Upcoming 2011-12 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

EASTERN CONFERENCE – SOUTHEAST

MIAMI HEAT

Last Season: 58-24,  Division Champions, 2nd Overall in East, Eastern Conference Champions,  Lost to Dallas in NBA Finals

Key Losses: Mike Bibby, Jamaal Magloire, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (retired)

Key Additions: Shane Battier, Eddy Curry, Mario Chalmers (resigned), Juwan Howard (resigned), James Jones (resigned), Norris Cole (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – Mario Chalmers, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony; Key Reserves – Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Eddie House, James Jones, Norris Cole, Juwan Howard

In the NBA Finals last season, Miami’s front line was exposed especially on the defensive end.   Even though both Ilgauskas and Magloire didn’t really do anything when on the floor, they will be missed.  Although slow, they were two big bodies to play inside.  They lost both of these guys during the offseason and basically replaced them with Shane Battier and Eddy Curry.  Battier will be a terrific fit for Miami backing up LeBron.  He will get a lot of those corner threes that he loves.  Eddy Curry on the other hand is another story.  Give him props for trying to make a comeback but his weight, speed, and poor conditioning will still limit his playing time.  He will be great for using up 6 fouls in the fourth quarter though.  Also, BREAKING NEWS, Juwan Howard is still playing!

Miami is capable of putting together that Super Team but it will obviously rest on the shoulders of the big three.  The Heat don’t have too many flaws but there biggest and most important will be who’s the go-to-guy on this team between LeBron and Dwayne Wade.  This doesn’t mean one of these guys should average 30pts and the other only 18.  Both can and will still put up huge numbers and that’s fine but it has to be identified who’s Batman and who’s Robin.  Someone has to defer.  The obvious choice for Batman is D. Wade.  Compared to LeBron, Wade has the ability to do more and is better scorer.  Most importantly Wade has that killer instinct that LeBron sorely lacks.  Just take a look at LeBron’s 4th Qtr play in the NBA Finals last year.

Obviously, even though it’s extremely annoying, the big three prima donnas will be the main focus this year.  This actually is unfair to the teammates because this year’s play of Battier and Udonis Haslem will go unnoticed.  Expect Battier to put up surprising numbers.  Shoot, it would not be a shock if he wins the 3pt Shootout this year. Haslem should have a solid year after basically missing the whole year last year (except playoffs).  In fact, he should be the real MVP of this team when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: 47-19, Division Champions, 2nd Overall in East, Championship Contenders

ORLANDO MAGIC

Last Season: 53-29, 2nd in Division, 4th Overall in East, Lost to Atlanta in 1st Round

Key Losses: Brandon Bass, Gilbert Arenas

Key Additions: Glen Davis, Von Wafer, Jason Richardson (resigned), Earl Clark (resigned), Justin Harper (resigned)

Main Rotation: Starters – Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Dwight Howard; Key Reserves – Chris Duhon, J.J. Reddick, Quentin Richardson, Earl Clark, Von Wafer, Ryan Anderson

So the Magic will be back with Dwight Howard manning the middle – for now at least.  Who did they bring in to entice Howard to want to be a Magic forever?  Glen “Big Baby” Davis.  That’s right, Superman is staying now!  Although Davis is more skilled than Brandon Bass at the four, this won’t be enough for Howard.  Davis brings his weight problem but makes up for it with his ability to score and hit timely shots. The Magic also let Gilbert Arenas go after his poor play last year.  The “Agent Zero” project was detrimental to the Magic’s play last season as they had to try to work him into the rotation.

The Orlando front office needs to everything they can to show Howard there not taking a step back from their trip to the NBA Finals a few years ago. The Orlando fans need to show him how much they love and appreciate the big man.  Dwight wants to play with another superstar so the Magic need to find a way to entice a third team to be part of a trade for Deron Williams.  On paper this team looks like a contender but in reality will take quite a step back this year.  Leadership will be sorely lacking this year.  One would think this should fall on the shoulders of Superman but what type of leader demands to be traded?  So who will step up and be the one to push the team to compete this season? There really isn’t that competitive driven personality on this team at all.

If there’s truly someone to blame for the demise of the Orlando Magic, it should be Gilbert Arenas.  His time with the Magic last season made the team worse as they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.  It ultimately backfired since it made Howard realize this team was not headed in the right direction any longer.  Expect some fans to have a heart attack from all this drama as they realize this will be the summer of 1996 all over again but in the winter.

Prediction: 38-28, 3rd in Division, 7th Overall in East, Playoff Contender

ATLANTA HAWKS

Last Season: 44-38, 3rd in Division, 5th Overall in East, Lost to Chicago in East Semis

Key Losses: Jamal Crawford, Damien Wilkins

Key Additions: Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmonovic, Jason Collins (resigned), Keith Benson (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – Kirk Hinrich, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford; Key Reserves – Jeff Teague, Jerry Stackhouse, Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmonovic, Zaza Pachiulia, Jason Collins

Losing Jamal Crawford is going to be detrimental to this team.  He was the guy you could count on off the bench as well as another clutch performer.  Atlanta is now going to count on the likes of Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, and Vladimir Radmonovic to fill the scoring void from the bench.  Although, McGrady showed he still could play last year in Detroit, he is nowhere near the offensive threat he used to be.  For Stackhouse, well, is he going to be able to stand straight up after taking a free-throw?  Radmonovic – come on, did anyone know he was still in the NBA?

