The Southeast Division is kind of an afterthought when you're breaking down the league. It's got the best young big in the East, the most-entertaining guard in the league, an up-and-coming team that pushed Boston to seven games in the first round last year and also the number one pick in the draft. Still, does anyone really see a team from this division making any serious noise in the playoffs? Me neither.
In-depth analysis after the jump. Check out all of my NBA Season Previews here.
1. Orlando Magic (49-33)
I would believe in the Magic if they had even one above average guard, but they don't. Dwight Howard can be a beast down low (as long as he isn't playing the International competition). Hedo and Lewis can light it up from down town. Still, I can't get past the fact that Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus are their starting guards.
The Magic were deadly from downtown last year, this was a direct result of having a 4 who can step out and knock down more than 200 threes (Lewis), and a beast down low who commands double teams. It just isn't enough, though. They need to upgrade the point, the went into the offseason with that need and did nothing to address it.
Luckily for them, no one else in the division made any significant moves, beyond the Beasley pick. I think they're a safe bet to repeat their division title, and probably another second round exit, at best, in the post season.
Team blog worth checking out: Third Quarter Collapse
2. Atlanta Hawks (46-36)
The Hawks lost Josh Childress to Greece, which is embarrassing, but won't kill them. They brought in Maurice Evans to take his spot as their sixth man. While Evans isn't a comparable player to Childress, he isn't a huge step down either. The biggest move this team made was to sign Josh Smith to a long-term deal.
Smith the catalyst for this team's frantic style of play, for better or worse. He can take over a game at both ends of the floor, and while it may not be pretty, he's one of the most talented players in the league. The biggest difference from last season's surprise run to this season is the pressence of Mike Bibby. He'll be here all year long and his skills at the point should make a big difference in their final record. That and the fact that this division is piss poor.
One thing to keep an eye on. Coach Mike Woodson has to have the shortest leash of any coach in the league. I was shocked they didn't can him in the offseason, but a slow start will have him collecting unemployment.
Team blog worth checking out: Hawks Blog
3. Washington Wizards (36-46)
Caron Butler is an absolute stud. Gilbert Arenas is the worst near-max-contract (fixed per comment) since Allan Houston. Butler and Jamison will spend the entire season making everyone ask why the Wiz wasted all that money on Gilbert. Gilbert will probably play somewhere around 30 games, take way too many shots, and write some really funny material on his blog. That's basically all he's good for at this point.
The Wiz have been right around .500 for a couple of years now, but they're missing Haywood. I like Andray Blatche, but he isn't a starter in this league. One guy to keep an eye on is Nick Young. DeShawn Stevenson is a joke.
The Wiz miss the playoffs for the first of several consecutive seasons.
Team blog worth checking out: Bullets Forever
4. Miami Heat (32-50)
I am so sick of reading about how Dwyane Wade is back. Wade is great, don't get me wrong, but he never did anything without Shaq, not a thing. That Miami Heat team didn't win a championship because he was on the team, they won it because of Shaq. He had a great Finals because the Mavs were so intent on stopping Shaq.
Wade may very well be healthy (although I doubt he'll stay that way), but it doesn't matter. This team has no point, no center, no real power forward. They have Wade, and two talented tweeners in Beasley and Marion, neither of which is a real three, nor a real four. They'll be fun to watch, but nothing more. They're lottery bound, again. The good news is that I don't think we need to worry about Pat Riley coming out of retirement to coach this team, he only does that if the team has a chance to win.
One more thing about the Heat. I'm sick of announcers treating the team name as singular. "The Heat is..." different rules don't apply to this team, the Heat are, or in the case of this year's team, "The Heat are not good."
Team blog worth checking out: Crazy From The Heat
5. Charlotte Bobcats (20-62)
Poor Larry Brown. I thought that if he came out of retirment to coach again he'd pick a team with a stockpile of talent who just needed a coach to put the pieces together. Instead, he picked a team run by Michael Jordan. As far as Michael Jordan's talents go, running a basketball franchise falls somewhere below hitting a curve ball.
They wasted a draft pick on DJ Augustin, who probably shouldn't see any time at Raymond Felton's expense. The good news is that Brown should have Jordan's last lotter bust, Adam Morrison, back. Although that's not really good news.
I'd like to say Larry will pull this team out of the abyss, but it's not going to happen this season, and it's definitely not going to happen if MJ continues to make personnel decisions. Kwame Brown disagrees with me, however.
Team blog worth checking out: Bobcats Planet
Up next, the Atlantic Division.