Off-Season Grades: Southeast Division


In part III of this series, we’ll be looking at off-season moves of the teams that make up the Southeast Division: the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic & Washington Wizards. If you wanna check out the first two parts, we covered the Atlantic Division and the Central Division.  The upcoming parts will look at the Pacific Division, Southwest Division and Northwest Division.The rules, as previously stated:

1. Rather than a standard A through F grade or going for a scale of 1-10, we shall use a system that my friend Noriko loves: -5 through +5.  It helps differentiate things a bit more, ‘cuz like if a team gets a C-, it’s better than an F, but is it good?  With this scale, you can instead give the team a +1, which shows that they improved the team, but only marginally.  Or maybe they get a zero ‘cuz they didn’t hurt the team or help it.

2. These grades are not, I repeat, NOT, about how good teams will be.  It’s purely about how good their summer moves were.  For instance, the Sacramento Kings may get a higher grade than say the Orlando Magic, but that doesn’t mean I’m insane and think the Kings will be better than the Magic.  It simply means I like the Kings’ draft of DeMarcus Cousins more than the Magic’s signings of Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (although I haven’t fully examined those teams yet, so I dunno what grades they’ll get).

3. The grades are not just based on how good the players are, but also their contracts.  Joe Johnson is definitely a top 30 player, but with Atlanta giving him $120 million/6 yrs, the largest contract of anyone this summer, his signing turns into a negative.

4. Grades will be scaled based on what each team could have done.  Meaning the Lakers, a team over the salary cap, get major kudos for snagging Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff and bringing back Shannon Brown with their limited financial flexibility, but if say the Knicks, with all their cap space, had only made those moves, I’d pan ‘em.

5. Fit matters.  I like Kirk Hinrich a ton, and had he gone to the Pacers (a team that desperately needed a point guard before the Collison trade), I would’ve raved about the move.  However, Washington acquiring him is a bit odd considering they already have PGs in John Wall and Gilbert Arenas.

And now…

The Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks – They could’ve lost Joe Johnson and got nothing in return.  To prevent that they offered him a $120 million contract.  That’s more than LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Amar’e or anyone else got this summer.  In fact, it turns out that he got the fifth highest contract ever in league history.  Joe’s good, but he ain’t that good.  And considering he’s already 29 and most perimeter players tend to decline in their early 30s, chances are Atlanta’s gonna really regret this down the line.  We’re not talking waking up sober and realizing the gal from last night wasn’t very attractive.  We’re talking she’s a transvestite wearing your grandma’s wedding ring and calling you “hubby.”  This is a very good team, but not quite good enough to be elite.  They need big changes.  Instead the only big roster move was swapping Joe Smith for Josh Powell.  Coach Mike Woodson had remarkably gotten this team to improve a bit every year for his entire tenure (what was it, 5 years?), yet he got canned.  Okay, Woodson had his flaws, but surely they could’ve gotten someone better than assistant coach Larry Drew?  This team spent a buttload o’ dough for a team that’ll most likely remain in stasis, if not regress slightly.

Grade: -3  (had they inked JJ to a reasonable contract they would’ve gotten maybe even a +1)

Charlotte Bobcats – Losing Ray Felton was a big loss as DJ Augustin had yet to prove himself under Larry Brown.  Trading Tyson Chandler for Eric Dampier’s unguaranteed contract will be disappointing unless they use it to get something in return.  That’s two starters gone.  Small side signings of Shaun Livingston and Dominic McGuire could be okay, but it won’t make up for those loses.  Plus it seems like they overpaid to retain Tyrus Thomas.  Yes, like with the Amir Johnson deal, it’s quite possible that it ends up being a bargain, but that doesn’t change the fact that they probably could’ve gotten him even cheaper this summer.  At least with Damp and Nazr Mohammed’s expiring contracts they’ll have some cap space next summer, so it’s not like they’ve completely destroyed their future like Atlanta.  They only destroyed this upcoming season.  If Larry Brown can get this crew back to the playoffs, he clearly must be a practitioner of the dark arts.

Grade: -2 (it’s possible they should be even lower.  Although if they get something decent for Damp’s contract then this’ll go up)

Miami Heat – While I would’ve preferred LeBron went anywhere else but here, that’s irrelevant (and yet still I hadda throw it in there, eh?).  Quite honestly, they not only had the best off-season out there, but possibly of all time.  One could argue that like getting Michael Jordan in the draft was better, but no one knew at the time how great he’d become.  This is certainly the off-season that has been most universally hailed when it happened.  Not only did they get the three Super Friends of LeBron, Wade & Bosh, but they did a surprisingly decent job of filling out the rest of the roster with Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Eddie House and others.  Just like how Spinal Tap likes to have their amps go to 11 so they’ll be even louder, I’ve got no choice but to decide that on a scale of -5 to +5, I give the Heat a…

Grade: +6

Orlando Magic – It was key that they matched JJ Reddick’s deal (two years ago, who would’ve thought we’d say that?).  They swapped Matt Barnes for Quentin Richardson, a lateral move of the most sideways non-significant sorts.  Getting Chris Duhon as a backup defensive point guard as well as retaining Jason Williams’ offensive skills does give Coach Stan Van Gundy a little bit more matchup flexibility.  But for the most part, with even the two finals contenders, the Celts & Lakers, making improvements, it’s a bit of a bummer that they didn’t really do anything.  I don’t have specific thoughts as to what they should have done, and at least they didn’t do anything bad.

Grade: 0

Washington Wizards – Having John Wall fall into their lap was huge.  As mentioned in the rules, I love Kirk Hinrich, but he seems redundant on this team.  Yes, they could use a professional veteran who sets the tone with his hard defense, but surely they could’ve found one who plays any other position but the one where they have a glut?  What, did they just feel like doing Chicago a favor?  ‘Cuz Hinrich’s making $9 million this year, which is a lot to pay a backup player.  I do however unequivocally like the no-risk trade for Yi Jianlian.  Yes, he may end up being a bust who never takes that next step, but they didn’t have to give up anything real for him, and it’s not like he’s the type who can poison a locker room.  They also got Josh Howard to re-up at a great bargain.  I do wish they’d retained Randy Foye, but he’s yet to prove himself so maybe my pipe dreams that he’ll one day be a decent player are just… pipe dreams.  Hmm, that sentence didn’t come out right, huh?  Anyway, with Gilbert Arenas coming back from the shooting range, Josh Howard returning from the medical ward, and JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche moving up from adolescence, this should be a much improved team.

Grade: +2


If you want to see how we think these teams will stack up against each other during the season, look at our Eastern Conference Playoff Preview.