Friday , Jan , 09 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Briefing: Southeast Division

NBA Briefing: Southeast DivisionThe southeast division certainly looks like a two horse race at the top. While you have a team hovering around .500, and two teams who don’t look to have a shot at the post season. I will be keeping my eyes on Atlanta, wondering if they can compete with the Orlando Magic, who seem to have it all going on this season.

1. Orlando Magic/28-8

With the exception of Dwight Howard taking "Shaq like" fouls, things seem to keep on rolling in the land of Disney. Howard has continued to solidify his quest as becoming one of the more dominant bigs in the league, if not the most dominant. Jameer Nelson’s play at the point guard position looks finally up to par with Stan Van Gundy’s standards. Additionally, the acquisition of Mickael Pietrus and drafting of Courtney Lee has helped put Orlando on the map defensively in the Eastern Conference.

2. Atlanta Hawks/22-12

What’s the biggest cause for the Hawks new found winning ways? Was it the confidence booster of taking the NBA Champs to seven games? Is it the phenomenal scoring ability of Joe Johnson? Or perhaps Mike Bibby’s presence through his first training camp with the Hawks. You can chalk it up to all of the above. Add to this the improved shooting of Marvin Williams coupled with solid bench play from Mo Evans and Flip Murray. If the Hawks keep going at this pace, they could be looking at home court advantage for at least the first round. The Hawks have been dynamite at home this year, holding a 15-3 record.

3. Miami Heat/18-16

The dominating performance at the Olympics made Dwayne Wade’s MVP credentials somewhat of a expected entity. Mario Chalmers, the rookie who was taken 34th in the second round of the draft, has proven the pick to be a steal as his defensive etiquette and surprising shooting has earned him the starting point guard job. Fellow rookie Michael Beasley has been hearing ridiculous whispers of the word "bust", but is the team’s second leading scorer behind Wade at 13 pgg. Recently, Miami made a move that makes a Alonzo Mourning return more probable, by sending guard Shaun Livingston to Memphis for a conditional draft pick. The Heat covet Zo’s shot blocking, but would welcome his more polished offensive game as compared to Joel Anthony. All in all, Erik Spoelstra has this group heading in the right direction. I expect Dwayne Wade to continue his excellence, but the defensive consistency should dictate whether or not the Heat make the post season.

4. Charlotte Bobcats/13-23

Nobody expects much this season from the Bobcats. A young team adjusting to the style of play Larry Brown demands. Things to keep an eye on, Larry Brown’s work with point guard Raymond Felton. Brown is notoriously hard on his point guards, but it seems as if he’ll have to teach Felton a jump shot for any hopes of floor spacing. On the "future hope" front, the Bobcats have D.J. Augustine coming off the bench, who even as a rookie, possesses the quickness and knack for getting into the paint. The Bobcats may show signs of growth under Larry Brown this year, but next year should be the better barometer of where this team can go.

5. Washington Wizards/7-27

You would think having two players averaging over 20 ppg would be enough to be a playoff team. Think again. Jamison and Butler are doing all they can, while many of the role players suffer from down seasons. In all fairness, injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood should tell a lot of the story. But Washington upper management was hoping for guys like Nick Young and Deshawn Stevenson to step up and fill scoring void. They’ve done just the opposite, with Stevenson having a atrocious shooting year. The long season will be as advertised down at the Verizon Center, but Wizards fans can sure hope for a turnaround once the draft comes around.

Will Atlanta make noise in the playoffs? Can Dwight Howard push the Magic over the hump in the East? Let us know your opinion in the comments box below.