Season Preview: Southeast Division
The NBA season tips off next week.
The entirety of an NBA season – the standard 82 plus the rigors of the postseason – isn’t something that’s easily predicted. But I figure before they start playing the games that matter, I should share my thoughts with you on who will land where in the standings. I’ll break it down division by division, giving my own outlook on things.
Even though I’ll use the word often, don’t consider these ‘predictions’, because honestly the idea of ‘predicting’ anything is ridiculous. These are just my own opinions on each division. Feel free to agree, disagree, comment, and challenge.
Today I’ll be taking a look at the Southeast division.
1 – Orlando Magic
This division is closer than people may realize. In a division with that one dominant team, you would never find the Magic in this position. In the NBA’s Southeast division, however, these guys have a shot.
The acquisition of Rashard Lewis was huge. Before Lewis the Magic were essentially Dwight Howard and bunch of other half way decent pieces. Lewis brings that second, and even first, offensive option, a guy who can light it up and take over games offensively. Couple that with Dwight Howard, who is quickly becoming the best center in the East (if not the whole damn league), and you have an impressive duo to lead your squad. And we haven’t touched on Jameer Nelson either.
I’m not saying the Magic are going on any kind of deep postseason run, but they are in a division where they can make some noise, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
2 – Washington Wizards
Unfortunately last season ended in a mess of injuries for Washington, entirely squashing their chances in the playoffs and causing a lot of people to subsequently forget just how good this team is when they’re healthy. You know those Cleveland guys who went to the Finals last season? Yeah, well when the Wizards are healthy, they tend to give those guys a real run for their money.
The Wizards have a reliable core of players who can put the ball in the basket, and unless they’re hit with another improbable crippling wave of injuries, they’re going to be a high scoring and impressive team this season. You may not like to hear this, but Gilbert Arenas can take over a game just as well as those superstars in Cleveland and Miami, you just don’t see GA rocking his shit on ESPN half as much. The other crucial difference is Arenas actually has plenty of offensive help.
I don’t know about their defense, and at some point their lack of big men who are worth a shit will hurt them, but they should be in for a pretty nice season.
3 – Miami Heat
Wait a minute, how long ago did the Heat win a title? Yeah, it feels that long.
For anyone citing ’06 as a reason why I shouldn’t be ‘doubting’ this year’s Heat – stop it. The 2006 title run Heat aren’t coming back, they are not a championship team, and they won’t be for some time. Those days are gone, and no, signing Penny Hardaway is not enough to bring them back.
The Heat might surprise me, they might be healthy long enough to form some cohesion and get their shit together, but I doubt it. I know there’s a bunch of you out there using the “when they’re healthy” excuse to justify last season’s lack of success, and your optimistic outlook on this season, but that’s just it, this team is never really healthy. Dwyane Wade isn’t healthy now, and he won’t be when the season starts. He’ll undoubtedly rush himself back to soon after Shaq gets hurt trying to carry the load, and then Wade will get hurt again. It’s ridiculous, and quite frankly I’m not going to say I’m expecting great things from this team and get let down because of injuries. At this point injuries have to be expected.
And you know what else? Even when this team is healthy, they still aren’t that good.
4 – Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta is actually an overlooked team in the East. Not to say they haven’t be terrible in recent years, but keeping logic in mind, and ignoring history, this is a team with no shortage of talent and athleticism. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford – all these cats can play.
Granted, I don’t expect too much from the Hawks; at best they make a push at a low playoff spot, but that still doesn’t mean you should sleep on the potential of this young team.
5 – Charlotte Bobcats
At some point the expansion team excuse has to get thrown out the window. Consider it tossed. This team has shown some potential, and they do have a nice core of young players to work with, but eventually we need to see something of real merit. Some real progress has to come this year or I’ll have found myself a new punching bag.
Adding Jason Richardson really brings a lot to their team. With that added scorer, you take a look at the Bobcats lineup, and it really isn’t all that bad. That’s what I’m griping at, there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be better than they are. Time to put up or shut up, Bobcats.