Season Preview: Eastern Conference- Southeast Division

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

 

MIAMI- As we go down the list of divisions this upcoming season in the NBA, look no further than the Southeast Division that includes some young talent, but let’s not fool ourselves, the Miami Heat are once again the favorites.

In a division that includes the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, and Washington Wizards, most will agree this is not one of the strongest divisions, but it displays a lot of young talent.

Starting with the obvious, the Heat are no doubt the favorites in the Southeast division and it’s not even close. Coming off two consecutive NBA Finals appearances, the Heat will be looking to repeat as NBA champions this upcoming season.

After losing in the Finals two seasons ago, LeBron James (30.3 PPG in playoffs) and “The Big Three” finally found out how to mesh together as Dwyane Wade, (22.1 PPG) and Chris Bosh (18.0 PPG) finally all got it together as a team and ran away with the NBA championship last season.

While it was “The Big Three” who were the main scorers for this Heat team, it was the three point shooting of role players Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier  that ultimately propelled the Heat to their second championship in the last six seasons.

The Heat improved on their perimeter shooting even more this off-season bringing in all-time leading three point shooter Ray Allen, along with the likes of Rashard Lewis along with bringing in big man Josh Harrellson to complement a bench that includes Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, and Joel Anthony.

With the additions the Heat made while losing only Ronny Turiaf, this Heat team will be even better and more dangerous than last season because not only are they talented but they have depth at every position making them the runaway favorites in the Southeast division.

Now moving onto the secondary teams we start with the second best team in the Southeast Division: the Atlanta Hawks. While the Heat are obviously the superior team, the Hawks have displayed a model of consistency making the playoffs the last couple of   seasons.

While the Hawks may not display the best team, they show that year in and year out that they have what it takes to make it to the playoffs. With that said, the Hawks will be displaying a much different team this year.

After going 40-26 in the lockout shortened season, and making to the NBA playoffs before losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Hawks hired former Cavalier GM Danny Ferry, who  made a wholesale of changes this off-season.

Starting with the biggest headline, the Hawks traded away their best player, Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Johan Petro, and  a 2013 first round pick along with a package of players.

On the same day, the Hawks traded away Marvin Williams in a swap for point guard Devin Harris, while signing sixth man Lou Williams from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Returning to the Hawks from last season lays talented, but criticized, swing man Josh Smith (18.8 PPG, 9.6 RBG) and Al Horford who was out all of last season before returning in the 2012 playoffs. Jeff Teague, returns as the starting point guard after leading the team with 4.9 assists last season. The Hawks also bolstered their perimeter  shooting drafting Vanderbelt’s John Jenkins in the draft.

The Hawks also brought in Kyle Korver, to complement a team that looks back court heavy, but still missing that big man that can dominate down low for the Hawks.

While it still remains to be seen who will fill Johnson’s minutes this season, the back court heavy Hawks look thin in the front court, which is why the Hawks will make the playoffs but not go far once again.

Moving onto the rest of the division we start with a team that used to be up with the other teams as one of the best the Orlando Magic.

This will be the first season post Dwight Howard for the Magic who ended the drama finally shipping Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers this off-season.

In the trade, the Magic acquired defensive guard Aaron Affalo and forward Al Harrington from the Nuggets, Moe Harkless from the 76ers, and Josh McRoberts from the Lakers in the blockbuster trade.

Most will say the Magic got virtually nothing out of the trade, especially since Andrew Bynum was included in the trade, but was shipped to the 76ers.

The Magic also revamped their front office this off-season, hiring former Oklahoma City assistant general manager Rob Hennigan as their new GM and Jackie Vaughn as their new head coach once Stan Van Gundy was fired.

Look for a rebuilding season from the Magic , who return starters Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, to go with young talents JJ Reddick, and Glen Davis and the rest of the young talent the Magic acquired.

After making the playoffs last season, don’t look for the Magic to make the playoffs nest season as they start the rebuilding phase year one.

When you look at the Washington Wizards it’s a little bit of the same as the Magic: a young team trying to find their footing.

After coming off a disappointing 20-46 record including the firing of head coach Flip Saunders, the Wizards are a team full of young talent including point guard John Wall.

After losing his interim coach label and being named head coach, Randy Wittman will look to his young point guard to lead this team that ended the season on a six game winning streak.

The Wizards made some changes this off-season trading Rashard Lewis, and released Andray Blatche, after the mid-season trades of Nick Young and Javale McGee that included three starting players from last years team.

The Wizards moved on from Young in drafting shooting guard Bradley Beal in the NBA draft from Florida making the Wizards back court a young but promising corp for years to come.

Also returning for the Wizards is Jordan Crawford (14.7 PPG) and Nene (14.5 PPG, 7.5 RBG), acquired in the McGee trade who will all have fresh starts in Wittman’s system.

Good progress for this team will be looking for third place for a team that is young but displays a lot of talent and potential for years to come.

Finally, we get to Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats, who set records last season for all the wrong reasons. The Bobcats, logged the worst winning percentage last season in NBA history, but with that said only have one way to go and that’s up.

Starting in the NBA Draft, the Bobcats drafted Michael Kidd- Gilchrist out of Kentucky with the number two pick to re-energize a franchise that has been lacking a key player.

Also added into the mix were guards Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions to go with defensive minded swingman Jeff Taylor (Vanderbilt) in what will be a mix of young and veteran talent for the Bobcats.

Kidd-Gilchrist should start from day one with returning starters, Kemba Walker (12.1 PPG), Gerald Henderson (15.1 PPG), who will struggle at times but flash potential as a unit.

Look for new head coach Mike Dunlap to mesh his young talent with his veterans in a way that will benefit a team that has no expectations going into the 2012-2013 season.

As you can see the Southeast Division is no way, shape and form, the cream of the crop when it comes to playoff teams, but it is a division that flashes a lot of talent and potential for what can be a great future.

 

 

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