Running with Zaza

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Sund's Moves Make Sense

There is a method to the madness. Last week, the Atlanta Hawks quickly matched the offer sheet Josh Smith signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for 5 years and $58 million dollars. By waiting, and not bowing to pressure from the media, blogosphere, and fans, general manager Rick Sund retained the Hawks’ third best player for much less than other free agents signed for this summer.

This new contract is a fair one for both sides. Smith is a rising star who has not even made an All-Star team, but he earned this contract with exceptional play on both ends of the court. He is an NBA difference maker. The Hawks did not have to overpay for Smith, because Sund and the ownership group waited and let the restricted free agency process work for them. J-Smooth did not have to sign the offer sheet from Memphis. He could have taken the Hawks qualifying offer and become a unrestricted free agent next year. That would have been a gamble, especially when a major injury could be a one-on-one workout away. The Hawks did not have to match the offer. Both sides in this negotiation came out on top. Smooth becomes a very wealthy and secure player for the next 4-5 years, and the Hawks did not have to overpay for a rising NBA talent. Sure, there might be some hurt feelings, but do you really think that Smith wanted to leave Atlanta? For Memphis?

Losing Josh Childress was a public relations blow, but Sund has made two moves that will make the Hawks a better team in 2008-2009. Clearly, signing Maurice Evans and Ronald “Flip” Murray is a combination that fills the void left by the departing Childress. Both of these guys can score the basketball and shoot with 3 point range. Evans is a dangerous 3 point shooter who will play more at the small forward spot. While, Murray is a solid NBA veteran that can play either guard position. He is more of a scorer than a 3 point shooter, but other teams will have to respect his scoring and shooting ability. Last year, teams dared Childress to shoot from the outside. Defenders backed off into the paint and clogged up the lane for cutters and post play. Murray can also play the point and started 15 games for the Indiana Pacers at the point at the end of the 2007-2008 season. I saw Flip play live in college and he is lightning quick with a big body for a guard. He can create his own shot on any possession. That is a good thing, but could be a bad thing. Woodson will have to reign him in at times, but he should provide some microwave type offense off the bench. The Hawks need more depth at the point guard spot, because Speedy Claxton will never be the same player after this injury, and the jury is still out on whether Acie Law will be a solid NBA player.

The summer shake-up here in Atlanta has made the team deeper and better without sacrificing payroll flexibility. There is a nice mix of veterans and young players. The new players are veterans that have proven NBA track records. Mike Woodson should know what to expect night in and night out from Evans and Murray. Competition should be more fierce on the team for spots and minutes as well. Here is a look at the possible Hawks starters and bench rotation:

Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford in the starting line up with Acie Law, Murray, Zaza, and Evans off the bench.

Because Marvin Williams is such a high draft pick, he will start at the small forward spot. However, Evans will earn tons of minutes and probably will be on the floor at critical moments in the 4th quarter. Mike Woodson’s job is going to be more fun this year than ever before. He will have some chess pieces to move around on the court, but he also has more pressure to win than ever in his career. The Hawks have to make the play-offs. That is going to be tougher this year with an improved Dwayne Wade-led Miami Heat team and a defensive-minded team in Milwaukee. The Eastern Conference is a more intriguing than its been in several seasons, and the Atlanta Hawks should be right in the middle of all the action


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tha DJ said...

Southeastern Division:

Orlando Magic ( 52-30)

The Orlando Magic are better this season than they've ever been and the Magic are the #2 seed in the eastern conference and a legitimate championship contender at least the eastern conference. Alot of people are feeling that Micheal Pietrus, a 6-6 G/F with GS last season, will not be a significant upgrade over Maurice Evans. I think that Pietrus will be at least as good as Evans and start at SG to add stability to their team, consistent shooting and slashing ability that will make requirement-doubling Dwight Howard a big price to pay, if he learns to hit his free throws(68.6% FTs). Courtney Lee will be a good player, he will probably play sparingly, but will score and play defense. and Anthony Johnson is a highly underrated 34 year old point guard, he was always a veteran leader on the hawks and played strong and clutch down the stretch of those few and far wins, and he hasn't slowed down a bit, playing big minutes for the Magic. Kenyon Dooling was a decent guard (not PG) who could shoot but he was always a additude problem and felt he was better than he was, the Magic will not miss him, and the other best bench player, Kieth Bogans will be better in his place. Rashard Lewis (31) will be better, Hedu Turkoglu(29) will play better but score less points than last season, and Jameer Nelson(25) will be the Derek Fisher point guard leader, scoring and passing well, hitting free throws, and making good decisions.

