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Gibberman: NBA season preview Southeast Division

The Southeast is going to be my favorite division to watch this year. Within the division you have seven of the top ten freakish athletes in the NBA with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Tyrus Thomas, Josh Smith, John Wall, and Javale McGee (other three rounding out my top 10 freakish NBA athletes are Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson, and Derrick Rose – Blake Griffin could easily get added by mid-season over Rondo, but I haven’t seen enough of him yet). Enough of my rambling let’s get to the team previews.

Orlando Magic
Last Season…59-23 Lost in Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics

No major changes to the Orlando roster last year, just a couple of tweaks. Chris Duhon will take over for Jason Williams as the backup point guard and Quentin Richardson gives them another shooter to spread the court off the bench.

The Magic won 59 games last year with Jameer Nelson only playing in 65 games and Rashard Lewis/Vince Carter both having down years for their career standards. Those three playing closer towards the upper end of their career arc easily puts the Magic over 60 wins.

The big question is will this be the year Dwight Howard puts it all together. Howard is the most physically imposing presence in the entire NBA. If he decides he wants to dominate every single game he can. We saw signs of this after Orlando fell behind 3-0 to Boston in the Conference Finals and if Howard does it for 82 games he can steal the MVP award from Durant/LeBron.

The Magic get a couple extra points in my book because Stan Van Gundy has taken over as the most entertaining coach in the NBA. Looking forward to watching SVG rip ties off his neck on the sideline when he gets angry this season since he can no longer wear turtle necks.

Atlanta Hawks
Last Season…53-29 Lost in 2nd round to the Orlando Magic

Above should read the Atlanta “Frauds”. The Hawks were the most disappointing NBA playoff team in recent memory. They had a putrid performance in the first round when it took them seven games to dispose of a severely undermanned Milwaukee Bucks team and then were demolished by the Magic in the second round.

The Hawks severely overpaid for their “superstar” Joe Johnson this summer, which long term is going to keep them relevant, but won’t allow them to truly be an NBA Finals contender for at least the next five years. Joe Johnson is an excellent basketball player who can be a #2 on an NBA Championship team, but as we learned in the playoffs he can’t be the best player.

The Hawks still have huge question marks at the point guard position where Mike Bibby is nothing but a spot up shooter and second year player Jeff Teague doesn’t seem like he is ready to step into the starting role.

If I were an Atlanta fan I would just enjoy watching Jamal Crawford drain four-point plays over and over again.

Miami Heat
Last Season…47-35 Lost in the 1st round to the Boston Celtics

I don’t even want to write this part of the preview. The Heat are going to be incredible with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They are going to be fun to watch, but at the same time I am going to want to punch each of them in the face repeatedly every time I watch them win a game (if you didn’t pick up on it, I’m a salty Knicks fan who has deep rooted hatred for the Miami Heat going back to the 90s and this is bringing it all back).

The Heat have two of the five best players in the NBA on their team and it will make the game easier for everyone around them. Chris Bosh is going to have uncontested 15-footers all day and Mike Miller will see open three pointers over and over again.

The only chance the rest of the Eastern Conference has is if LeBron or Wade gets injured.

Charlotte Bobcats
Last season…44-38 Lost in the 1st round to the Orlando Magic

Bobcats fans I hope you enjoyed your first playoff appearance last year because your not going to see a second this season. With the increase in win totals on tap for the Heat, Knicks, Bulls, Bucks, Nets, and Wizards I think the Bobcats are one of the teams hurt.

The loss of Raymond Felton to the Knicks leaves them with the unproven D.J. Augustin to run point for head coach Larry Brown who is known to be hard on his lead guards. I wasn’t a huge Augustin fan in college and don’t think he is anything special now. Charlotte taking Gerald Henderson in the 2009 draft over Jrue Holliday, Ty Lawson, and Darren Collison is coming back to haunt them now.

If Jordan was smart he would tear this team apart now and try to get draft picks/young talent in return for veterans Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson. Charlotte is going no where.

Washington Wizards
Last Season…26-56

One of the teams I am looking forward to seeing most this season. Rookie PG John Wall out of Kentucky is an impact player from day one. Wall and Gilbert Arenas form one of the most intriguing NBA backcourts this season. Gilbert sounds like he is willing to play off Wall and let the rook lead the team. This is good and well, but if Arenas gets the stroke going he still needs to be aggressive and take over games.

Once Washington tore apart their team last season Andray Blatche was given the chance to be the focal point of the offense. He averaged over 20 PPG in February, March, and April. Now the question is can Blatche put up good numbers while contributing to help the Wizards win basketball games?

The key to the Wizards season will be the development of three young role players – Javale McGee, Yi Jianlin, and Nick Young. McGee is raw, but can become the perfect compliment to Blatche with his shot blocking prowess. Yi Jianlin is needed to hold down the fort at the small forward position (I’m not an Al Thorton believer) while Josh Howard is out. I like a three guard look featuring Wall, Arena, and Hinrich, but there will be certain teams you can’t play that line-up for extended minutes. If Nick Young ever gets his head on straight he can be an explosive scoring guard off the bench. Young has JR Smith type scoring potential, but needs to be consistent and show more maturity.