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NBA Preview: Southeast Division

With the Atlantic Division dribbled out, we travel down the coastline into the division with some of the biggest headlines this off-season. While Donald Sterling got the bulk of the attention with his “racist antics,” (whether discovered legally or not), the banning of Sterling had a long term effect on the league and one team in this division in particular. So lets preview this division shall we?

1. Miami Heat: “Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Not five. Not six. Not seven.” We all know these words very well as Lebron James uttered them several years ago when he first joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (MVP Candidate) and the Heat. With four NBA finals appearances and two NBA championship, the “Heatles experiment” finished a success. The once big 3 of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have sinced been broken up as Lebron James decided to go back home to Cleveland and the Cavaliers to form a new big three with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Bosh has been paid the MAX and therefore is expected to be “the man” for the Heat and Wade looks to stay healthy and find the Wade of old. Add in free agent acquisitions of Forwards Luol Deng (from Chicago) and Danny Granger (from LA Clippers via Indiana) and the roster seems to carry more depth than before. The same lingerings issue still seems to be rebounding but that could be not as important if the Heat just run opponents out of the gym as they move to go younger and smaller and with more guards, the guard-play seems to be more stable. Time will tell if they miss their “king” but a chip on their shoulder will motivate them.

The Heat STILL are a playoff team. Will they have the number one or two see like they have had the past four seasons, likely not. Heat are still a top-tier to middle of the pack team now.

2. Washington Wizards: One of the most exciting backcourts in the game hail in our nation’s capital. Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal sure can light up a gym with their highlight reel fast breaks at will. When you add the experience in the middle with Center Marcin Gortat and Forward Nene, and you have a team to seriously think about in the season. Last season was the Wizards first taste and they are hungry for more. So add in experienced and NBA champion Forward Paul Pierce, who looks to bring that much needed playoff leadership to the team. The TRUTH has been there an while he may not be expected to drop 25 and 5 a game, he is perfectly capable if and when he is needed. If the Wizards stay healthy, they made enough additions to pass over the Heat as the top dogs in the Southeast division. The one thing is experience and that will tell the tale of this division, that and injuries of course.

Expect no less than the playoffs from the Wizards this year. In fact they could take that next step and be Southeast Champions as well.

3. Charlotte Hornets: Oh how it feels to just say the name “Charlotte Hornets,” how I have missed that sound. Thank you Michael Jordan for bringing back the name to where it rightfully belongs. The offseason moves are not too shabby either as the Hornets went out and signed a defensive juggernaut in guard Lance Stephenson, who while most know him for his “ear-blowing antics” in last season playoffs, cannot be ignored for his smothering defense on said King James. Oh the Indiana Pacers are surely gonna miss him (but lets wait til I get to the Pacers preview to go into that). Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, better known in the league as”MKG” last season paid dividends as he avoided that well known “sophomore slump” to contribute mightily for the Hornets, helping them to make the playoffs. The experience in the middle with Center Al Jefferson and swing forward Marvin Williams and the middle seems to be a strength for the Hornets as they ease in rookie Forward-Center Cody Zeller from the University of Indiana. Add the leadership of young point guard, Kemba Walker and you have another team hungry for more playoff success. Figure in that Michael Jordan (the greatest of the greats) continues to challenge his team from the front office and you have a Hornets team that seems to be building a similar mindset that won Jordan his six-rings.

Playoff team once again. Expect them to be in the middle of the Hornet’s nest that is the NBA playoff picture.

4. Atlanta Hawks: With the departure of former Hawks owner Bruce Levenson (who is selling controlling interest because of racist emails), the Hawks move onward into the 2014-2015 season. All-Star Forward Al Horford seems to be “the man” for the Hawks as they decided to part ways with their former Att-Star Josh Smith. Can Horford get the scoring help he needs from teammates like Paul Millsap (came over from Utah) or from guard Kyle Korver? Can the rookie from Michigan State Adreian Payne shake off his poor dunk contest performance and ignite the Hawks offense and become the next Dominique? Can all-star point guard Jeff Teague pick up where he left off last season?

In the end, in a relative weak conference, the Atlanta Hawks have enough to make the playoffs. Will they get past the first round however, while most Hawks fans would love it, there is just too much to overcome from the other top tier teams.

5. Orlando Magic: The Orlando “outcasts” is more like it as if you look up and down the roster, it is a who’s who of players who have been discarded from former teams, players who have had injuries, came back and never quite have been the same since. Some experts say that in the NBA, the Orlando Magic organization is the play where careers go to die. Well, lets TRY to disprove that theory. Youth combined with experience is a good thing and the Magic have it in spades. Forward-Center Channing Frye, who at times had flashes of his greatness with the Phoenix Suns, resides here as does former Bulls standout Ben “Flash” Gordon. Most Bulls fans remember him and his games. Add in the youth of guard Victor Oladipo who showed signs of solid play with the incoming class of rookies Forward Aaron Gordon ROY candidate (University of Arizona) and Peyton Silva (University of Louisville).

Granted the Orlando Magic have not been the team of old, the team that SHAQ and Nick Anderson made a once dominant beast in the east, BUT it is a team on the upswing with plenty of youth behind it. Will they make the playoffs though, NO. There is too much to overcome and not enough firepower or inside presence to compete against for the Magic.

All the divisions are taken care of with the exception of just ONE, the Central and the division that once again houses the KING of basketball. Be sure to be on the lookout for the NBA Preview: The Central Division.

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