Last year, the NBA champions came out of this relatively poor division. Only Washington and Miami were able to make the playoffs. While the other teams, Orlando, Charlotte and Atlanta were 10 or more games below .500. Miami won the division by 10 games, and never looked back, pretty much smacking around their opponents in route to their first NBA championship. And not much can be expected to change in this division. After a relatively slow off-season for a division that probably has a lot of work to do, Miami and Washington still come out as the frontrunners to finish in the top two.
With the Diesel on your team, how can you not be the favorite to win the NBA championship, let alone your own division? And while Dwyane Wade is clearly the best player on this team, Shaq makes the life of any guard that much easier, and that will be shown once O’Neal retires. But that day is not here yet, and the Heat are relying on their stat accumulating combo to lead them once again. Getting Alonzo Mourning to resign was a key move when you consider that Shaq will probably have to play even less minutes this year, especially during the regular season. And other than Riley extending his own contract as coach, there were no acquisitions of note made by the Miami Heat. And quite frankly, they really did not need to make any moves…for this year. Heat regular season record? Doesn’t really matter, as long as they win the division. This is a team built for the playoffs, so I will not disrespect them by evaluating their season based on the first 82 games.
Washington Wizards – Due to the lack of competition in their division, the Wizards ought to coast to a 2nd place finish in a division without any defensive ball clubs. They are a jump shooting team, and if you do not have defensive teams in their schedule, they are going to win 41 games automatically. Letting Jared Jeffries go in order to institute Antonio Daniels and Caron Butler as mainstays, was a questionable move, but one that is common for a team that plans to play very little defense. However, bring in DeShawn Stevenson should help on the defensive end. The thing that makes this team tick though is Gilbert Arenas. Arenas’s play will be the difference between this team winning a playoff series and going home early. It will be much harder for them in the playoffs this season, as I do not think a 42-win team will be the 5th seed this year.
Orland Magic – I like what the Magic are apparently trying to do this season. They did not spend any big money in the off months because they are apparently waiting for Vince Carter to hit the market next season. I think that is a good move, because that gives Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic a year to get better and get used to playing with one another without having to cede to a veteran player of Carter’s ability. Not to mention, it also gives the Magic a year to vie for a top draft pick and acquire a potentially good player to coincide with Carter in the backcourt….assuming they get him. Projected Record: 31-51.
Charlotte Bobcats – The Bobcats just do not seem to be too invested in winning basketball games anytime soon. There is not a player of note that they went after, and it appears that they are trying to build their team through the draft. Unfortunately, this is not the NFL and that practice went out of style in the NBA after the invention of the lottery back in the early 80’s. Having Michael Jordan at the General Manager position will make this team’s future decisions quite interesting. They seem to be in favor of signing Vince Carter next season (just like the Magic). However, I truly doubt VC will sign with a team in the middle of nowhere and no running mate to take off some of the pressure. I’m pretty sure he’s already been through enough of that. Projected Record: 25-57.
Atlanta Hawks – I will admit, the team is at least trying to make moves. After passing on Chris Paul, and trading away Boris Diaw, it seems like the organization was afraid to make another big splash in the off-season. So they signed Lorenzen Write, Speedy Claxton and drafted Shelden Williams . All good players who could potentially be great players for a championship contending team, but this team just ain’t it. Projected Record: 20-62.