1. Atlanta Hawks –
Projected Starting 5: PG Dennis Schroder SG Kyle Korver SF Kent Bazemore PF Paul Millsap C Dwight Howard
Projected Record: 46-36
Last Season’s Thoughts –
This past season has to be considered a step back for the Atlanta Hawks. In the 2014-15 season, it seemed as if they had finally pulled themselves out of mediocrity, and were on track to be contenders in the East.
They chose to raid Gregg Popovich’s bench, and hired Mike Budenholzer, who installed a great basketball philosophy of ball movement and team play. In the 2014-2015 season, the Hawks won 60 wins with essentially the same roster they returned with last year. Teague seemed like the perfect floor general for this team, which spread its offense around so efficiently that they were a great regular season team. They didn’t quite live up to their record in the playoffs, but it was their first year of major contention under Budenholzer.
So coming into last season, this team and their fans had high expectations. They had seemingly become the Spurs of the East, an organization that was team first and that made savvy roster moves to enable their players to play at their full potential. And then the frustration came.
Teague couldn’t recapture his form from the previous year, and overall their team wasn’t as efficient or effective as it was the previous season. On the surface they were still a good team, a 48-34 record certainly isn’t “bad,” but something just wasn’t clicking like it was the previous season.
They had the 6th best defense in the league, and the 12th best offense, but they turned the ball over a lot, and they were dead last in free-throws attempted. What those numbers tell me is that this team was almost too team orientated.
The finger was pointed at Teague throughout the year for not stepping up and leading this team when it mattered. I think that’s unfair because Teague is a great team player, but he is not an alpha dog. The best player on their team is Paul Millsap, and I’m not sure if he’s an alpha dog either. The free throws stat reveals the most to me because it shows that their offense came from efficient shots, which means laboring on the offensive end to get people open.
And while that doesn’t sound like a problem, teams need a guy that can create his own shot, and if he isn’t putting it in the hoop, he’s getting to the line. Some of the league’s great scorers, Melo, James Harden, D-Wade, all put up the numbers they do because they shoot some-what efficiently, but also because they get to the line often.
So while the Hawks made the playoffs last season, they certainly weren’t happy with their overall performance.
This Season’s Prediction –
This is a team that regrouped instead of rebuilt. With Jeff Teague and Al Horford leaving, this organization could have been very conservative in the off season and planned to tank this year in order to rebuild.
Instead they got Dwight Howard, and chose to stand by their young PG Dennis Schroder by not signing any other big name PGs in free-agency. I think these are good moves for several reasons, especially after what they went through last year.
The current make-up of this team is heavily weighted towards Atlanta’s bigs, with Millsap and Howard pairing up for one of the best bigmen combos in the East. And having Schroder take over the starting job is a great move because he is a defensive force, and he is not a ball dominant guard.
Howard is also the sort of star they need, someone who wants to be the main guy and who will demand the ball in crunch time. Schroder plays perfectly into that because he can facilitate the ball and set Howard up in pick-and-rolls.
However, with all of that said, I think Atlanta will be right back where they were last season. They were able to replace the talent they lost, but I don’t see how this team has gotten better.
And while Howard will address the problem of “who’s team is this?” it remains to be seen just how much he can contribute in that role. His stats from Houston aren’t the most promising, even when you account for the blackhole that is the bearded-one, James Harden.
Last season in Houston, he averaged 13.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 1.6 blocks per game. For your star player, those numbers aren’t great. And let’s adjust for the Harden effect, say Howard averages 5 more points per game (his highest points average in his career is 22.9 per game, which was the only year he broke 20 per game, so adding 5 is a fair amount), then he’s at 18 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG. Those numbers still aren’t great!
Do I expect him to perform better overall, away from Harden and in a new team orientated system? Yes. Will he put them over the hump this season and get them back to 60 wins? No. He also turns 31 this season, and all of his old coaches already say that he has lost a step physically, so I can only see him maintaining his performance level or declining from here on out.
So looking at this team on paper, they have a solid starting 5. I like Bazemore, he is a great role player, and if Korver even came off the bench, I think he could fit either role. They have a decent bench that will contribute good play night in and night out.
