Blog Entry

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

Posted on: December 12, 2011 8:10 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 4:01 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver


We're less than two weeks away from the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season. After an interminable lockout and a rushed free agency period, here's a first look division-by-division preview at how the league is shaping up. We begin with the Southeast Division.

2011 Standings

1. Miami Heat, 58-24, lost in NBA Finals
2. Orlando Magic, 52-30, lost in first round of Eastern Conference playoffs to Atlanta Hawks
3. Atlanta Hawks, 44-38, lost in second round of Eastern Conference playoffs to Chicago Bulls
4. Charlotte Bobcats, 34-48, NBA Draft Lottery
5. Washington Wizards, 23-59, NBA Draft Lottery

Best team: Miami Heat

The Miami Heat proved they were the best team in the Eastern Conference by a significant margin when they dismantled the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs last year. The 2011-2012 version brings all the key pieces back and features one major upgrade: free agent wing Shane Battier. The Heat retained point guard Mario Chalmers and forward James Jones, avoid using the amnesty clause on forward Mike Miller, and get to enjoy a full year of a healthy Udonis Haslem. Free agent big man Eddy Curry steps in to provide depth behind center Joel Anthony too. Those are all good things, and I haven't even mentioned the Big 3 yet: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. All return with a renewed purpose plus redemption as motivation, and all three spent the lockout getting themselves in top shape to accomplish their goal of winning a title.

Anything less than a ring will be a major disappointment. Now that coach Erik Spoelstra has had the experience of going through the fire once, he should be more ready than ever to guide the Heat to some major regular season and postseason accomplishments. 55+ wins in a 66-game schedule isn't outside the realm of possibility for Miami, although they will surely be careful limiting minutes for James and Wade down the stretch in anticipation of the playoffs.

Worst team: Charlotte Bobcats
This is Year One of what will be a multi-year rebuilding process under new GM Rich Cho, who brings overhauling experience from his days as an assistant GM in Seattle/Oklahoma City. There are some intriguing young pieces -- particularly rookies Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, assuming the latter is finally available -- and one proven veteran in Corey Maggette but this season will be a tossaway for owner Michael Jordan, who will continue to look to cut costs and position the team for a high draft pick in a loaded 2012 lottery.

Biggest surprise: Orlando Magic
The upstart Washington Wizards have the potential to pleasantly surprise, but the looming trade of center Dwight Howard almost guarantees that Orlando's season will be the biggest surprise. And it's already off to a wacky start, with drunk dialing, resignations, layoffs and a major signing of Jason Richardson. Who could have predicted all of that two weeks ago? No one. And the Howard rumors are just beginning. Everything from a total rebuilding effort to a desperate spending spree to appease Howard is currently on the table. The Magic will be a daily surprise. 

Three Best Players: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade

Nowhere is the talent gap between superstars and everybody else more clear than the Southeast Division. The top-heavy Heat boast three of the top-15 players in the league while Howard is a top-3 talent. Nobody controls the action better than James, there isn't a better 2-way force than Howard and Wade is arguably the best crunch-time performer in the game. You can't go wrong with any of those three, and the drop between the trio and Bosh, the next best player in the Division, is steep.

Biggest Question: Will Orlando trade Dwight Howard?

All signs point to yes on the Magic finally parting with Howard. It was surely be a painful process, no matter how long it takes or how many pieces are received in return. The No. 1 overall pick in 2004, Howard has been everything you could hope for from a modern center and a marketing machine, missing just five games in seven seasons and posting ridiculous statlines (at least a double-double every year plus leading the league in blocks twice) along the way. If Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith is able to temporarily mend the fences between himself and Howard, he's likely to find out that slow-playing the trade process will result in some amazing offers for Howard's services. Howard should have been the 2011 NBA MVP and he plays the games' most coveted position. Someone will throw the franchise at Orlando for the rights to acquire him. It's only a matter of who and when.

2012 Projected Standings

1. Miami Heat
2. Atlanta Hawks
3. Orlando Magic
4. Washington Wizards
5. Charlotte Bobcats

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: December 12, 2011 10:25 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

LBJ still has to play a fourth quarter, umm yeah no chance.

Since: Jan 14, 2009
Posted on: December 12, 2011 10:21 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

its a bought championship if they win lebron cant earn anything on his own they should  of won last year hope they lechoke again they might need to pick up cp3 would not surprise me .what they  would do for a championship go cavs

Since: Feb 16, 2007
Posted on: December 12, 2011 10:20 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

I am a Hawks fan & was surprised to see them predicted at 2nd place.  I hope they don't trade josh smith, if they did i could see them in 4th place in division.  Al Horford is a beast & Jeff Teague is player that could have a break out year.  Joe Johnson is a good player but his contract is brutal on the Hawks.  Zaza is a is good center off the bench.  I am guessing a big drop off by Orlando is predicted, especially if they trade Dwight howard.   

Since: Feb 28, 2008
Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:53 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

This is, at the least, an extremely strange article. We learn a great deal about how bad the Charlotte Bobcats are, and we learn that the "upstart Washington Wizards have the potential to pleasantly surprise."

Then we hear a great deal about Miami, and something about why Orlando should go slow on trading Dwight Howard.

But at the bottom of the article, when we see the projected standings, something is very strange. A team called the "Atlanta Hawks" is picked to finish second in the division. Ben, who are these "Atlanta Hawks" you mention? You said absolutely nothing about them, but picked them second.

Who or what are these "Atlanta Hawks?" 

Since: Oct 17, 2011
Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:43 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

Not to worry Lebron, Dirk will let you hold his World Champions ring.  He's cool that way.  Cool

Since: Feb 4, 2007
Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:42 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

Dear Miami,

You already FAILED!

Get over it !


Other NBA teams, NBA fans, and especially the Dallas Mavericks.

Since: Feb 23, 2008
Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:32 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

Dear Cleveland,

Get over it.


The world.

Since: Apr 13, 2009
Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:11 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

I couldn't agree more...I would take Sloan over Spoelstra

Since: Dec 12, 2011
Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:11 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

Dear LeBron,

The world hates you.


All of Cleveland

Since: Oct 16, 2011
Posted on: December 12, 2011 8:30 pm

2011-2012 NBA season: Southeast Division preview

If I was Miami I would hire Jerry Sloan. He can coach defense, he will get in players faces, and he would show them how to run a pick and roll. The best offense for this team would be to have Bosh setting picks for Wade and LeBron, he is a VERY accurate mid range jump shooter, can slash, and offensive repound well, but he's not an over powering post player. Bosh in a pick and roll is how it should be done. Erik Spoelstra just doesn't seem to me to be a guy who can "coach" a team to a championship, obviously he can be the coach of a championship team with this talent, but does anyone think Jerry Sloan wouldn't run circles around this guy?

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