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NBA Preview Part 3: Southeast Division

October 18, 2010

NBA preview continues with part 3 and the Southeast Division.

1)  Orlando Magic
Last Year: 59-23, lost in Eastern Conference Finals
Additions: Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson,
Subtractions: Matt Barnes

The Magic have been a Top 4 team in the NBA the past two seasons and for the foreseeable will a team to contend with, but will they ever have what it takes to get over the hump?  They dominated the last part of last season, winning 27 of their last 34 games and dominating the first two rounds of the playoffs against Charlotte and Atlanta.  But if a team has a big man that can defend Dwight Howard one on one,  like Boston could with Kendrick Perkins, then the offense crumbles around Howard.  Howard is not offensively skilled enough at this point in his career to carry a team on his shoulders unless he can just overpower the opposing front line. If he can't demand a double team, the Magic have a hard time scoring against the elite.  The defense will always be elite with Howard guarding the rim and Stan Van Gundy's ability to coach defense.  But until Howard develops an offensive repertoire beyond dunking, the Magic will have a difficult time getting over the hump, espeically with aging players like Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis on the perimeter. Howard is still young, but he is also entering his seventh season.  Have we seen the best he can offer on offense?
Prediction: 54-28, 4th place

2)  Atlanta Hawks
Last Year: 53-29, 1st round exit
They virtually have the same team as last season, no major additions or subtractions

The Atlanta Hawks are basically in the same position the Wizards were two years ago.  The Hawks have maxed out what they can get out of this roster and were put in a terrible position to sign their top player Joe Johnson (Gilbert Arenas) in order to show that the Hawks were serious about winning, even if it would cripple the franchise financially long-term. In what was easily the worst contract this offseason, the Hawks signed a good player to max money, with Johnson receiving 124 million in a 6 year deal (Gilbert Arenas received an extension worth 6 years 111 million). The Hawks have a solid core of good players, but lack the superstar power needed to a serious threat in a revamped Eastern Conference, with little flexibility to improve the team in the future.  They also had everything go right injury wise last year, and that is bound to not happen this season.  They won't win as many as this year in reaching the playoffs, and they will lose in the first round.
Prediction: 47-35 6th place

3)  Miami Heat
Last Year: 47-35, 1st round exit
Additions: Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Eddie House
Subtractions: Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal, Quentin Richardson, Daquan Cook, Dorell Wright

Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the productive offseason the Miami Heat had.  They have 3 of the top 10 best players in the NBA on one team. They will be unstoppable on offense in both the half court and in transition.  But their success is not guaranteed like most everyone predicts.  They still don't know who is playing center from the litter of veterans they signed in the offseason and a series against the Magic and Dwight Howard will pose quite the mismatch.  And as the preseason has already shown injuries to any of the Big 3 could slow down this juggernaut.  With that said, I expect the Heat to get the number 1 seed and to win the Eastern Conference.  They won't challenge for 70 wins because they will rest their players once they lock up a one seed, but 60 wins or more seems likely.
Prediction: 65-17 1st place 

4)  Charlotte Bobcats
Last Year: 44-38, 1st round exit
Additions: Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown, Sherron Collins
Subtractions: Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Larry Hughes

I don't really know how this flawed lineup made the playoffs last year, which is a testament to Larry Brown's ability to get the best out of his players.  But the roster moves made by Michael Jordan and Brown over the offseason leaves me scratching my head and the team much worse off .  They decided to part ways with Ray Felton for monetary reasons, but did not find a viable replacement and will have either Shaun Livingston or DJ Augustin as the starting point guard.  They traded Tyson Chandler for nothing but cap relief from the luxury tax, leaving them with Nazr Mohammad and DeSagana Diop at center.  They have two decent scoring options in Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, one promising young player in Tyrus Thomas, an overweight Boris Diaw, and then huge question marks.  Not good.  They don't make the playoffs this year.
Prediction: 36-46

5)  Washington Wizards
Last Year: 26-56
Additions: John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian
Subtractions: Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Quinton Ross

This is my surprise team in the Eastern Conference.  I will simply give my three reasons for why they make the playoffs this year.

1)  Youth Movement. Out with the old, in with the new. John Wall will provide off the charts athleticism at the point guard position with the ability to blow by defenders and create easy opportunities for teammates inside and out.  Andray Blatche had his best numbers last season with 15 and 6 in 27 minutes per game, displaying huge progress as a scorer. JaVale McGee is a young and improving center that will be relied on heavily for his shot blocking, rebounding, and ability to finish around the rim.

2)  Focus:  From the death of Abe Pollin and subsequent ownership change, to Gilbert's legal issues, to the trading of Jamison, Haywood, and Butler, there were huge distractions throughout last season where the team was answering more questions about news off the court than the play on the court.  It was a huge burden and it showed with a 26 win season.  With a new season comes the breath of fresh air of the John Wall era. With the maturity gained by the young players on last year's team, the influx of new players, and a coach who will be able to coach and not babysit, you will see a more focused Wizard team with more consistent energy and effort each and every game.

3)  Eastern Conference.  Even though the Heat and the Bulls got stronger, they were already playoff teams last year.  After the Heat, Celtics, Magic, and Bulls, the rest of the east is pretty wide open.  The Cavs, Bobcats, and Raptors will be much worse. Only the Knicks and the Nets are going to be leaps and bounds better.  The last 2-3 spots have the potential to be filled by the unexpected.
Prediction: 42-40 7th place 1st round exit


Anonymous said...

I thought Division winners were only guaranteed a top 4 seed, and in this predicted W/L scenario the Bulls would be 4th seed, Boston 3rd Seed, the Magic 2nd seed and the Heat in 1st?

October 18, 2010 at 1:25 PM
Russ said...

You might be right, I just assumed that the division winners were guaranteed the top 3 spots. My mistake if that your scenario is correct.

October 18, 2010 at 3:46 PM
Teach said...

The NBA used to give the division winners the top three seeds, but that was before the 06-07 season. A team that does not win their division can now be seeded as high as #2, but it is a recent development.

October 18, 2010 at 5:45 PM
Teach said...

I like the Hawks comparison to the Wiz of a few years ago. I think the difference is that the Hawks have more talent at more positions and are much more balanced. They could make the second round with the right first round match up.

October 18, 2010 at 5:50 PM
Deckfight said...

6th seed for the hawks sounds right. i don't really see anybody but Horford really pumping in the energy. i'm afraid childress on PHX will further show that sticking w/ Marvin Williams is ridiculous....

October 20, 2010 at 10:14 PM
Teach said...

oh, marvin, how you've tormented me/ us/ everyone

October 20, 2010 at 11:02 PM
Teach said...

Did anyone else see the Quentin Richardson quote about the Heat? I saw it in SI today--"F@#K the Heat with all due respect."

October 23, 2010 at 11:57 PM
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