Jarrett Jack is a solid back-up PG, I love Thabo Sefoloshia on their bench because he gives them toughness, hustle and consistency, and personally I would start him over Korver. They also have Thiago Splitter, who is another great role player who brings toughness and defense off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kris Humphries are both serviceable bench players, as long as they are not asked to contribute too much.
Again, this Hawks team is good, but not great. They are a middle of the road team, which could win anywhere from 40-50 wins depending on their health. Their defense is alright, and if Howard pans out, their offense can be a threat most nights, but I can see this team struggling if Howard struggles to settle in or if he is injury ridden. For this season, the Hawks go as Howard goes.
2. Washington Wizards –
Projected Starting 5: PG John Wall SG Bradley Beal SF Otto Porter PF Markieff Morris C Marcin Gortat
Projected Record: 45-37
Last Season’s Thoughts –
So far, I have referred to this year’s Chicago Bulls as a brain teaser, and I thought the Indiana Pacers had a good, but under-the-radar season last year. I now want to combine those two descriptions in order to describe what happened to the Washington Wizards last season.
What the hell happened in D.C.? I used to think this team was an example of a young team reaching its potential. As I have said with the Pistons, the Bucks, and what I’m about to say about the Magic, young teams need experience before they can become good teams. I thought the Wizards had reached that point, with John Wall and Bradley Beal looking like a formidable backcourt, and Gortat holding down the middle.
A few things got in their way however. Injuries hurts this team, with Wall missing a few games, Beal missing 27 games and Nene (yes, I know, I was surprised too that he was still playing) missed 25 games. They also didn’t acquire Markieff Morris until the trade deadline, so he didn’t have much time to contribute.
One of the big changes for this team was the absence of Paul Pierce. Now, we aren’t talking 2008 Paul Pierce, but we are talking about a veteran who can guide a team, especially with young burgeoning stars like Wall and Beal. In the 2014-15 season, this team averaged 98.5 points per game, which wasn’t great, but they only gave up 97.8 points per game on average, so they were a decent defensive team.
In the 2015-16 season, both of those numbers jumped up. They scored 104.1 points per game, which was pretty good compared to the rest of the league, but they also gave up 104.6 points per game, which was pretty bad compared to the rest of the league. Those almost identical numbers landed them a 41-41 record, and left them with a lot of questions.
Unfortunately, I think two things got in their way. First, the Wizards fell into a pot hole that rising teams can often fall into. That pot hole is relying on veterans who put up numbers and contributed when you were rebuilding, but now that you are actually competing, they cannot contribute at the same level. The prime example of this is Nene. This guy hasn’t played a full season since he arriving in Washington in 2011, and the last time he did play a full season was way back in 2009!
Often times its hard to for teams to move on from older players because there is this sense that their experience makes up for their declining production. Paul Pierce is a great example of that. He’s still playing, and no one believes he can really contribute any more. But Nene is not, and was never, a Paul Pierce level player.
Now, I give the Wizards’ front office more credit than this. Until this point, they had been building a good team, and I really liked the addition of Marcin Gortat for this team. So what were they thinking by keeping Nene? That brings me to the second reason this team stumbled last season.
The Wizards, understandably, wanted to take a shot at Kevin Durant. That meant that they couldn’t sign any really good players because they didn’t want to ruin the cap space they had in the off-season. They made sure that they had a lot of expiring contracts so that they could give Durant the maximum. And, well, when you aim for only one player, you put the entire franchise’s future at stake, and sadly for Wizards fans, they came up short in that department.
Before moving onto this season’s preview, I need to also mention the Wizards bench. It was…terrible. They had DeJuan “No Knees” Blair, Garret Temple, Drew Gooden, J.J. Hickson, Kris Humphries and Marcus Thorton. Yikes! Now, this bench makes sense in the context of taking a shot at Durant, but that’s a major reason why they only had 46 wins last season, because their bench really wasn’t going to help them win games. And now, this bench is going to come back an haunt them, believe me.
This Season’s Prediction –
Thankfully, the Wizards didn’t bring back Nene. They were paying him $13 million dollars a year! His contract is up there for one of the worst of all time, along with George Hill’s 5 year/$40-million-dollar contract, which makes me nauseous every time I think about it.
