Our NBA preview continues with the Southeast Division. And what better place to start things off than in Club Bosh itself.
The Miami Heat are coming off the first championship of the "Big 3" or whatever you want to call it era. And they are doing so because LeBron finally realized he is the best player in the world and nobody can stop him. With a newfound comfort playing in the post, the "When will he win?" monkey off his back, and the arrival of Jesus Shuttlesworth and the potentially still good Rashard Lewis, the Heat should expect another strong season. A lot will depend on how DWades knees hold up, and keeping Bosh in the gym and out of the club, but I think it's a safe bet to say that, come June, Dexter Pittman will be looking to double his ring collection. Figure on the Heat going somewhere in the neighborhood of 63-19 and be in the hunt for the top record in the league. They should run away with the Southeast.
Next up, the Atlanta Hawks, who accomplished a minor miracle and got Joe Johnson's contract off their books, which was a good move for everyone involved. It got Brooklyn some more star power, but more importantly helped free up some touches on the Hawks. A combo of Josh Smith and Al Horford is certainly solid, and Jeff Teague & Kyle Korver will continue to be good role players. But their level of impact will depend on how Josh Smith handles being the number 1 option. He's an extremely good player, and 19ppg & 10rpg isn't anything to sneeze at. But he still feels the need to jack up too many 3's, and a career .278 average says all that needs to be said there. The Hawks should be the same as always - a midlevel seed that doesn't make much noise in the playoffs.
Here's where things get a little trickier. I really want to see the Wizards put something together and sneak into the 8 seed. John Wall will be out for the first month, but I am hoping last season's player shakeup and coaching change will benefit Wall, who hasn't quite reached the huge potential he has. Adding Ariza, Okafor and Nene, plus new guy Bradley Beal, gives the Wiz a good nucleus. But their success will depend on Wall. And odds are, they are on the outside looking in come playoffs.
On the other hand, we have the new-look scrap heap that is the Orlando Magic. After all their posturing and all Dwight's whining, they ended up with probably as bad a trade as they could have made. With Glen "Don't Call Me Big Baby" Davis leading the line, I see Orlando probably in the 8th seed, and as one of the most uninteresting teams in basketball.
And bringing up the rear are the Charlotte Bobcats, fresh off the worst season in NBA history. Ever. By any team. With their fearless leader at the helm, the Bobcats will rise from the basement of futility and shock everyone by making a strong playoff push! Just kidding, they won't do a damn thing. I like MKG, but there's no reason to believe they'll be a substantially better team than last year. The draft is a real bitch, huh? Their record will improve, because it's really, really hard to be any worse. But I still see them in the bottom of the League. Hopefully Kemba Walker will shape up a little bit at least.