Heat is on for NBA's Southeast division
LeBron James of the Miami Heat. Photo: Getty Images
- Atlantic division: Sixers primed to knock Celtics over
- South-West division: Mills facing a battle for court time with Spurs
- NorthWest division: Nuggets strike gold for battle with Thunder
- Central divison: Bulls on parade towards playoffs
- Pacific division: Lakes reload to take shot at Heat
When you look at the NBA's Southeast division it is all about Miami. The defending NBA champions are a mile clear of a decidedly average chasing pack. If not for the presence of the Heat, this would be a sad looking division. After winning it all, Miami have added Ray Allen and will start the season favourites to defend their title. Someone might get lucky and knock them out in the play-offs, but it won't be anyone from this division. Paul Suttor and Paul Zalunardo conclude their team-by-team look at the NBA.
Their best player (Joe Johnson) left via free agency and they got little in return. Devin Harris is a handy addition, but don't expect him to replace Johnson. In saying that, they aren't without hope. When he wants to, Josh Smith can put up big numbers and Al Horford a very good power forward and the signing of Lou Williams could prove a wise move. Due to the weakness of several other teams in the East, Atlanta may squeak into the play-offs but don't expect much more.
Last season: 40-26 (1st round playoffs)
Gains: G John Jenkins (draft), F Mike Scott (draft), G Kyle Korver (Bulls), G Devin Harris (Jazz), G Anthony Morrow (Nets), G DeShawn Stevenson (Nets), F Jordan Williams (Nets), C Johan Petro (Nets), G Lou Williams (76ers)
Losses: G Kirk Hinrich (Bulls), G Joe Johnson (Nets), F Marvin Williams (Jazz), G/F Jerry Stackhouse (Nets), F Vladimir Radmanovic (Bulls), C Jason Collins (Celtics)
The first thing this team needs to do is end the 23-game losing streak they finished last season on. The second thing they need to do is hope star rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lives up to the hype and off-season acquisitions Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood produce. Then comes the task of erasing the memories of last season's seven-win nightmare. The Bobcats should be a better side, particularly if the additions to the squad allow Kemba Walker an opportunity to develop. The play-offs are a pipe dream but respectability is within sight.
Last season: 7-59
Gains: G Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (draft), G Jeff Taylor (draft), G Ben Gordon (Pistons), G Ramon Sessions (Lakers), C Brendan Haywood (Mavericks)
Losses: F Corey Maggette (Pistons), G D.J. Augustin (Pacers), F Eduardo Najera (retired)
What do you get a team that has it all? Adding arguably the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history isn't a bad start for a team that should make it back-to-back titles. Ray Allen's bitter exit from Boston will do more than just add to the rivalry between the teams, it will also make the Heat better. LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh will all still be there. What more do you need? The management at AmericanAirlines Arena should keep the schedule open for next June.
Last season: 46-20 (Champions)
Gains: G Ray Allen (Celtics), F Rashard Lewis (Wizards)
Losses: C Ronny Turiaf (Clippers)
It must be hard work being a Magic fan. Sixteen years after Shaquille O'Neal fled to Los Angeles and hooked up with the Lakers, Dwight Howard followed suit following a caustic end to his time in Florida. A true game-changer at both ends of the court, Howard's absence is the biggest loss of any team. But that's not it. Last season's Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson is also gone, with Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington the only notable pick ups. Grim times, and a lottery pick, loom large.
Last season: 37-29 (1st round playoffs)
Gains: F Andrew Nicholson (draft), F Kyle O'Quinn (draft), F Gustavo Ayon (Hornets), G Arron Afflalo (Nuggets), F Al Harrington (Nuggets), F Nikola Vucevic (76ers), F Maurice Harkless (draft), F Josh McRoberts (Lakers)
Losses: F Ryan Anderson (Hornets), C Dwight Howard (Lakers), G Chris Duhon (Lakers), F Earl Clark (Lakers), G Jason Richardson (76ers)
Things were as grim as ever on the banks of the Potomac, and that was before John Wall went down with a knee injury. Wall has averaged a handy 15 points and seven assists during his career, but hasn't been surrounded by much in the way of NBA talent. Once Wall returns from a knee injury things may improve, especially if Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza can produce. Rookie Bradley Beal is one worth watching.
Last season: 20-46
Gains: G Bradley Beal (draft), G Tomas Satoransky (draft), F Trevor Ariza (Hornets), C Emeka Okafor (Hornets)
Losses: F Rashard Lewis (Heat), Andray Blatche (amnestied)