Jun 12, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) dunks against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter of game one in the 2012 NBA Finals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Offseason: Southeast Division Projections

The defending NBA champions, the Miami Heat, are once again poised to win the Southeast Division crown after adding several key players this offseason. With the only other division winner – the Orlando Magic – in disarray over the future of center Dwight Howard, can anyone really challenge and unseat the Heat at the top of the division?

 

Miami Heat

PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Shane Battier
C: Chris Bosh

Bench: Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman

Year Two of Miami’s “Big Three” experiment yielded much better results than last season’s loss in the NBA Finals, as LeBron James won his first NBA title and Finals MVP award. As with most championship teams, they didn’t make too many drastic moves so as to not disturb the chemistry of their title-winning squad.

They did, however, make their perimeter game even more deadly, by signing one of the best shooters in NBA history, Ray Allen. Allen left Boston on somewhat shaky terms, meaning the rematch in Boston this season should be an interesting game to watch. The Heat also signed Rashard Lewis, who had been traded to New Orleans from Washington, but was amnestied. If he can regain the form from his earlier years in Orlando, Miami could very easily win a second straight title.

One glaring hole in the Heat’s roster, however, is their lack of dependable post players. Outside of Bosh, none of the forwards or centers on the team really strike fear into the hearts of post defenders. The team’s gameplan obviously revolves around James and Wade, but if Bosh were to go down with an injury (like in last season’s playoffs), things could get difficult in South Beach.

 

Orlando Magic

PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Hedo Turkoglu
PF: Glen Davis
C: Dwight Howard

Bench: J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, Justin Harper, Gustavo Ayon, Earl Clark, Andrew Nicholson

With Dwight Howard’s antics leaving his future in Orlando very much up in the air, it’s not hard to see just how much the Magic need him to stick around. There are some solid complementary pieces on the roster (Davis, Redick, Richardson) and promising young talent (Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn) but they could very easily be this season’s Bobcats.

The Magic’s new ownership hasn’t really done much to convince Howard that staying in town is a good idea, resigning an average point guard in Nelson and trading away their second-best big man, Ryan Anderson. With Anderson winning the Most Improved Player last year, it’s difficult to see how trading him for Ayon, a 6’10” forward who averaged just 4.9 rebounds in 2011, makes much sense. If Howard stays in Orlando for at least another season, it’ll help them avoid being a totally unwatchable team; if he bolts, look out – this could be an ugly season for newly hired GM Rob Hennigan.

 

Washington Wizards

PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Nene
C: Emeka Okafor

Bench: Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, A.J. Price, Trevor Booker, Shelvin Mack, Chris Singleton

For the first time in a long time, the Wizards might just have a competent, cohesive roster. After ridding themselves of three ‘headache’ players (Rashard Lewis, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche) in the last few months, while also revamping through trades and the draft, could GM Ernie Grunfeld finally be making the right moves?

Beal is a scorer who should put up points with all the attention that Wall will receive; if he struggles, Crawford will come off the bench and provide the same skillset. Despite playing just one season at Florida, analysts have compared Beal to Ray Allen, something that he’d surely like to justify.

From all indications, Vesely won’t be a bench player for long. While he averaged just 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 57 games last year, the final month of the season saw him corral double digit rebounds four times and score 10+ points seven times. More importantly, his minutes increased to almost 28 a game, showing the coaching staff’s trust in the young Czech.

 

Atlanta Hawks

PG: Devin Harris
SG: Anthony Morrow
SF: Kyle Korver
PF: Josh Smith
C: Al Horford

Bench: Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams, Johan Petro

A handful of teams went through major overhauls this offseason, and the Hawks are definitely one of them. After seven years in Atlanta, guard Joe Johnson was traded to Brooklyn for a handful of role players and a 2013 first round draft pick. While he averaged 20+ points in five of his seven seasons there, the team never experienced much success, only making it to the second round three times. With Danny Ferry being hired on as the team’s new President of Basketball Operations and GM, the contract that Johnson signed in 2010 (six-year, $119 million) with past management likely weighed heavily on Ferry’s decision to trade him.

Unfortunately for Atlanta mainstays Smith and Horford, the returns that the team netted for Johnson were simply awful: three below average guards and two forward/centers who likely won’t play any minutes. If the team didn’t have enough guards, Ferry went out and signed former Philadelphia point guard Williams and traded underachieving forward Marvin Williams for Utah’s Devin Harris. A confusing roster, this one is. Smith was already unhappy about his situation in the Peach State; this flurry of questionable personnel moves surely won’t help.

 

Charlotte Bobcats

PG: Ramon Sessions
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Bismack Biyombo
C: Brendan Haywood

Bench: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Tyrus Thomas, Byron Mullens, Jeffery Taylor, Reggie Williams, DeSagana Diop

While they likely won’t set an NBA record for futility like they did in 2011, the Bobcats surely haven’t done enough to warrant not being considered the worst team in the league. Having a true point guard in Sessions will help, as it appears that Walker is more of a scoring guard in a point’s 6’1” body. Gordon will likely struggle even more in Charlotte, as he’ll have fewer complementary pieces there than he did in his three years in Detroit. He’ll get his points, seeing as how he’s the only proven scorer, but he’ll have to work hard for them.

The forward situation on this team is an intriguing one, though. Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo look like they could be very good defensive players, but offense is where both of them struggle mightily. Again, they might not reset the record for lowest winning percentage in a season next year, but they’ll likely be unbearable to watch.

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