Southeast Division Preview: Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and The Other Guys
Unless you were on another planet or in a coma this summer, you know that the dynamics of the NBA's Southeast Division changed since last season ended.
Gone are Matt Barnes, Tyson Chandler, and Michael Beasley. New arrivals include LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and John Wall.
It's easy to see that, clearly, some teams have improved significantly, while others have maintained their rosters relatively static with the belief that only minor tweaking is needed to take the next step.
The Southeast Division is unquestionably one of, if not, the strongest divisions in the NBA.
The Orlando Magic are only two years removed from a finals appearance. The Atlanta Hawks have maintained a talented core of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford.
The Miami Heat added to their roster to create an unprecedented level of talent on one team.
The Bobcats and the Wizards both have young talent that could play spoiler at some point.
While the division looks to be a three-team race, it would not be surprising to see a fourth team emerge from the Southeast Division and make it to the playoffs.
5. Washington Wizards
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John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Trevor Booker, and Yi Jianlian
Randy Foye, Mike Miller
With an influx of point guards on the roster, the Wizards will most likely play Gilbert Arenas and Kirk Hinrich at shooting guard much of the time; however, having three terrific guards is not the worst problem.
The Wizards are hoping that John Wall can provide a boost to a team that had only 26 wins last season. Nick Young seems to be a capable backup shooting guard.
Andray Blatche took an enormous step forward last year, and will look to prove he is worth his new five-year, $35 million contract.
If they are going to compete, the Wizards will also need Josh Howard or Al Thornton to halt their steep declines.
First-round pick Trevor Booker out of Clemson will work to get into the rotation at small forward.
At the center position, Washington is hoping project JaVale McGee can develop and that newcomer Hilton Armstrong can provide a big body in the middle.
There's no question that the Wizards have some talent. Gilbert Arenas is back joined by phenom John Wall.
There are some good pieces surrounding them; however, Kirk Hinrich, Andray Blatche, and Josh Howard are not going to scare many teams.
In addition, the Wizards are the weakest in the division at center and could easily struggle with foul trouble and lack of size.
4. Charlotte Bobcats
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Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, Shaun Livingston, Dominic Maguire, Kwame Brown, Darius Miles and Antoine Walker?
Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Alexis Ajinca, Theo Ratliff
With Felton gone, the Bobcats hope that D.J. Augustin can emerge as a solid starter in his third year.
Stephen Jackson proved last year that he wasn't just a product of the Warriors' offensive mindset, but that he is a scoring machine in any system.
It is also possible that Devin Harris could be acquired as a part of a Carmelo Anthony trade. Sherron Collins, Gerald Henderson, and Javaris Crittenton will compete for time as backups.
The Bobcats have two great defensive forwards in Gerald Wallace and Tyrus Thomas.
Particularly, Wallace emerged last season averaging a double-double and appears to have escaped the injury bug that has plagued him throughout his career.
Boris Diaw is a serviceable forward, that is, if he is not included in the Carmelo Anthony trade.
In a surprise move, Darius Miles and Antoine Walker were invited to the Bobcats' training camp, although it is difficult to see how either of those players improve Charlotte as a team.
Kwame Brown, Nazr Mohammed, and DeSagana Diop are nothing special at the center position, but will provide Larry Brown with a presence in the middle.
The Bobcats surprised many last year by winning 44 games and making the playoffs. Larry Brown deserves a lot of credit for the Bobcats' improvement; however, coaching can only take a team so far.
While losing Raymond Felton is not disastrous, the Bobcats will really miss Tyson Chandler's defensive presence in the middle of the floor.
3. Atlanta Hawks
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Josh Powell, Etan Thomas, Jason Collins, Jordan Crawford, Larry Drew (Coach)
Josh Childress, Mike Woodson (Coach)
Despite overpaying for Joe Johnson, the Hawks bring back one of the most formidable backcourts in the league featuring Johnson, Mike Bibby, and sixth-man of the year Jamal Crawford.
Jeff Teague will look to break into the rotation.
Jordan Crawford will have to really impress in training camp and the preseason in order to prove that he can handle minutes in the crowded Atlanta backcourt.
Marvin Williams regressed a bit last year, and will have to return to his 2008-2009 form if the Hawks want to compete in the Southeast Division. Josh Smith will bring intensity and athleticism to both the offensive and defensive ends.
Al Horford is the second-best center in the Southeast division, but he would be the best in several other divisions and is a premier big man in the NBA.
Zaza Pachulia and Josh Powell are capable backups and will provide some size off of the bench.
Since Atlanta didn't lose much in terms of talent last season, it is expected that they should finish around last year's total of 53 wins.
One possible difference could end up being Larry Drew as new head coach.
In another division, this talented roster could be favored to win; however, unfortunately for them, the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat also play in the Southeastern Division.
2. Orlando Magic
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Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon, Daniel Orton, Stanley Robinson
Matt Barnes, Adonal Foyle, Anthony Johnson
The Magic backcourt is loaded with talent. Jameer Nelson will have to avoid injury, but new addition Chris Duhon could easily step in as starter if needed.
Vince Carter appears to be on the decline; however, he is still a viable scoring option and can put up points when needed.
J.J. Redick could be in line for more minutes as he demonstrated some improvement in his third season last year.
It will be interesting to see Rashard Lewis this season. There has been a clear regression in his play over the last few seasons, and Lewis essentially disappeared against Boston during the playoffs last season. Besides Lewis, the Magic have capable forwards in Mickael Pietrus, Quentin Richardson, and Brandon Bass.
Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard will have to avoid the foul trouble that plagued him in the playoffs, but he remains undoubtedly the best center in the league. Marcin Gortat provides a strong backup at the center position.
Orlando certainly has a realistic shot at the title. The Magic, however, are beginning to look a little like the Celtics in that every year we are going to begin to expect their decline.
Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis do not look like the players they used to be. Still, Dwight Howard and young players Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick appear to be ready to pick up any slack.
1. Miami Heat
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LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Illgauskas, Juwan Howard, Eddie House, Dexter Pittman, Da'Sean Butler
Jermaine O'Neal, Dorell Wright, Michael Beasley, Quentin Richardson, Yakhouba Diawara
In early July, you could hear a loud sigh of relief in South Florida. Dwayne Wade would return in a Heat uniform for the 2010-2011 season.
Wade is a premier player in the NBA both offensively and defensively and single-handedly carried Miami to the fifth seed last season.
Assisting Wade in the backcourt will be Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers, both holdovers from last season.
Both Chalmers and Arroyo can handle the ball, but neither of them will be specifically targeted by opposing teams' game plans.
Former Gator Mike Miller will provide the Heat with a top-flight sixth man capable of providing a scoring punch of the bench.
Eddie House also will contribute strong three-point shooting off the bench.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh have "taken their talents to South Beach" giving the Miami Heat the greatest forward tandem in the history of the NBA.
There is not much to be said about the reigning MVP that hasn't been said this summer, but LeBron's talent and athleticism is unparalleled while Chris Bosh has been a perennial all-star over the past few years.
Udonis Haslem stayed with Heat despite more lucrative offers from other teams and will contribute as a rebounder and leader in the locker room.
At center, Zydrunas Illgauskas and Joel Anthony will compete for time with Jamal Magloire and Juwan Howard available for mop up duty.
The Miami Heat have unquestionably been the most discussed team of the summer.
Pat Riley's calculated plan for the summer of 2010 has produced a roster overhaul that has created a team with unprecedented talent.
Whether talent on paper translates to wins on the court remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: Teams will be gunning for the new Miami Heat.