Comparing the Miami Heat to Each of Their Southeast Division Rivals
The Miami Heat are undoubtedly the favorites to win the Southeast division in the 2012-13 season.
Considering all of that, it's fair to wonder if any of the Heat's divisional foes even have a chance at dethroning them this year.
So let's take a more in-depth look at each of the teams in the Southeast and figure out if the Heat should be worried about any of its rivals.
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The Charlotte Bobcats are an absolute non-factor in the Southeast in 2012-13. A season ago, the team finished a startling 39 games behind the Heat (in a shortened season, nonetheless), and their overall winning percentage of .106 was the worst in NBA history.
While the 'Cats should be better this season—due to their signing of Ramon Sessions, the trade for Ben Gordon and, most of all, the selection of Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in this past June's draft—their roster is still horrific.
In fact, Sessions, who posted a 16.79 PER, is the only player on the current roster that finished with a PER north of 15.00 (the league average) in 2011-12. By comparison, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade finished with PERs of 30.8 and 26.4, respectively.
The Bobcats (30th in PPG and 27th in PA in 2011-12) and Heat (seventh in PPG and fourth in PA) couldn't be in more opposite of positions with the former almost certainly headed for the worst record in the East again and the latter being the heavy favorites to finish atop the conference.
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The Orlando Magic finished with a very respectable record of 37-29 in 2011-12, good enough for third place in the Southeast and a sixth seed in the playoffs. However, don't expect the 2012-13 Magic to come even close to matching that 56.1 winning percentage.
Not only did the team trade the best center in the league and a definite top-five player in Dwight Howard for a returning package whose best player was Arron Afflalo, but they also signed and traded away their second best player, Ryan Anderson, to New Orleans.
The Magic finished 21st in PPG last season, and they will enter the 2012-13 season not returning three of their top four scorers (Howard, Anderson and Jason Richardson). Needless to say, don't expect this team to consistently top 100 points. And when they face off against Miami's stout defense, forget about it.
Simply put, with a starting lineup possibly consisting of Jameer Nelson, Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic, there is a severe lack of talent on this Magic roster.
The Magic have absolutely no chance of competing with the Heat for a divisional crown, and instead, they will likely be competing with the Bobcats for the top lottery odds in next year's draft.
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With a record of 20-46, the Washington Wizards finished second to last in both the Southeast Division and the league standings; however, there's reason to believe this team will be improved in 2012-13.
The Wizards desperately needed to address their lack of outside shooting prowess entering the offseason, and they accomplished that when they drafted Florida sharpshooter Bradley Beal at No. 3 in this June's draft.
Also, in a move which should surely help improve the team's defense that finished 20th in PA in 2011-12, the Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.
And when you factor in that Nene will enter his first full season as a member of the Wizards and the possibility of John Wall making the type of leap the team's fans planned on him making last year, there's reason to be optimistic about Washington's prospects this season.
Still, that optimism has to obviously be directed towards potentially landing the eight seed in the playoffs and nothing more. They too have no chance at making a run at the division title.
And realistically, they don't have enough offensive firepower (22nd in PPG in 2011-12) to even stay somewhat close behind.
The Atlanta Hawks are the only team in the Southeast with any chance of dethroning the Heat. But trading away Joe Johnson, even though it was the right move for the long-term future of the franchise, means that chance is still very close to zero percent.
With losing Johnson, Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich and others, the Hawks are clearly worse than a year ago. And last season, the team fell to the Heat in a game in which Miami was without James and Wade due to injury.
Fortunately for the Heat, the Hawks don't have the top talent or the depth to contend with them. So the Heat should win the division in a landslide of at least 15 games.
Still, with Josh Smith (who put together his best season as a pro in 2011-12) and Al Horford, the Hawks still possess a formidable duo and should almost certainly finish as the runner-ups in the division and sneak into the playoffs.