NBA Southeast Division Preview
The NBA's Southeast Division features the offensively-blessed Washington Wizards, the solid Orlando Magic, the young Charlotte Bobcats, the ever-hopeful Atlanta Hawks, and the still-proud Miami Heat. None are true championship contenders, though the Heat would probably argue otherwise.
BEST SOUTHEAST DIVISION PLAYERS
Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Josh Smith, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Shaquille O'Neal, Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Udonis Haslem
INSIDEHOOPS.COM'S ALL-SOUTHEAST TEAMS
Players may be used slightly of of position (within reason) to make the best possible teams:
ALL-Southeast FIRST TEAM: PG: Gilbert Arenas, SG: Dwyane Wade, SF: Rashard Lewis, PF: Antawn Jamison, C: Dwight Howard
ALL-Southeast SECOND TEAM: PG: Joe Johnson, SG: Jason Richardson, SF: Caron Butler, PF: Josh Smith, C: Shaquille O'Neal
ALL-Southeast THIRD TEAM: PG: Raymond Felton, SG: Gerald Wallace, SF: Antoine Walker, PF: Udonis Haslem, C: Emeka Okafor
INSIDEHOOPS.COM'S SOUTHEAST TEAM ONE-LINERS
Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith and Joe Johnson need rookies Acie Law and Al Horford to have an instant impact.
Charlotte Bobcats: Scorer Jason Richardson and re-signed Gerald Wallace form exciting combo.
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade's supporting cast got weaker and older this summer.
Orlando Magic: Addition of Rashard Lewis could nudge Magic past a few East squads.
Washington Wizards: An offensive powerhouse, Wizards still need to defend and get help up front.
THE SOUTHEAST TEAMS TO WATCH
No Central Division team appears to be a real championship contender. The squads here, at best, will probably be out by the end of first, maybe second round of the playoffs. But the teams are still worth watching. The Orlando combination of Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis could form a lethal inside-outside threat. But more help is needed before we can take the Magic too seriously. The Washington Wizards, when healthy, proved they can win by imitating the Phoenix Suns. On any given night Gilbert Arenas can score 30, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison 20. The team still needs better big men, and everyone on the roster needs to defend better. The Heat at this point are Dwyane Wade, a very old (but still big) Shaquille O'Neal, the hustling Udonis Haslem, and little else. The Hawks are worth watching thanks to Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, plus their rookies are interesting. The Bobcats are also worth watching thanks to the addition of Jason Richardson, who alongside Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor forms a fun core.
MORE SOUTHEAST DIVISION STORYLINES
Who should start at point guard for the Hawks? Will Acie Law get the job immediately? Will he earn it during the season? ... Which aspect of Josh Smith's game will improve next? ... Will Shelden Williams amount to anything? ... Will Joe Johnson start to show frustration if things don't turn around in Atlanta? ... Will Al Horford have an instant impact? ... Will the Hawks ownership situation resolve anytime soon? ... Can Sean May stay healthy? (This was just answered a few days ago: He's out for the season) ... Has Emeka Okafor stopped improving? ... Can the combination of Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace do big things together? ... Can Adam Morrison live up to expectations? ... ... Can Smush Parker take the Heat starting point guard spot from Jason Williams? Can J-Will regain and maintain full health? ... Can Dorell Wright earn the Heat's starting small forward job or will he just get it by default? ... Is Antoine Walker all washed up? ... Can Shaquille O'Neal still play? ... Will Jameer Nelson raise his game and shut people up who think he's best suited as a backup? ... Will J.J. Redick have a real role on the Magic this season? ... Will Rashard Lewis even come close to earning the money Orlando is paying him? ... Will the inside-outside combo of Lewis and Dwight Howard turn the Magic into an East powerhouse? ... Can all three Wizards stars all stay healthy? ... Will the Wizards find a center worthy of starting? ... Will Andray Blatche develop into a reliable player? ... Will Nick Young be a reliable force off the bench for Washington?
PREDICTED ORDER OF SOUTHEAST DIVISION FINISH
1) Washington Wizards: The first team to 100 usually wins. Score, score, score.
2) Orlando Magic: Could win the division and should be close to Washington if Lewis-Howard thrive.
3) Miami Heat: Don't count them completely out. The Heat still have Dwyane Wade, chemistry and experienced players.
4) Charlotte Bobcats: Talented youngsters plus Jason Richardson will be fun and could surprise.
5) Atlanta Hawks: Talented rookies plus Josh Smith and Joe Johnson provides reason for long-awaited optimism in Atlanta.