But in bigger news, the Wizards didn’t get KD, which isn’t surprising, and it left them trying to pick up the pieces of their franchise. No other big name free-agents were considering the Wizards, so they basically brought back the team they already had. They didn’t get off to a good start for this season.
I will say that they did improve their bench slightly. I love the pick up of Ian Mahinmi, and Trey Burke has good potential. Mahinmi is one of those guys who I unreasonably love, I can’t explain it. But, the rest of their bench, Marcus Thorton, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Nicholson and Johnny O’Bryant, are not going to get it done.
On paper, I really like their starting 5. I can’t tell whether or not my projected record for this team is too high or just right. Again, on paper, I really like Wall, Beal, Morris and Gortat in a starting line-up. Porter, well, I don’t like him, but they’re kind of stuck with him. However, what worries me about this team is their chemistry, specifically between Wall and Beal.
In one the most bizarre stories from this summer, John Wall told a local TV station that he and Beal don’t get along on the court. I have to quote this in order to fully capture his comments:
"I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right ... as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball. Now that you [Beal] have your money you got to go out there and improve your game. I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star. If we were playing well as a tandem like the other two superstars that play together as a backcourt, play as a tandem, one night it’s going to be his night, one night it’s going to be mine, some nights it might be both of us. Those are nights it’s going to be tough to beat us."
Wall said those comments in a sitdown interview with CSN's Chris Miller, and they are kind of shocking. Wall admits that he and his running mate get angry and frustrated with each other, and that they have to work on overcoming these issues. That’s not what you want to hear from your star player, especially before the season starts. This team is built around Wall and Beal’s partnership, and if Wall is coming out and saying that they actually don’t get along, then the future is not bright for D.C.
So again, I’m not sure about my prediction for this team. If they play the way they can on paper, I think they can recapture some of their form from the 2014-15 season. If Wall and Beal really have issues, and they suffer more injuries like they did last season, then I could see this team being blown up in the near future and going into full on rebuilding mode.
And this is where the patience of the organization will come into play. Are they willing to let their two stars work this out? Will they trade one for a similar piece and continue to compete? Or will they trade one or both for future assest/draft picks and fully enter rebuilding mode? Personally, I’d like to see them become aggressive, trade for a better SF, and really make a push in free-agency to build on their decent bench. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen in D.C.
3. Miami Heat –
Projected Starting 5: PG Goran Drogic SG Dion Waiters SF Justise Winslow PF Josh McRoberts C Hassan Whiteside
Projected Record: 36-46
Last Season’s Thoughts –
The Heat organization has been in a special kind of rebuilding mode ever since LeBron left. How do you replace the production and intangibles that a once-in-a-generation player brings to your team? Dwyane’s age has become more exposed now that he has to shoulder more of the burden on this team, and Chris Bosh’s health worries have also added to Wade’s responsibilities.
The one blessing in disguise is the development of Hassan Whiteside into a star center in the NBA. He certainly has the talent to be like a DeAndre Jordan, a shot blocker and high efficiency guy, but again like Jordan, his production is definitely dependent on those around him.
Pat Riley made the savvy move of adding Goran Drogic to this team, as well as drafting Justise Winslow, to create a solid squad built around Wade and Bosh (when he is healthy). On the court, this Heat team played sort of like the Heat teams before LeBron and Bosh arrived. Their offense was decent, but their defense was what carried them through the season.
If we didn’t already know what happened this off-season to this team, and the position they are now in, I would probably go into some exploration of how this team could improve and build around Wade at the end of his career. However, the expectations have totally changed for this team, so it’s not really fair to judge them off of last season.
This Season’s Prediction –
Where to start? First, this off-season was extremely complicated for the Miami Heat. This franchise and Pat Riley expect championships, which meant they were in a very awkward position when it came to their free-agency priorities.
Any teams that wanted to call themselves contenders for the title this season had to take a shot at Kevin Durant. But what made it more complicated for the Heat was that they also had to prioritize resigning their own star in Hassan Whiteside, and do enough for their franchise legend in Wade. And now we know that they came up short on two of those tasks.
