The Southeast Division features the Miami Heat along with Dwight Howard and the highly talented Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Unfortunately, they also are saddled with the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards who provide a lot of extra easy wins for their entire conference.
The big question here is how much the Heat learned from their disappointing NBA Finals loss and how long will Otis Smith play chicken with Dwight Howard. We'll predict the first but not the second.
Miami is out of excuses for not winning. They had a full year together and upgraded their roster with the addition of Shane Battier and will have a full season with Udonis Haslem (barring another injury). They brought back James Jones and they could even get productive minutes from second-year big Dexter Pittman. But what really matters is how much LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh learned from last season's circus. This time around they won't be the shiny new team in the.. SQUIRREL!
Prediction: 50-16, 1st place Southeast Division
The Hawks are a funny team. They are really bad and yet seem to keep on winning. That's what talent in the NBA will do for you and playing in the East doesn't hurt either. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and yes, even Marvin Williams are good enough to win a lot of regular season games. They've proven, however, not to have enough good role players to go much further and will likely miss Jamal Crawford who went to the Trail Blazers unless of course, Tracy McGrady has perfected the Hot Tub Time Machine.
Prediction: 41-25, 2nd place Southeast Division
It's pretty unclear what the Orlando Magic are trying to do other than hold on to Dwight Howard as if their lives depended on it. They downgraded from Brandon Bass to Glen Davis and still have no depth to speak of behind Dwight unless Daniel Orton turns out to be a real NBA player. Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson will do some nice things at times and J.J. Redick has made himself into a decent option off the bench. But they are still saddled with Hedo Turkoglu's contract and even though they amnestied Gilbert Arenas they have to write him a paycheck every two weeks which must be the most painful thing anyone in an NBA front office anywhere is tasked with.
Prediction: 40-26, 3rd place Southeast Division
Is this the year the Wizards young talent finally shows signs of improvement? They had better. John Wall is not going to put up with losing for long which means JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche better get their heads straight. Maybe the addition of Ronny Turiaf will help with that. The Wiz kept gunner Nick Young and added rookie Jan Vesely but mostly they just got older which is bad for the Suns, Celtics and Spurs but good for Washington.
Prediction: 27-39, 4th place Southeast Division
We said previously the Toronto Raptors might have the worst roster in the NBA but that was before we reviewed this one. The Bobcats don't have anything approaching a star on their team unless Kemba Walker is one of the best rookies ever to play the game. We're excited that Bismack Biyombo bought his way out of Spain but when the most skilled player in your front court is Boris Diaw and your coach says the offense will run through Corey Maggette you know there's a long season of losing ahead. Good thing the 2012 NBA Draft looks like fun.
Prediction: 12-54, 5th place Southeast Division