Culture of Hoops

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Southeast Division

Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors | Division Preview 1 and 2
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Bobcats | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview
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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh proved they could be champions


Zach Oliver: The obvious answer to this one is LeBron James. However, I believe that the Miami Heat can win without LeBron and that the Most Valuable Player should be the one that means the most to his team. That said, I’ll go with John Wall. The Washington Wizards struggled mightily without him last season, while nearly breaking the .500 mark with him in the lineup. He just got paid, and some people think it’s an overpay for the former No. 1 pick. I think he’s in for a big season this year and potentially his first NBA playoffs berth.

Stephen Oby, Jr.: Need it be said? The domination of LeBron James in this division has the upward scalability to apply to the Eastern Conference, the NBA and the universe. Slate him in for MVP of this division in 2015, 2016 and perhaps beyond (because, no, he’s not going anywhere).

Bryan Brandom: Because of the obviousness of this answer, why don’t we look outside the Heat locker room and at someone in line to receive the just praise he’s deserved for so long?: Al Horford. One of the more sneakily versatile bigs in the league, Horford’s managed to stay somewhat under-the-radar as the steadying presence for a once-steady Atlanta Hawks franchise. After GM Danny Ferry, Al will get a lot of the credit for a Hawks turnaround.


Oliver: I’ll go with the obvious choice here, Dwyane Wade. Wade has been hampered by lingering knee injuries over the past few seasons and his health is a big question. If he’s healthy, he could be in for a very good season. He’s getting up there in age, sooner than later he’s going to lose a step and I think that’s this season.

Oby, Jr.: Dwyane Wade is the easy target here, coming off a below-his-standards 2012-13 campaign, but his shift into a more complementary role should help offset some of that noise. Let’s instead go with Nene: 11 years, more than 700 games, and countless injuries into his career, Nene should not be counted on to start for a team in a playoff chase, and could find most of his minutes going to Trevor Booker by year’s end.

BB: Let’s Heat-dodge yet again, shall we? Al Jefferson is one of the league’s best post scorers, but scoring in proximity to the basket requires space, something Jefferson always had in spades with the Utah Jazz. Noted as a slow passer out of double-teams, he’ll struggle as defenses key on him and he forces bad passes or shots.


Oliver: Let’s head up to the ATL for this one and go with Jeff Teague. Teague is one of the more underrated point guards in the league. He’s not going to put up real flashy numbers, but he’s going to be a solid option running the offense. He just got paid this offseason, so he’ll have something to prove as well.

Oby, Jr.: With three of the division’s five teams giving heavy minutes to their respective youngsters, there’s no shortage of prospects here. This title, however, goes to Tobias Harris: after moving to the Orlando Magic in a trade that the Milwaukee Bucks will be living down for the next decade, and sliding to power forward, Harris thrived, maintaining quality production as his minutes and usage jumped. Expect more of the same.

BB: There are a few good choices here, but Bradley Beal has the potential to make the biggest jump of all. As a 19-year-old rookie, the University of Florida alum showed a lot of maturity with his game to go along with his physical gifts and sweet stroke from deep, making extra passes and showing a willingness to clean the glass. Far younger than any other potential breakthrough player in the conference, Beal will probably be the best.


Oliver: Miami Heat. They’ve won the title the last two seasons, the Eastern Conference the last three seasons and have one of the most dominating players in the history of the league on their side in LeBron James. It could get really ugly for the other teams in the division.

Oby, Jr.: The Miami Heat won the division in 2013 by 22 games. Since the switch to six divisions in 2005, prior to which such dramatic lopsidedness was exceptionally rare, only three other teams have managed to win their divisions by more than 20 games. Even the 72-win Bulls couldn’t pull it off, taking the division that year by a flat 20. This is just a long way of saying: Miami. Miami is the best team in the division.

BB: That’s a clown question, bro.


Oliver: Some would say this is a dogfight between Orlando and the Charlotte Bobcats, but I think it’s clearly the Magic. Miami is too good, and while Atlanta lost Josh Smith, some would argue they’re better without him, Washington is much improved and poised for a playoff run, Charlotte added a few pieces which should help them be better and then there’s Orlando. They didn’t do much to get better this offseason, and will be going into their second season of a rebuild. They want losses and they’ll get them in bunches this season.

Oby, Jr.: This is one the NBA’s tightest and most soul-deflating races: Charlotte Bobcats or Orlando Magic? Despite being last season’s worst team on both ends of the floor, Charlotte eked out a better record than Orlando by a single win. If going by record, given the arrival of Al Jefferson in Charlotte, the same might be expected in 2013-14. But from a cosmic perspective, discounting wins and losses and gazing instead at this as a true lover of the game, absolutely no one is worse than the Bobcats.

BB: Ahh, now that’s a meaty question! Still, the answer is the same as it’s been since the team’s inception … ladies and gentlemen, the Charlotte Bobcats! While the Magic come with their fair share of questions, they also come with gobs of potential. Players like Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo are wildly intriguing and could become special, and while Bobcats players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson are solid, we know what they are and what they’re not. And they’re not changing the franchise’s direction.


Oliver: The division is Miami’s to control for the foreseeable future. LeBron is going to continue to put up ungodly numbers and just destroy everyone in his way. Washington is a playoff team this year, the East is so weak and they’re one of the upstart teams in the league. Atlanta made quietly some very nice moves this offseason. Does it make them a playoff team? I’m not sure, but they will most likely be fighting for one of those final spots in the East. Charlotte and Orlando are in for more long seasons, but with another piece or two, could each be contending with the top three teams in that division soon.

Oby, Jr.: When the Atlanta Hawks seemed poised to bring both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard to town, an unlikely but plausible outcome, the Southeast Division was on the verge of becoming the NBA’s greatest battleground. Instead it’ll be the Association’s most lopsided division, with the Heat positioned to chase 60 wins and the remaining squads likely to lose more often than not. Everyone here appears to be biding their time and hoping like hell that James sets out to decimate some other division after 2014.

BB: Snow White and the four dwarfs. Divisions like this highlight the glaring lack of a need for divisions in the NBA. Or is that what’s fueling the fierce Bobcats-Wizards rivalry?

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