I’m not sure Miami was ever an option for Durant, but that chance evaporated pretty much when the Heat resigned Whiteside to a huge contract. But what happened after that was truly shocking to most NBA fans. The Heat seemed to want to keep this KD idea alive, and they were looking at how they could still get maximum money to chase Durant with, and that meant D-Wade had to be “loyal” to his team once again.
While examining this theme of players’ loyalty to franchises in sports will probably have to be explored in a separate article, what the Heat did to Wade was insulting in my opinion. Not only did they expect him to take a pay cut, but they tried to make him seem like the villain for wanting max money. In reality, Wade had every right to ask for his due because he had never been the highest paid player on the Miami Heat, the team he had spent his whole career with!
So Wade went home to Chicago, and the Heat were down a superstar. While it looked like they might be able to withstand loosing two superstars from their “big 3,” the recent news of Bosh’s health has made their job a lot harder.
Anyone, from those that have played sports and fans of sports, to people who don’t care about sports at all, can sympathize with Chris Bosh. We are always told that the best way to go out, whether it’s from a job or even life, is on your own terms. Bosh has had several blood clots, and he failed the Heat’s pre-seaon physical, and now his career with the Heat is all but over.
It’s tough to see someone work that hard and not have the chance to make a comeback and go out on their own terms, but for his own sake and the sake of his family, Bosh is going to have to come to terms with the fact that his playing days are over.
So where does that leave the Miami Heat? Well, now their roster looks pretty average, and their future is very questionable. If they still had Wade and Bosh, they would be a team that is trying to continue success while their stars can still produce, but also keeping one eye on the future for the day when those stars retire.
Now that day has come much faster than they anticipated, and they are not very prepared. What is not ideal for the Heat is their financial situation. Assuming that the Heat get Bosh’s contract off their books, they are still paying Whiteside more than $22 million for the next four seasons. Dragic will get over $15 million for the next four years as well. Usually when stars leave, that leaves the team with the role players on their roster who aren’t making to much money. That allows them to either be aggressive in free-agency, or tank and go into rebuilding mode.
For the Heat, they are now in the terrible position of paying players that will help them compete, but not having the pieces that they will need to compete. If they choose to build through the draft or acquire young pieces, Dragic will be too old by the time they are ready.
If you trade Dragic to get some draft picks, then you are committing to building your team around Whiteside. That’s a mistake in my opinion, not because I dislike Whiteside as a player (again I told you I have a thing for bigmen), but because in today’s NBA, a DeAndre Jordan look-a-like is not going to win you anything in the near future. Sadly, building around a center like Whiteside is not a great idea in the age of point-guards and stretch fours. Maybe building around a Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony-Townes will work, but Whiteside is not that kind of player.
The Heat this season are going to be stuck in the NBA purgatory of mediocrity. Their defense will still be okay, but now inserting players like Dion Waitiers, Josh McRoberts and Derrick Williams into your rotation won’t help on that side of the ball. And if they had trouble scoring with Wade, they will certainly struggle without him. Teams can focus all of their attention now onto Dragic and Waiters, and by shutting them down, it will remove Whiteside’s effectiveness.
The Heat may be able to salvage this season and make the playoffs, but they will be in the lower third of the Eastern Conference, and if they suffer injures, their season could go downhill very fast. Either way, the future is very uncertain for the Heat, so soon after they were dominating the NBA.
4. Charlotte Hornets –
Projected Starting 5: PG Kemba Walker SG Nicolas Batum SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist PF Marvin Williams C Cody Zeller / Roy Hibbert
Projected Record: 27-57
Last Season’s Thoughts –
I have to admit that I’ve had a bit of a GM’s crush on the Charlotte Hornets ever since their historically terrible season back in 2011-12. They were the team I loved to pick in 2K13 and turn around from bottom feeders to champions. They made tanking cool way before Philly started doing it.
Since then, I’ve kept an eye on the actual Hornets team and seeing what sort of moves they were making. I believed (and still believe) that Kemba Walker could be a star one day and just needed time to round out his game, sort of like how John Wall did. I was optimistic about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his potential, and if they built their team correctly, then I believed they could be a good team in the near future. I loved their pick-up of Al Jefferson (I told you about my love for him in the Pacers preview) and adding Nicolas Batum was a big move in my opinion. I liked having Jemery Lin coming off the bench, although I think he would have benefitted from less hair gel. Like chill with the hair stuff, for real dude.
