their streak to the ALCS to make one of the more legendary series in the past years.

The Orioles have seen the improvement of their roster over the past four seasons the club was taken over by skipper Buck Showhalter. The 2-time Manager of Year restored the winning culture in the Charm City, bringing in 3 winning seasons season that including two trips to the playoffs, in 2012 and currently. Stringing from over a decade of witnessing the Yankees, Red Sox and even the Rays see brighter days coming out of the AL East, the O’s have now put themselves in a great position see the success  of the past predecessors.

Similar story but the Royals have a true Cinderella story this postseason. Their drought of nearly 30 years of not seeing playoff actions is older than the average player on their roster. Under the leadership of Ned Yost, Kansas City has been using a fundamental brand of baseball; win the game one run at a time. The spirit and energy that the 2014 Royals have showcased from their wild card game to now sweeping the Angels, have put them back in the national spotlight after being the laughing stock of the MLB for years.

The two teams have went into 2014 playoffs with an aggressive mindset as the brought in the most runs at 1 and 2 respectively  and also showcase some of the best pitching against teams with great power in the Tigers and Angels.  This matchup is going to be one for the ages, as Buck Showhalter says “”Everybody is very capable. Everybody’s got strengths and weaknesses and we’re just excited and honored to be a part of it.”

With true determination and grit, each team has embodied the chip on their shoulder with so much to prove. The hunger from the Royals and Orioles should make this series, the most intriguing of this year’s pennant chase.