The bright side is this team still has one of the best shooting guards in the league in Joe Johnson.  It’s amazing how much this guy has given up from a career boosting perspective.  Imagine if he was playing in a more prime time city. He’d be more marketable but he chose the smaller market in 2005.  The starting five is pretty damn solid but they need to find a way to move Josh Smith to bring in another big man to play along side of Al Horford or a better point guard to replace Jeff Teague.   As good as he is, Horford is more suited to play the power forward spot.  Now Smith is talented but he’s going to need to find a way to better his game below the rim as his athleticism and skills have already peaked.

What’s weird is Atlanta’s got one of the best all-star shooting guards in the league.  They have an all-star big man in Al Horford.  Lastly, Josh Smith can still throw it down and occasionally make the play of the week.  However, why isn’t this team more recognized?  Atlanta’s not that bad of city.  Come on now, didn’t it produce rappers such as Ludacris, Lil Jon, and Young Jeezy?

Prediction: 33-33, 3rd in Division, 9th Overall in East, Draft Lottery-bound

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Last Season: 23-59, Last in Division, 13th Overall in East, Missed playoffs

Key Losses: Josh Howard

Key Additions: Roger Mason Jr, Ronny Turiaf, Nick Young (resigned), Maurice Evans (resigned), Jan Vesely (draft), Chris Singleton (draft), Shelvin Mack (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – John Wall, Nick Young, Maurice Evans, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee; Key Reserves – Rashard Lewis, Ronny Turiaf, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford, Roger Mason Jr

The Bullets…whoa, sorry about that…need to be a little more PC.  Wait, how can one be, take a look at their new jerseys.  How many times will that mistake be made this year?  Anyways, the “Wizards” kept their young nucleus in tact after resigning Nick Young.  The best part is they brought in three more young rookies to add to the mix – high-flying 6th overall pick Jan Vesely, defensive stopper Chris Singleton, and tough-minded Shelvin Mack.  All three will come in and be the main guys off the bench even over Rashard Lewis who will gladly sit on the bench making his $20 million.

The front court duo of Blatche and McGee is on the rise.  These guys are long and athletic.  Now add Vesely to that front court and you now have three lengthy guys 6’11” or taller.  The front court will need to get nastier though in order to compete with the tougher front lines such as New York, Lakers, Boston, and Chicago.  Notice how all those teams are championship contenders.  Although, still a very young team under the lead of their franchise player John Wall, the future looks bright for this team.  Head coach Flip Saunders has always been known for his creativity on the offensive end.  He will have a lot of plays to choose from with the athleticism this team has.  The team’s defense will vastly improve as they have the potential to lead the league in steals, blocks, and forced turnovers.

The Wizards will be fun to watch.  With Wall running the point and having the opportunity to throw it up to McGee, Blatche, and probably the most exciting of the three – Vesely; the Wizards should make a bunch of ESPN highlight reels.  Again, keep an eye out for Jan Vesely and his high-flying dunks.  This guy will be the favorite to win the slam dunk contest this year.

Predictions: 30-36, 4th in Division, 10th Overall in East, Draft Lottery-bound

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Last Season: 34-48, 4th in Division, 10th Overall in East, Missed playoffs

Key Losses: Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, Dominic McGuire, Kwame Brown

Key Additions: Corey Maggette, Byron Mullens, Reggie Williams, Melvin Ely, Derrick Brown, Bismack Biyombo (draft), Kemba Walker (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – D.J. Augustin, Kemba Walker, Corey Maggette, Tyrus Thomas, DeSagana Diop; Key Reserves – Corey Maggette, Boris Diaw, Melvin Ely, Bismack Biyombo, Matt Carroll, Derrick Brown

Owner Michael Jordan must’ve seen talent that he could build the franchise around during the summer’s NBA draft when the team selected lottery picks Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker.  There’s no doubt Walker will be able to score with ease in the league.  He is very similar to a Ben Gordon.  The key will be Biyombo though.  At 19, this guy is freakishly athletic and will be counted on to rebound and block shots.  Can he be a game changer with his defense.  The Bobcats hope to have a cross between Ben Wallace and pre-tattoo Dennis Rodman.  In fact, that would be great for the NBA to see a player with Big Ben and the Worm’s skill set.  At this point, Biyombo is a project but sky’s the limit on his potential.

Taking a look at what this team has to offer, the Bobcats will not be good at all. Newcomer Corey Maggette, although 31, is the only safe position right now but again he’s 31 and declining.  The story will come from the backcourt position.  Young point guard D.J. Augustin being paired up with Walker in the backcourt will be something to keep an eye out for.  Both are talented guards but don’t really compliment each other.  Both maximize their talents when the ball is in their hands so it’ll be interesting to see how they play off one another.  Teams with bigger guards will definitely take advantage of both Augustin and Walker in the post and if this team was good defensively all around, then that wouldn’t matter.

Is Kemba Walker a point or a two guard?  That’s the question that needs to be answered.  Normally tweeners like Walker don’t put up superstar numbers in the NBA with the exception of Allen Iverson.  In order to utilize the talent he has, Walker should play the two in order to thrive.  Other than this, Charlotte should be a pretty boring team to follow unless Biyombo becomes what Jordan thinks he can be.  That won’t happen this year at least; so why don’t we sit back and reminisce about the Adam Morrison era in Charlotte.

Prediction: 16-50, 5th in Division, 13th Overall in East, Draft Lottery-bound

EASTERN CONFERENCE SUMMARY

1.) Chicago
2.) Miami
3.) New York
4.) Boston
5.) Milwaukee
6.) Indiana
7.) Orland0
8.) Philadelphia

9.) Atlanta
10.) Washington
11.) Detroit
12.) Toronto
13.) Charlotte
14.) Cleveland
15.) New Jersey

Stay tuned for: Western Conference – Northwest Division 

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