Add in Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lamb and Tyler Hansborough, and I thought they had a solid team that should compete every night. Unfortunately, injuries plagued this team, with MKG only playing 7 games and Al Jefferson only playing 47 games, and anytime you lose major starters like that, it strains your bench and asks too much of your role players.
Last season has to be disappointing for this Hornets organization, both because they had more potential and because of what they lost in the off-season. If they had added to this team in free-agency, I would be on their band wagon this season, but unfortunately I think they took a step backwards this off-season.
This Season’s Prediction –
Losing Al Jefferson and Courtney Lee are huge for this team. It’s not so much that those players were the end-all-be-all of their success, but, unlike a team like the Hawks, they were not able to replace that talent in free-agency or the draft.
Their bigmen leave a lot to be desired. Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky and Roy Hibbert are not a great core of bigmen in today’s NBA. I was fully on the Hibbert bandwagon a few seasons ago when he was stuffing the Knicks hopes in the playoffs, but he is the epitome of the phrase, “a shadow of his former self.” Marvin Williams…don’t even get me started. Cody Zeller, I’m surprised he still gets minutes in the NBA, I expect him to be on the end of the bench or the D-League in like 2 years. And then there’s Frank Kaminsky. To me, he feels like one of those guys who can put up numbers in college, but he will never properly translate to the NBA. I just don’t see where the potential is for this guy.
Beyond their bigs, they have a serviceable back-up PG in Ramon Sessions, and I still like Jeremy Lamb coming off the bench. Marco Belinelli can serve a role, but at this point in his career, I’m not sure what that role is.
Besides them, their youth is hard to judge, with Aaron Harrison, Treveon Graham and Rasheed Sulaimon. Each could have a good upside, or they could all become mediocre roll players in the NBA.
Overall, I don’t see the Hornets having a bright future. Once again, the laws of basketball dictate that someone has to loose, and I think the Hornets will be on the loosing side more often than not. What is really important for this team is the roster moves they choose to make or not make, and what they do in the next off-season.
Thankfully for Hornets fans, Walker signed an extension that would keep him there until 2019, but if this team spirils in the drain, I could see him on another team in the near future. Same for MKG. I’m not sure how much longer they can wait for him to grow into his potential, and he may be on the move sooner rather than later. Batum just signed a big contract with them, but he is in the prime of his career, and if this organization is headed for a big rebuild, then he will definitely ask to be traded to a contender.
Sadly, for the Hornets, they might be hitting the reset button very soon if they their stars do not take major steps forward this season. They are in that terrible middle ground in the NBA, not bad like the Lakers or 76ers, but not good like the Hawks and Celtics. I’m pulling for them, but they are honestly going to be in for a bumpy ride this season.
5. Orlando Magic –
Projected Starting 5: PG Elfrid Payton SG Evan Fournier SF Aaron Gordon PF Serge Ibaka C Nikola Vucevic
Projected Record: 23-59
Last Season’s Thoughts –
Last season’s Magic team was a team in rebuilding mode. They had missed the playoffs for the past three seasons, and they were committed to building through the draft and adding young pieces. Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris, and Victor Oladipo were their bright future, and they were going to be patient and waiting for the experience to kick in.
However, this season it seemed like they got a little impatient. Trading Harris to Detroit for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova was not good business in my opinion. While I think Harris does not have the potential to be a superstar in this league, I think he is a great role player that would make a good team great if they had the right pieces. Also, he signed a contract extension that keeps his salary at a reseasonable level, especially in this new CBA era, and it even declines over the next few year, unlike basically ever other contract in the NBA. So trading him for two players who are no longer on your team…not great.
Aaron Gordon is clearly the player they want to build around now in Orlando, but he is in a similar position as Giannis Antetokounmpo, where he has raw physical talent, and it is going to take a few seasons for him to develop true basketball skills.
This Magic team had very low expectations and were in transition last year. With that much roster turnover, this team had a very low ceiling, and the franchise was really hoping to set itself up for the future.
