Ranking the NBA Southeast Division: Win/Loss Predictions for Every Team

Conner BoydCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2012

Ranking the NBA Southeast Division: Win/Loss Predictions for Every Team

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    This article might seem silly: The Miami Heat are the defending champs and only got better this offseason, while the rest of the division seems to be rebuilding.

    While the Miami Heat are clearly the class of the division, there are four other teams all heading in very different directions. The 2012/13 season will be an interesting look at the potential shift in talent pools for teams in the division.

    Just as a quick refresher, here's a look at last season's final standings in the southeast (keeping in mind it was only a 66 game season; this season will be a full 82 game season).

    1. Miami Heat: 46-20

    2. Atlanta Hawks: 40-26

    3. Orlando Magic: 37-29

    4. Washington Wizards: 20-46

    5. Charlotte Bobcats: 7-59

    In many ways, it was one of the strangest divisions in basketball. Between the dominance of the Miami Heat, the complete implosion of Dwight Howard's tenure with the Orlando Magic despite management changing everything for him, and the Charlotte Bobcats being the worst team in NBA history, there were many interesting storylines.

    Will the standings stay the same? On my part, I am acknowledging that offseason moves can still be made, so this is more of a "where they stand now" type of article, mixed in with my own predictions. It's that time of the year, ladies and gentlemen... basketball is almost here.

5: Charlotte Bobcats

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    No shocker here. As a Bobcats fan and regular contributor on B/R for the 'Cats, I looked for every reason to move them up a spot in the division, but I couldn't. It is almost a certainty they are going to be in the basement again this season. 

    That doesn't mean they're going to be the absolute crap show they were last year—they're going to be competitive. They quietly had a very good offseason, and will surprise some people.

    Why they could be better:

    A lot of reasons. The Bobcats added some good veteran talent in Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood, and they're going to be excellent mentors to the young team. They drafted two great small forwards, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second overall and the future face of the franchise, and Jeffery Taylor at 31st overall, a first-round talent who is going to surprise many people off the bench.

    Also watch for young guys like Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens to improve, while hoping Tyrus Thomas can turn things around and become the dominant PF the Bobcats signed him to be.

    Why they could be worse:

    They honestly can't. They could still be pretty bad, especially if the development of the young guys isn't there, and if MKG's jumper doesn't work itself out, but there's simply no way they can be worse than last year. It is just not possible.

    Predicted Win/Loss record:

    33-49. Not great, but better than most are expecting. I have high hopes for this team and the future of the young core of guys making up this team, so this is a pretty optimistic prediction. But still well within the realm of possibility.

4: Orlando Magic

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    Well, let's get one thing straight—the Orlando Magic are in a state of disarray right now. The constant saga of will they/won't they with Dwight Howard is riding everyone's last nerve, and is doing nothing but damaging the team to the point where, even if he does return, he won't be worth the trouble.

    Why they could be better:

    The Magic weren't really a good team last year.  They had a few decent players, but most of their wins came because of Howard, and once he was done for the season, the team fell apart. J.J. Redick has always been an underrated option at shooting guard, and I think it's time he gets his chance to be the permanent starter. Excluding Howard, he could be the best player on the team.

    They also had a quietly good draft, adding two big men in Andrew Nicholson in the first round and Kyle O'Quinn in the second round. Both of these players were from schools without much of a basketball history, but the Magic got two very good big men who will be able to contribute immediately. 

    Why they could be worse:

    Well, if they lose Dwight Howard, they lose the best center in basketball. If they keep Dwight Howard, they keep the most discontent player in the NBA and don't get any talent out of it when he walks after this season. It's a lose-lose for the Magic, and no realistic deal will be good enough to replace a healthy, happy Dwight. They don't have any other legitimate weapons on their team, and they're going to be worse. 

    Predicted Win/Loss record:

    36-46. Say what you will about the Bobcats, but at least they have a direction. The Magic are going nowhere fast, and it will be shocking if they post a winning record this season. They might honestly be worse than the Bobcats.

3: Washington Wizards

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    This was actually tough for me. I thought about placing them above the Hawks, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

    The Wizards have some talent in their lineup, obviously highlighted by John Wall, but the question is will this team be able to play as a unit, and will certain players mature as players on the court. They certainly have more going for them than the Magic, though.

