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2012-13 NBA Season Preview: Southeast Division

Michael Huettner |
October 23, 2012 | 12:30 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are back, so expect bit things again from the Heat (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are back, so expect bit things again from the Heat (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Also read Neon Tommy's NBA Previews for the Atlantic, Central, and Southwest Divisions.

The Southeast division has the best team in the NBA, the worst team in the NBA, and everything in between.  We’ll review everything you need to know about the division for the upcoming season.  Here we go:

Division Predictions

1st- Miami Heat

With all the talk going on about the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, the Heat have gone a bit under the radar. Raise your hand if you thought that was possible.

The Lakers may have added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, but the Heat are still the best team in the NBA and the favorites to repeat as champions. It’s scary to think that the Heat has a chance to be (and should be) even better than last year.  

The acquisitions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis will make their offense virtually unstoppable. With the way LeBron James and Dwayne Wade attack the basket, Ray Allen will get more open looks then he’s had his entire career. If Mike Miller can make seven three-point shots in the NBA Finals with his back falling apart, then who knows what the greatest three-point shooter of all-time can do.  

The Heat didn’t sign any big men to solidify their thin frontcourt, but Erik Spoelstra realized last season that it’s not an issue. No one can keep up with their version of “small-ball,” with LeBron moving to power forward.  His strategy to keep his 5 best guys on the court, regardless of position, proved to be their most effective lineup.

Look for the Heat to build on what they accomplished last season and for LeBron to continue his run as the game's best player. Miami should have no trouble getting through the East and securing a spot in the Finals for a 3rd straight year.   

John Wall and Josh Smith will both need to step up in order to give their teams a shot at a playoff berth (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
John Wall and Josh Smith will both need to step up in order to give their teams a shot at a playoff berth (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
2nd- Atlanta Hawks

While the Hawks made a smart move in the offseason by dumping what was left of Joe Johnson’s absurd $120 million contract, they might not be better in the short term.  Johnson may have been overpaid, but he is still a six-time All-Star that will be hard to replace.

Atlanta still did make some nice moves to immediately improve their team, picking up Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson, and trading for Devin Harris.  Lou Williams was the 76ers' leading scorer last year and should help with the loss of Joe Johnson’s offense. The Hawks should also see improvement in their already-solid outside shooting with the acquisitions of Morrow and Korver, both of whom are shooting over 41% from beyond the arc for their careers.   

The area where the Hawks should see a decline is on the defensive side of the ball.  Atlanta was a top-six defensive team last year, but will be significantly smaller on the wings this season. The Hawks will struggle to contain the bigger guards in the league.  

Many people are expecting there to be an open playoff spot with the Hawks losing Joe Johnson, but expect them to be right back in the mix this season. Atlanta still has one of the best frontcourts in the league with Josh Smith and Al Horford. If you’re able to put solid pieces around a foundation as strong as these two, then you’re in a good spot. Expect the Hawks to be in the playoffs for the 6th straight year.

3rd- Washington Wizards 

If not for starting the year without John Wall and possibly Nene, the Wizards would have a very good shot to challenge the Hawks for second in the division, but a month-long stretch without their star will make it hard for the squad to sneak into the playoffs.

With that being said, Washington is definitely a team on the rise. Getting rid of JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche will make for a more mature locker room that is focused on winning. Wall should have his best year yet as he enters his third season in the league, and establish himself as a legitimate star in the league. Pair him up with the 3rd overall pick of this June's draft, Bradley Beal, and it looks as if the Wizards have their backcourt set for the future.

Adding veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor will help shore up a defense that was 20th in the league last year; but their issues will come on the offensive end, as it did last year. They were close near the bottom of the NBA offensively last year and will struggle again early in the year without Wall creating open looks.

The Wizards show a lot of promise and have the potential to be a very good team in the near future. Other guys will need to step up early in the year to make up for Wall’s absence. The Wizards have a chance of sliding into the playoff picture if young guys like Beal, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin show their potential.  

After trading away Dwight Howard, Arron Afflalo is now the face of the Magic. Yikes. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
After trading away Dwight Howard, Arron Afflalo is now the face of the Magic. Yikes. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
4th- Orlando Magic

The Magic are clearly in a rebuilding year, having traded away their superstar in Dwight Howard in the offseason. Orlando has some solid pieces to build around, but it will be tough to be a contender with Glen “Big Baby” Davis as your leading scorer.  

The Magic were a top-seven defensive team last season, but expect to see a big decline with the absence of Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. The Magic just don’t have the talent to be a playoff team again this year. Howard may have caused a lot of drama in Orlando, but Magic fans might miss the “Dwightmare” after watching this team’s struggles.  

The Magic have some solid players in Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and JJ Redick, but GM Rob Hennigan never planned on being a contender this season after trading away Dwight.  His plan is to build the team through the draft, and they will start this offseason with a nice lottery pick. 

5th- Charlotte Bobcats 

The Magic may be bad, but at least they aren’t the Charlotte Bobcats. The good thing for the Bobcats is that they have nowhere to go but up after last season. The team finished last season with the lowest winning percentage (.106) in NBA history, yet still missed out on the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.  

However, 2nd overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will definitely be a spark for this team. He still has some holes in his game, but he’s a winner. His team has won championships wherever he’s gone (high school, AAU, and college). He’s extremely athletic with a ridiculously high competitive drive, and never stops working. "MKG" is the kind of player the Bobcats need to get them on track to winning.  

Picking up Ramon Sessions will improve their offense and should help develop Kemba Walker as a point guard. Walker and Bismack Biyombo should each show a rise in productivity entering their 2nd NBA seasons.  

The Bobcats have talented, young guys that show promise for the future. Charlotte will most likely end up in the lottery once again, but it finally looks as if they are on track to becoming a successful team.   

John Wall could be poised for a breakout year (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
John Wall could be poised for a breakout year (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Other Predictions 

Division MVP: LeBron James

LeBron James is simply the best player on the planet.  The haters out there need to stop and appreciate everything he’s doing right now.  The odds are you will never see a player as great as LeBron again in your lifetime.  He is probably the best all-around defensive player in the league and virtually unguardable when attacking the rim. He’s in his prime right now, so sit back and enjoy watching greatness.  

Rookie of the Year: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 

Kidd-Gilchrist is definitely the best rookie in the division for all the reasons I mentioned above.  Bradley Beal is really the only other guy that could challenge him for this spot.  MKG will instantly be the best player on his team, something you can’t say for Beal.  MKG will get more opportunities, which should translate into bigger and better numbers.

Player to Watch: John Wall 

I expect this to be a big year for John Wall, finally taking over as the leader of the Wizards. The Wizards will only go as far as Wall takes them, and his production is the most important of any other player to his team’s success. If we see his numbers stay around what he’s done so far in his first two seasons, then the Wizards will once again be a below average team. But if Wall plays up to his full potential, then this is the year that he will breakthrough as a superstar in the NBA and lead his team to the playoffs.

Reach Staff Writer Michael Huettner here.



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