This Season’s Prediction –
This is another team that I wish I could give more wins to, but I can’t see this team tearing it up this season, even in the Eastern Conference. This team isn’t at it’s full potential yet, and like I’ve said, unfortunately somebody has to loose in the NBA, and I think this Magic team will come up short this year. Maybe I could see them sneaking into the 8th seed, but it would be a result of the other teams ahead of them seriously struggling, rather than them controlling their own destiny.
Looking at their roster, they have good pieces, a solid foundation, and they added Frank Vogel as head coach, and I think he’ll be huge once this team comes of age. But their future is slightly uncertain, and I’ll explain why.
The hardest aspect of running a team is predicting the future (duh, right?). Sometimes teams luck out with super talented players, and they can rely on certain things happening, like with the T’Wolves and the roster they have. But, we also know that having those pieces doesn’t garuantee you anything, as we saw with Derrick Rose and the Bulls.
So looking at this Magic roster, it is hard to tell exactly where they are going. I’m not sold on Elfrid Payton’s potential, unfortunately I think he could be like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and sort of reach a certain level, but not be the superstar people hoped he would be. Payton is an attractive player, offering flashes of what he could be, but I do not see him dominating the NBA in the future.
Aaron Gordon’s future is much brighter, and I think they are wise to build around him. He has the physical potential to be really special in this league, and if he can learn some skills, like adding a good jumpshot and post game, he can be a star. But he has to work on those things, because as we have seen with Antetokounmpo, just because you have the potential and the physical gifts, doesn’t mean it will come easily.
Besides those two, Serge Ibaka is the other big piece that sticks out. I’m not sure I would have given up Victor Oladipo to get him, and I think that’s where the Magic were also impatient. They traded a piece for the future, one that most would agree will pan out, for a “win-now” player. Ibaka is a great teammate, great defender, and on the right team he makes you a playoff team.
The downside of Ibaka is that we don’t know how he’ll perform now that he doesn’t have KD and Russell Westbrook on his team. Unfortunately for Magic fans, I think Ibaka will not be as good as he was for OKC for exactly that reason. Payton is no replacement for Westbrook, and Gordon does not command the same respect KD does. That means Ibaka will have tougher shots, and he is not a good shot creator.
That’s where I think the Magic may have gone wrong. The rest of this team isn’t ready to compete, and Ibaka’s talent may go to waste before the rest of the team catches up. Plus, he is only under contract for this season, so if he doesn’t like the way this franchise is headed, then you know he’s going to skip town and probably go join the Warriors…
Besides those guys, I like Vucevic, but he’s another one of those players that puts up numbers on a bad team, so I’m not sure if he’s the best player for their future. Evan Fournier is also in that category for me, I don’t think he’s going to be the piece that makes them great. Mario Hezonja intrigues me, but we haven’t seen enough of him in the NBA to get a true estimate of his potential.
The one aspect that I really like about this team is their bench. I’m low-key in love with this bench. I think Biyombo is a grrreat pick up because he is a player who is still young and he’ll be a great role player now and later. Jeff Green is another good role player that when you don’t ask too much of him, he can be an effective member of a good team.
Same goes for Jodie Meeks, C.J. Watson and D.J. Augustine. These players are good contributors who can help a team win. The only catch is that this bench is supporting a so-so team. If they were on a different team, supporting a good starting 5, they could make a team great.
This season’s Magic team will be a pretty solid defensive team, with athleticism at most positions, Ibaka’s rim protection, Vucevic’s rebounding, and Biyombo’s hustle, they will be able to compete. It’s the offensive end that I think will sink this team, because they won’t be able to get very easy baskets, which will strain that defense, and they just won’t have enough to finish out games. This team will steal games from good teams that take a night off or loose focus, but they will also drop games because they just don’t have enough to put them over the top.
For the Magic, this season is all about the future. How do Payton and Gordon progress? Does Ibaka return? If he does, do you go into win now mode and start trading assets, or do you continue to rebuild? If he leaves, do you get aggressive in free-agency, or do you stick to building through the draft? These will be the questions swirling around the Magic this year, and it will come down to their patience, or lack there of, that will decide their future.
That's it for the Southeast Division preview! Check back next Friday (Oct. 7) for the Northwest Division preview!