Is it possible to be the home of the world champions, and still be the worst division in basketball? The Southeast Division gave it a go last year after having three teams with less than 30 wins, and the two worst squads in the league record-wise afforded them a pretty good argument.
At least one of those teams – the Washington Wizards – look like they’re making a turnaround. As for the other two? Well, not so much. We already know who’s the Jay Z of the Southeast Division’s Roc-A-Fella. Now it’s time to find out who the Amil is.
We’ve been previewing the divisions all week. Be sure to check the previous installments and look out for our final one on Monday!
What To Like: Danny Ferry brings in his San Antonio pedigree and has put together an interesting team with two versatile big men (Al Horford and Paul Millsap) and a ton of shooting surrounding them in the starting lineup.
What Not To Like: The Hawks are headed for another lower seed playoff berth and another low draft pick.
Random Note: The Hawks have made the playoffs for six straight seasons. For the last five they’ve never been higher than a three seed, never lower than a six seed. In that time they’ve picked between 17 and 24 in the draft every year. That, my friends, is NBA purgatory. And unless you’re hitting homeruns in the draft every year (the Hawks are not) or making big free agent splashes each summer (the Hawks are not) then you are not doing much but losing early playoff series (the Hawks are).
What To Like: They won’t finish in last place in their division.
What Not To Like: They’re going to be right above that.
Random Note: The Magic somehow, someway won the Dwight Howard fiasco, and they still have assets they will cash in for years to come from that trade. They received two good young players with potential in Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic (who Miami attempted to snag in 2012), and later added the versatile Tobias Harris to build a nice foundation for their future.
Victor Oladipo at point guard probably won’t work, but that’s the kind of risk a 50+ loss team can afford to take while it works its way back up to relevancy. All that promise doesn’t even mention the probable top five pick they’ll receive for all the games they’re going to lose this year. The future is, believe it or not, bright. Even without Dwight Howard, or Andrew Bynum (lol).
What To Like: John Wall and Bradley Beal, the other Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
What Not To Like: Getting swept in the first round by the Heat, Pacers, Bulls or Nets.
Random Note: Emeka Okafor suffered a serious neck injury and nobody knows when he may play again. He’s on the Wizards’ books for nearly $14.5 million. Believe it or not, this is good news because this is the last year of his deal and makes Okafor one of the biggest trade chips in the league.
Wall and co. have all the looks of a burgeoning playoff team, and flipping Okafor’s expiring contract into a real live player (say, a Greg Monroe or a Rudy Gay-level player) that can help them win games inches their ceiling up a few notches, and could possibly see them finish ahead of the six or so teams battling for the East’s 6-8 seeds.
What To Like: Al Jefferson? Al Jefferson.
What Not To Like: The 82 games to be played between now and April.
Random Note: Ben Gordon’s $13M expiring deal could make the Bobcats a player in the trade market, but that also means that Michael Jeffrey will be making another personnel decision, so that’s probably not a good thing. At least Bobcats fans (they exist, right?) have next year’s name change to the Hornets to look forward to. Although, this kind of feels like that time Stringer Bell switched the name of Deathgrip to WMD. Maybe Mike took macroeconomics with him?
What To Like: You know the story here – three Finals appearances in a row, two titles, best player in the world, blah blah blah.
What Not To Like: Three-peating is really, really, really hard. Its only been done five times in NBA history (twice by Jordan’s Bulls), so history is not on Miami’s side.
Random Note: The Heat have two experiments going that only a team of their fortunate circumstances can afford. If Greg Oden or Michael Beasley reach a portion of the potential they had coming into the league, the gambles will more than pay off. Greg Oden played in his first game action since 2009 on Wednesday, which is encouraging for his comeback, even if it was for only three minutes.
If he somehow gets to where he can give Miami 10-15 good minutes a night, especially in the playoffs (especially against the Pacers, especially against Roy Hibbert), he could a major factor in their three-peat. If he doesn’t, they write it, just like they did with Eddy Curry, and keep on trucking. No harm, no foul. Those two guys will be the only real source of intrigue for Miami during these next 82 games, since it’s the games after those that will really be the story of the 2013-14 Miami Heat (and then the summer after, but that’s a story for another day).