NBA Southeast Division: Heat, Magic, Hawks, Who Will Have the Hot Start?

John Boller@jboll0327Correspondent IAugust 17, 2010

NBA Southeast Division: Heat, Magic, Hawks, Who Will Have the Hot Start?

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    MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6, Dwyane Wade #3 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat show off their new game jerseys before a press conference after a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The NBA’s Eastern Conference Southeast division has had some sexy makeovers to its teams this offseason.

    The most notable team makeover in the Southeast and the entire NBA is the Miami Heat. Pat Riley found a way to keep Dwayne Wade and add not one, but two superstars to the roster in Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

    The new-look Heat have not even played a single game together but are already being named the favorites to win the NBA Championship.

    The Orlando Magic, which almost made it to their second straight NBA Finals, have kept the core of their roster and as long as they have Dwight Howard, should be good to go. They did lose some on the defensive side of the ball with the loss of Matt Barnes, but I like their acquisition of Chris Duhon.

    Duhon doesn’t mind going after it on the defensive end and will be a solid backup point guard behind Jameer Nelson.

    The Atlanta Hawks will have a new coach and made a couple of draft picks that should see some action for the Hawks this season. They were able to resign Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague should see more minutes in 2010-11 as Mike Bibby’s career continues to get closer to the end.

    Charlotte and Washington are toss-ups. The Bobcats are coming off a great season and have a chance to start building something in Charlotte. I still think that they are behind the Heat, Magic, and the Hawks in the Southeast.

    The Wizards are still in the rebuilding phase and I think are more concerned with how John Wall and Gilbert Arenas will play together. The addition of Wall is more likely to add fans to the seats than increases to the win column. With that in mind, I think they will still find themselves behind the rest in the Southeast.

Washington Wizards: The Gilbert Arenas and John Wall Show

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  John Wall of Kentucky stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted with the first pick by The Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York, New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    NBA Record: 26-56                                   Home: 15-26

    Away: 11-30                                             Division: 3-13

    Eastern Conference: 18-34           Western Conference: 8-22

    The Wizards are coming off an interesting season to say the least. Despite all that happened in Washington, the Wizards managed to win 26 games.

    The Wizards will play 16 games in October and November, 14 of them coming against Eastern Conference opponents.

    The Wizards have an even split of home vs. away games to start the season. Their longest stay at home through their first 16 games is just three games.

    They will face opponents from the Southeast six times, three at home and three away. Also, 10 of their first 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs last year, and six of them are on the road.

    The Wizards are a young team with the main interest being more about the debut of John Wall and less about wins and losses.

    The growing pains will come early this season in Washington. Given their history and what their schedule throws at them through the first 16 games, the Wizards can expect to be 4-12 or 6-10 at best through November. 

Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Brown Back Again To Continue Improvement

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 26: (L-R) Charlotte Bobcats coaches Phil Ford, Larry Brown and Dave Hanners can only watch as time runs down against the Orlando Magic at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 26, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Magic defeated the
    Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    NBA Record: 44-38                                Home: 31-10

    Away: 13-28                                          Division: 10-6

    Eastern Conference: 27-25      Western Conference: 17-13

    The Charlotte Bobcats finished as the seventh seed out in the Eastern Conference last year. Even though they were swept by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs, the team still had their best season in franchise history with 44 wins.

    The Bobcats will play a total of 17 games in October and November. They draw a close split with nine away games and eight home games.

    They will play 11 Eastern Conference opponents and six Western Conference players. Of those 11 games against the Eastern Conference, eight will be on the road. Then, it is sort of a flip with their Western Conference games. Only one of their six games against the West will be on the road.

    Charlotte has three games against their division, two of which will be on the road, including at Miami on November 19.

    Eight of their 17 games are against teams that made the playoffs, with an even split between home and away games.

    With this schedule, the Bobcats can find themselves with their heads above water, but not by much. The majority of their Western Conference opponents coming to them will be of benefit for Charlotte, but having to play most of the Eastern Conference opponents away will counter that.

    A 9-8 showing in their 17 games is a strong outcome for the Bobcats. 10 wins would be unbelievable and anything below eight wins through the first 17 should be seen as a lack of execution by the team.

Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford Ready To Soar

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    ATLANTA - MAY 10:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    NBA Record: 53-29                                    Home:  34-7

    Away: 19-22                                            Division: 8-8

    Eastern Conference: 32-20          Western Conference: 21-9

    The Atlanta Hawks play 18 games through October and November, and unlike last year, they won’t have the benefit of playing most of their beginning schedule in Atlanta.