and this is all outside the gold-medal DWIGHT HOWARD factor, whom will average

25.5 ppg 14.9 rpg 2.5 asts 2.1 blks 60.1% FGs 67.2% FTs

being the team leader offensively and defensively to make him an MVP candidate

Washington Wizards (50-32)

Gilbert Arenas is never going to stop talking, his perspective is one of the realist voices and he is one wildest personalities in the NBA, but his game is about to talk alot louder than he will. Gilbert Arenas is still the man on that team, he is going to adjust his game to fascilitate and score as great as he knows he can, but it all starts with GILBERT, it all depends on him if he can make the BIG three of Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison, and Agent Zero ALL all-stars and have their best season in franchise history, and the pieces around those three aren't too bad either. Deshawn Stevenson kept us entertained while Gilbert was gone, he made himself an important role player on this team, and now he has to adjust his play with Gilbert, he should score a little less but still hit make big plays and get Gilbert the ball for big shots. The young boys of the Wizards are gonna improve and play big minutes this season, Nick Young and Andrey Blatche. Blatche is already really underrated as a 22-year-old 6-11 small forward matchup nightmare on offense or defense, he is going to play more with 23-year-old Nick Young, the second year ROY contender. Brenden Haywood will be solid as usual, Etan Thomas is back so we hope they don't fist fight again, but if they share the center they'll both be solid, we're pretty dure Antonio Daniels is still there, but we don't care because in order for this team to be great its going to take the following:

Gilbert Arenas - 25.5 ppg 4.3 rpg 6.4 apg 44.3% FGs 36.7% 3pt FGs 80.1% FTs

Caron Butler - 20.3 ppg 5.6 rpg 3.4 apg 46.1% FGs 27.3% 3pt FGs 83.4% FTs

Antwan Jamison - 17.4 ppg 9.3 rpg 2.1 apg 45.3% FGs 36.4% 3pt FGs 74.2% FTs

Miami Heat (30-52)

Dwayne Wade is (probably) the best guard player in the NBA, he could very well be the second coming of Micheal Jordan, score 35 ppg this season, and lead the NBA-worst, used-to-be-champion Miami Heat to respectability and playoffs in 2009. Problem is, if he does he will need Jamaal Magloire and Udonis Haslem to play defense, the rookies, Mario Chalmers and Micheal Beasley to play their role, and James Jones to hit threes off the bench, i.e James Posey. And they can do it, maybe Micheal Beasley is as good as some say he is, he could average 17 pts 7 rbs and be the Rookie of the year, maybe Shawn Marion won't get traded even though he and Beasley are the same man Marion will play PF and average 17 pts 10 rbs, Jamaal Magloire will be reborn at 30 and averag 9 pts 9 rbs and Mario Chalmers starts and is rookie of the year candidate with Beasley averaging 10 pts 4 rbs 5 asts, i.e Rajon Rondo. Maybe James Jones is a 6th man of the year candidate and averages 10 pts off the bench and leads the league in 3pt FG%, maybe Alonzo Mourning DOESN'T get bought out to play for a real contender, and plays backup to Jamaal Magloire or Mark Blount......and plays his heart(no pun) out. But in order for any of this to be a possibility, it all starts with gold medal Dwayne Wade, being the best PER player in the league and a likely MVP award winner averaging

Dwayne Wade - 33.4 ppg 5.4 rpg 5.4 apg 52.4% FGs 32.3% 3pt FGs 85.1% FTs

Charlotte Bobcats (27-55)