    Why they could be better:

    Well, they're returning guys like John Wall, Nene, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Crawford. That's not a terrible nucleus to build around. The addition of Emeka Okafor was somewhat risky, as he has become increasingly ineffective, mostly due to injuries, but he's still a talented player. They added Bradley Beal with the third pick of the draft, and while I'm not wild about him (I honestly think there were better shooters in the draft), Beal gives the Wizards a solid three-point option, and an excellent backcourt partner with Wall.

    The biggest key is Wall: If he can continue to mature, and if he can gel with Beal and the others on this team, he could become one of the best point guards in the game, capable of Chris Paul-like numbers.

    Why they could be worse:

    I can't really think of any reasons. The additions they made and the core they had last year are solid, but there are still some questions to be answered, mainly about team chemistry. Andray Blatche was mercifully shown the door, so maybe this team will finally be able to mesh well, but if Beal turns out to be a bust and Okafor continues his decline, they won't be much better than last year. I don't see that happening, though.

    Predicted Win/Loss record:

    39-43. The Wizards could push for .500 or better, and might make a run at the playoffs, but it's going to take a lot of things to go right, and I'm still not sold on Beal. Still, a huge improvement.

2: Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Haws took a major blow by losing Joe Johnson, but they have rolled with the punches and they are still going to be the second best team in this division. The Wizards, if everything comes together better than planned might take a run at them, but I doubt it.

    Why they could be better:

    Well, they lost Joe Johnson but they added another excellent shooting guard in John Jenkins. Prior to the draft I was really high on Jenkins, but I think the Hawks still reached for him with their mid-first round pick, as there were certainly better players drafted behind him. Still, Jenkins is arguably the best pure shooter in the draft, and will put up points.

    Josh Smith and Al Horford combine for one of the fiercest front courts in the NBA, and it's going to be hard to drive on the Hawks. Jeff Teague is a solid option at PG and may see his numbers rise with the subtraction of Johnson, and they also picked up Devin Harris, a one-time superstar who has fallen on hard times. If Harris gets back to his glory days, Johnson won't be missed too badly.

    Why they could be worse:

    Well, this is actually a real possibility. Like I said above, they have options to replace Johnson's scoring, but they're all questionable. Jenkins is a great shooter but doesn't do anything else, Harris hasn't been good in a couple of years and Teague is more of a facilitator and a background player than a star talent. Smith could also see a step back, especially scoring the ball, if they don't find a legitimate scoring threat outside of him.

    Predicted Win/Loss record:

    52-30. Like they always seem to be, they'll be a four or a five seed type of team. They have some real talent that needs to be tapped to get to this record, and they have to hope the Wizards and possibly the Bobcats don't jump up and bite them if their backcourt doesn't find stability.

1: Miami Heat

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    Um. Duh.

    They aren't just the class of the division, they are the class of the NBA. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and now Ray Allen? It's barely even fair that this team exists. There were a lot of questions about if they were ever going to be able to live up to the hype, but they proved emphatically last year that they aren't joking around, and that this is the best team in the NBA.

    Why they could be better:

    The one thing that the Heat didn't really have in abundance last year (besides a bench, which they didn't really need), was a reliable three-point shooter. James, Wade and Bosh can all take a three-pointer if they have to, but none of them is going to hit them super-reliably. Adding Ray Allen, one of the greatest three-point shooters in the history of the NBA, changes that.

    Sure, Allen is coming off the worst year of his career, injuries are holding him back, and he's not getting any younger. But his role in Miami will be much less strenuous than in Boston, where he was expected to be a strong athlete. In Miami, Allen will have to catch and shoot, play some defense, and repeat. He won't be asked to do anything worse. Allen gives them another dimension that just makes them even more dangerous.

    Why they could be worse:

    Honestly, they won't be. They don't have a deep bench, so that could be their big weakness, and the only way this team gets worse is if someone goes down with a severe/season ending injury.

    Predicted Win/Loss record:

    66-16. They could honestly push for 70 wins. I have no problem saying they will get the first seed in the NBA playoffs, and I don't really have much of a problem saying that this could be the best team in NBA history. They will dominate not just the Southeast division, but the entire NBA. And I expect them to repeat as champions.