    The Hawks had one of their best seasons in franchise history with 53 wins and a third-place finish in the East. However, another one-and-down in the playoffs caused one shakeup in Atlanta, the firing of their head coach.

    Since, the Hawks have found the guy who they hope will take this team to the next level and re-signed Joe Johnson, a major reason for the rebirth of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA.

    Atlanta has nine home and nine away games through the first 18. The Hawks had no problem at home last year with one of the best home records in all of the NBA. However, when the Hawks went on the road, it was like they were a different team.

    It will be a good test for the Hawks in seeing if this team can take that next step with half of their games on the road to start the season.

    They just play two games against their division, have 12 games against the East, and six games against the West. Four of their six games against the West are at home. Seven of their first 18 games are against playoff teams, but five of them will be at home.

    For the Hawks, the first wave of the season comes down to whether or not they can find a way to play with the same intensity on the road that they play with at the “The Highlight Factory.”

    At best, the Hawks could be 12-6 and anything below 10 through the first 18 games is cause for concern. Realistically, an 11-7 showing through the first 18 games will find the Hawks in third place in the Southeast, but not too far behind Orlando and Miami.

Orlando Magic: Can Dwight Howard and the Magic Get Back to East Finals?

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    BOSTON - MAY 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic walks off the court dejected after the Magic lost 96-84 against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 28, 2010 in Boston, M
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    NBA Record: 59-23                                     Home: 35-6

    Away: 25-16                                            Division 10-6

    Eastern Conference: 39-13         Western Conference: 20-10

    The Orlando Magic play a total of 18 games in October through November. They have an identical setup in their first 18 games as the Miami Heat, 11 home games and seven away games.

    13 of their 18 games are against the Eastern Conference, and four of their five games against the Western Conference are at home.

    The Magic will also be tested early by the Southeast with six games against in their division, three at home and three on the road. Their first two games of the season are against the Southeast, at home against Washington (Oct 28) and the next night at Miami (Oct 29).

    Then, they will face the Bobcats at Charlotte four games later on Saturday (Sep 6) and will meet Atlanta in Orlando the next Monday (Sep 8). Following that, the Magic will go a couple of weeks before meeting Miami again and a trip to Washington on September 27.

    Eight of Orlando’s first 18 games are against playoff teams.

    The Magic had the best home record last year and the third best away record last year, and this won’t be the Magic’s first rodeo. They have been to the Eastern Conference Finals for two years in a row, and with the exception of replacing Chris Duhon with Matt Barnes, have the same unit as last year.

    With this in mind and a fairly favorable schedule, the Magic should be doing just fine through the first two months of the NBA season at 13-5. Depending on how things work out, 14-4 would be their best output and anything below 12 wins after their first 18 means they need to step up and start playing the basketball we have been accustomed to seeing from them.

Miami Heat: Welcome to the James, Wade, and Bosh Show

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    MIAMI - JULY 09:   LeBron James #6, Dwyane Wade #3 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat speak after being introduced to fans during a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    NBA Record: 47-35                Home: 24-17

    Away: 23-18                          Division: 9-7

    Eastern Conference: 32-20  Western Conference: 15-15

    It really doesn’t matter what the Heat did last season because it is a whole new ball game down in Miami. I think it is safe to say that if they won 47 games with just Wade on the team, the additions of James and Bosh might add a few more wins to that total.

    As mentioned earlier, the Heat have a similar start to the first 18 games as the Magic. They play 11 at home and seven on the road.

    However, the Heat have the longest home streak of home games of any team in the Southeast. From November 6 to November 19, a total of six games, the Heat will get the privilege of playing in front of their home crowd faithful. This should provide the Heat with a chance to rack up the win totals in the first two months of the season.

    They only play against their division three times, two against Orlando. They will host the Magic in October and meet up again at Orlando in November.

    12 of their first 18 games are against Eastern Conference opponents. Their six matchups against the Western Conference are evenly split between being at home and on the road.

    They have eight games against playoff teams, five of them in Miami.

    But, with Jeff Van Gundy’s declaration that they will top the Bulls’ 72-win season, I expect Miami to get off to a hot start, especially with their six-game home stretch. I am just going to go for it and say that through their first 18 games, the Heat will be 16-2, at worst, 14-4.