Sigh. Micheal Jordan, Larry Brown, and Bob Johnson is a train wreck in immediate unfolding. This is a team that looks good on the surface but when the surface is seen through you realize that this is a franchise that has not yet achieved respectability yet. Larry Brown is going to prove himself as a curse to young teams and give this franchise its worst record since its first year in business. D.J Augustine is a good player, but he will not be good until and only until he leaves that situation, he and Raymond Felton are going to beef, Adam Morrison is going to play big minutes and Gerald Wallace is going to demand a trade. Jason Richardson will remain good, averaging 20 ppg, but in the attempted development of Adam Morrison, Richardson will take less control of the team and turn Vince Carter, just not caring. Now, the focal point of the defense, and maybe one day the offense, Emeka Okafor, will also play up to his contract, he may have a career year, and he is the deciding factor on whether or not the Bobcats will completely suck or just be bad, if he's good (15 ppg 10 rpg) the Bobcats will only be bad, but its set in stone, the Bobcats will be at least bad. Sorry, fans.

Emeka Okafor - 15.2 ppg 10.1 rpg 2.1 bpg 52.1% FGs 67.8% FTs
Jason Richardson - 18.7 ppg 5.1 rpg 3.2 apg 44.3% FGs 38.1% 3pt FGs 71.2% FTs
Gerald Wallace - 16.2 ppg 7.1 rpg 2.1 apg 1.8 spg 43.2% FGs 78.2% FTs

THE Atlanta Hawks (47-35)

The Atlanta Hawks, its our year baby. I speak as a general basketball fan first, knowledge and realistic expectation second, and hometown fan bias last. And with that being said, i think the Hawks are going to increase their win total by at least 8, but im betting 10, and i'm going to explain why. The Atlanta Hawks spent the first 20 games of the season, tinkering with the lineup, trying to find the best players for positions and matchups, often Anthony Johnson and Tyronne Lue started at PG, when the Hawks got Bibby, they were 22-28. They took some getting used to on the road, when the Hawks went 4-11 before their first winning streak finished 11-7 for a 37-45 record and the #8 seed in the 'Leastern Conference'.

This season, the starting center is no rookie, the PG situation is not unstable, joe johnson will not be injured and Josh Smith, the leader offensively and defensively for this team will have his best season yet again. Mike Bibby will be the good PG consistently the Hawks have lacked since Jason Terry, he will be the leader to improve his teammates with passing first, scoring second. Joe Johnson is livid he wasn't chosen to be on Team USA, he will play consistently great like he always has, and be a third time all-star this year.

Mike Bibby - 14.5 ppg 4.5 rpg 6.5 apg 46.3% FGs 37.4% 3pt FGs 78.9% FTs
Joe Johnson - 20.3 ppg 4.2 rpg 5.2 apg 48.4% FGs 39.7% 3pt FGs 82.1% FTs
Marvin Williams - 12.2 ppg 5.2 rpg 2.3 apg 43.1% FGs 32.3% 3pt FGs 76.4% FTs
Josh Smith - 20.8 ppg 9.2 rpg 3.3 apg 3.1 bpg 2.1 spg 48.9% FGs 33.7% 3pt FGs 81.3% FTs
Al Horford - 14.2 ppg 10.4 rpg 2.1 apg 1.4 bpg 1.2 spg 51.4% FGs 80.1% FTs

Maurice Evans 8.7 ppg 3.2 rpg 3.2 apg
Flip Murray 6.5 ppg 2.3 rpg 2.1 apg
Zaza Pachulia 5.1 ppg 4.8 rpg
Acie Law IV 4.2 ppg 3.2 apg
Jeremy Richarson 2.3 ppg
Randolph Morris 1.4 ppg 2.2 rpg

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics (58-24)

Toronto Raptors (48-34)

Philiadelphia 76ers (50-32)

New York Knicks (24-58)

New Jersey Nets (18-64)

Central Division:

Chicago Bulls (44-38)

Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)

Detroit Pistons (48-34)

Indiana Pacers (30-52)

Milwalkee Bucks (40-42)

2. magic
3. cavs
4. wizards
5. 76ers
6. pistons
7. raptors
8. hawks

September 3, 2008 at 12:39 PM

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