NBA Southeast Division: Meet the Cellar of the Eastern Conference

Adam MillerCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2008


Atlanta Hawks

Projected Depth Chart:


PG Mike Bibby/Speedy Claxton

SG Joe Johnson/Ronald Murray/Thomas Gardner

SF Josh Smith/Maurice Evans

PF Al Horford/Marvin Williams

C Zaza Pachulia/Randolph Morris/Olumide Oyedeji


After losing Josh Childress to Europe, the Hawks’ near-upset over Boston looks more like a mirage than a step in the right direction. This team has the capability of making a run for the playoffs like last year, but even then, Atlanta’s record was still well below .500.


The Hawks are still a young team capable of surprising people, and they should consider it a great season if they finish above the Washington Wizards. However, they are going to have a hard time making the playoffs if Josh Smith and Al Horford don’t step up and become the great players that their potential suggests they will become.


The only leadership on this team comes from Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby—two players who are probably more comfortable fitting a role than becoming a go-to player. The challenge for Bibby is going to be utilizing Smith and Horford’s talent to be the same team that almost knocked the Celtics out of the first round last year.




Charlotte Bobcats

Projected Depth Chart:


PG Raymond Felton/Shanon Brown

SG Jason Richardson/Matt Carroll/Donell Taylor

SF Gerald Wallace/Adam Morrison

PF Emeka Okafor/Sean May/Jared Dudley

C Nazr Mohammed/Ryan Hollins


Instead of adding more draft picks, Michael Jordan finally realized it was time to put some veteran leadership on the Bobcats and traded for Jason Richardson. That isn’t necessarily going to make Charlotte a playoff team anytime soon, but it at least gives the team a positive outlook for the near future.


Richardson is going to provide a nice offensive spark to a team that is all about defense, but really wasn’t much of a scoring team. Then again, considering the Bobcats were only five games out of a playoff spot despite winning just 32, it’s not unfathomable for Charlotte to at least inch closer to getting out of the lottery.


The only downside is that the rest of the teams are becoming more competitive, and the addition of Richardson might not provide the dividends that Bobcats’ management would hope for. If there’s one thing that Charlotte does have in its favor, it’s the sizable cap room that the Bobcats will have to make a trade or big free-agent acquisition next year.


If the Bobcats get another scorer like Richardson or a veteran point guard, this team is well on its way to making the playoffs for the first time in its history.




Miami Heat

Projected Depth Chart:


PG Marcus Banks/Shaun Livingston

SG Dwayne Wade/Daequan Cook/Yakhouba Diawara

SF Shawn Marion/James Jones/Dorell Wright

PF Michael Beasley/Udonis Haslem

C Mark Blount/Jamaal Magloire


The Heat have fallen quite a bit since their glory days as a championship team. Granted, there is still quite a bit of talent with Shawn Marion and a healed Dwayne Wade along with rookie Michael Beasley.


The problem is that Beasley will probably make an impact right away, but he won’t make enough of an impact for the Heat to dominate the Eastern Conference—and Marion is unhappy in Miami. The real question for the Heat will be how effective Wade can be without having Shaq around as the team leader.


Given his performance this summer at the Olympics, the answer should be very effective, but the Heat won only 15 games last year. If Wade can at least help Miami double that number, he should be considered for MVP—although it’s doubtful that anyone missing the playoffs could make a strong case for winning that award.




Orlando Magic

Projected Depth Chart:


PG Jameer Nelson/Anthony Johnson

SG Mickael Pietrus/J.J. Redick

SF Hedo Turkoglu/Keith Bogans

PF Rashard Lewis/Tony Battie/Brian Cook

C Dwight Howard/Adonal Foyle/Marcin Gortat


The way it works in the Southeast is that there is the Orlando Magic, and then there’s everyone else. What last year’s playoffs indicated was that this division really has no relevance to a relatively weak Eastern Conference.


The Magic rolled through the young and inexperienced Toronto Raptors, who were probably just happy to be there, before the more experienced Detroit Pistons bounced Orlando in the very next round.


Orlando has proven that they can be a very good team in the regular season, but is nowhere near being a good team in the playoffs. Eventually, Dwight Howard is going to lead the Magic into that next step—but for now, I would expect similar results from them in 2009.



Washington Wizards

Projected Depth Chart:


PG Antonio Daniels/Juan Dixon/Dee Brown

SG DeShawn Stevenson/Nick Young

SF Caron Butler/Dominic McGuire

PF Antawn Jamison/Darius Songalia

C Etan Thomas/Andray Blatche


The Washington Wizards’ roster looks severely depleted with Gilbert Arenas out for at least the first month of the season. If Arenas can make a comeback at full strength, their prospects for making the playoffs are significantly more substantial than without him.


Much of the Wizards team is the same from their past few playoff runs—but that is also a problem, since they have struggled in trying to get to the Conference Finals. Barring any disastrous news regarding the Arenas injury, they should at least make the playoffs, but at some point Washington will have to do more than that.


Washington is currently dealing with an interesting position—not quite good enough to be on top of the Eastern Conference, yet knowing they can make the playoffs when healthy. Yet there are only so many years that you can hold a team together before needing to make a change.


This is the year where the roster needs to be shaken up in some way.