LeBron James, Heat Favored to Win Southeast While Wizards, Bobcats Compete for No. 1 Pick

LeBron James, Heat Favored to Win Southeast While Wizards, Bobcats Compete for No. 1 PickThe
Southeast Division houses the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat, the team that
is favored to repeat, as well as three other teams who are the league's biggest long
shots. In other words, the Heat should have no problem cruising to another
Southeast Division title.

Their
only competition will be the Atlanta Hawks, who were a playoff team last season
but have since shifted into rebuilding mode.

Something
drastic will have to happen to keep the Heat from winning the Southeast — and
likely the Eastern Conference as well.

Miami Heat (11-5)

The
Heat are the reigning NBA champs and there's little reason to believe they
won't be back in the Finals. Last season, the common perception was that the
Heat were built around the big three (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh)
and little else. This time around, they've added some reliable veterans in former
All-Stars Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen.

They're
still thin at the center position but they won the title with Bosh, Udonis
Haslem
and Joel Anthony working the middle. With better shooters on the
perimeter, they can surely do it again.

Atlanta Hawks (75-1)

Danny
Ferry
has taken over the front office in Atlanta and he's immediately taken the
team in another direction. Joe Johnson's burdensome contract was shipped off
along with the underachieving Marvin Williams. The problem is that while the
Hawks created cap space, they didn't do much with it and they'll have a tough
time replacing the 29 points per game that tandem contributed.

They
had to take a step back prior to moving forward. That likely means a regression
from last year's 40 wins.

Orlando Magic (150-1)

The
Magic stole the headlines this offseason for all the wrong reasons. The good
news is that the Dwight Howard saga is finally over. The bad news is that they
got very little in return for trading away the best center in the NBA. The
Magic failed to get good draft picks, a quality young core for the future and
dumped very little salary.

Instead,
the Magic head into the season with Arron Afflalo joining a disjointed cast of
starters including Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis. They're going
to get much worse before they get better.

Washington Wizards (200-1)

It
says a lot about the Wizards' roster turnover when 2010 first-round pick John
Wall
is the longest-tenured member of the team. He's been making the rounds
suggesting that the Wizards could be a playoff team this season.

There
is potential — especially now that Wall is joined in the back court by
competent scorers like rookie Bradley Beal along with holdover Jordan Crawford.
Adding Nene at the trade deadline last season gave the Wizards a respectable
center, so they should have a quality inside-outside game.

However,
the small forward and power forward positions are still a concern. Trevor Ariza
and Jan Vesely are questionable starters and there's little depth behind them.

The
Wizards are improving but they still must add a few more pieces to the puzzle.

Charlotte Bobcats (500-1)

Speaking
of getting worse before getting better, it would be hard to imagine the Bobcats
getting any worse. They finished with just seven wins last season and compiled the
worst winning percentage in NBA history.

This
is still a very young team that will be counting on the growth from many of
its young players. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the new first-round pick added to
the mix but the former first-rounders like Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, B.J.
Mullens
and Bismack Biyombo – who are projected starters — need to grow
significantly. Otherwise, 10 wins will be a struggle for this team.

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