Just a few seasons back, the Southeast Division of the NBA, had some of the strongest squads in the Association. Miami, Orlando and Atlanta, have been perennial powers in the Eastern Conference; even the Charlotte Bobcats made the Playoffs, for the first time in franchise history, in the Spring of 2010. That is not the case, in the upcoming campaign, as many of the clubs are currently in a rebuilding situation.
Before the season tips off on October 30, let’s take a brief glance at the changes in the Division and evaluate the chances of each team heading into the Post Season in April:
Atlanta Hawks: I have known new Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry, since his playing days with the Cleveland Cavaliers; while I also still covered the squad for the first two seasons of Ferry being the General Manager for Cleveland. He and former head coach Mike Brown; took the club to their only appearance in the Finals in the franchise’s history in 2007, however they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four straight. The pair also helped Cleveland to the best regular season record in the Association, in their last two years with the team.
Ferry and Atlanta’s Team Owners, decided that All-Star guard Joe Johnson’s salary, was too big an impediment to keep the Hawks from reaching the next level, so they traded their star to the Brooklyn Nets. That move, however could cause the Hawks to drop to a low seed in the East, in the upcoming season, or possibly knock them out of the Post Season. Atlanta still has two very talented young cornerstones in center Al Horford and forward Josh Smith, while Jeff Teague has shown he can run an NBA offense. They also now have one of the most under rated shooting guards in the Association, in Lou Williams, who played off the bench for the Sixers in Philadelphia, but could be a starter with the Hawks.
Charlotte Bobcats: Ben Gordon had the best season of his career in the Association, when he played with Derrick Rose, in the former NBA MVP point guard’s rookie campaign. The big question in Charlotte is, whether Gordon can duplicate that chemistry with the Bobcats talented young point guard Kemba Walker. That would solidify the back-court for the B-Cats for the next few years, along with veteran Ramon Sessions, who can tutor the former Connecticut star. Rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, should be a key player as this team tries to exhume itself from the Association’s basement.
Miami Heat: Just a couple of seasons back, four out of the five teams in the Southeast Division were in the Playoffs; there is a possibility, that the Heat could be the only team from their division that will be in the Post Season next April. Will Miami make the Finals for the third straight season, or will they fall short next spring? Three factors could determine that answer; will they still have the same hunger after winning the Title last June? The other two variables, will be the health of Dwyane Wade and how much of a contribution that Ray Allen will make for the reigning Champions.
Orlando Magic: This is not the team, that made the NBA Finals in 2009, in fact this team falls far short of last season’s Magic roster. Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy and of course Dwight Howard have all left the building, leaving Orlando with players that do not necessarily mesh. Did Glen Davis, finally grow up in the Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, or was it just a few games. New bench boss Jacque Vaughn, will have his work cut out for him starting in the next few days.
Washington Wizards: John Wall and Brad Beal, could give the Wizards a top-notch back-court for years to come. They will start with a handicap however, as they play under head coach Randy Wittman. How both General Manager Ernie Grunfeld and Wittman were brought back for this upcoming campaign, is a question for the ages.