NBA Season Previews: Southeast Division

With the NBA season opening in just a week, the My Mind on Sports staff answered a few questions about the Southeast division. This division consists of the NBA champion Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Mishaps the Charlotte Bobcats. Enjoy

1. How much better could LeBron James have actually gotten this offseason?

Michael Sykes: I’m not sure if he could’ve gotten that much better. He’s won two straight MVP trophies and has four in the last five years, led the league in player efficiency rating for the last six years and has two Finals MVPs to show the ring huggers. I’m not going to nitpick at his free throws–they’re clearly just a luxury at this point. His efficiency is unwavering and James is the best player in the NBA. Enough said.

Ryan Hebert: I think he could easily have polished off the final fundamentals of his game that would render him as close to perfect of a player as we have seen. If his free throw shooting, which is his lone Achilles heel at this juncture, has improved, he could be statistically flawless. Of course, he could still improve his moves in the post and get his rebounds into double digits, but his output  is already copious in those regards.

Samar Gaines: If you are one of the fools who believe that LeBron was born and not created in a lab I could see people thinking he may have reached his peak as a player. I, on the other hand, think he was created by a team of scientist trying to create the perfect NBA player, every offseason they upgrade his programming and adding new things to his game.

Eddie McDonald: LeBron James is already the best player on earth. Could he really have gotten better like he has said? I think it’s plausible. If anything, he could have added a lethal post game and improved his perimeter game a little bit.

Jay Braswell: LeBron James has room for improvement over the offseason, but there isn’t much. James said there are some things that do need work. It’s just the preseason but he is shooting 73% from the foul line, and that aspect of his game does need some tweaking. James is a 74% free throw shooter for his career, and once he raises that percentage he is complete.

Octavia Wyatt: LeBron is a freak of nature. He’s always going to be getting better. If he’s gotten better (which I’m sure he has) it means he’s been working on his free throws. His free throw percentage has been low. But it’s LeBron, so you know he’s getting better even if it’s a small aspect.

2. Will Paul Milsap be a good fit in Atlanta? How will he perform as Josh Smith’s replacement?

MS: I don’t think that he’ll be as productive as Smith was in this spot. He’s nowhere near the athlete and the Hawks defense was improved by the way that Josh Smith could move around on the floor. Milsap will bring some fluidity offensively to this team and should work well in multiple situations, but I think they’ll drop off a bit on defense. With that being said, I think he’ll fit better than most expect.

RH: I tend to think Milsap is on the underrated side of public opinion and that he can do a good job in the same sense for ATL, but that Josh Smith was also undervalued due to his glaring weakness in shot selection. Smith was still an elite rebounder, passing forward and among the best post defenders in the NBA, and that will be hard to replace adequately. Though, if Milsap can endear himself by not shooting the same bad shots and contribute similarly, it may be worth the drop in big play potential for a sure and steady type of player.

SG: Because of the mutli-facet game of all-star big Al Harford, Pau Milsap will have no problem fitting in on this Atlanta Hawks team. As far as replacing Josh Smith, Milsap will never be the defender and rim protector that Smith is.

EM: I think Paul Millsap will be a good fit in Atlanta. He plays defense and can score the ball if need be. He won’t be Josh Smith, but he will keep Atlanta alive for a playoff berth.

JB: Paul Millsap will be a very good fit for this Atlanta Hawks team. Millsap will provide hustle, rebounding and toughness immediately. He is capable of being a double-double guy, plus, the Hawks have decent guard play with Jeff Teague and Louis Williams. I think Paul Millsap fits right in.

OW:  I think Paul Milsap will be a good fit in Atlanta. He and Horford will play well together and Milsap’s offense will help the Hawks. I don’t think you can look at him to give you the same aggressiveness and power that Josh Smith brought

3. Will John Wall finally get an All-Star nod this season?

MS: I’d say that he does. I think Wall will establish himself as a top 10 point guard this season as long as he stays healthy and I also think he’ll make a case for being a top five point guard in this league. This is pegged to be his first full season with a much improved Wizards team–things look great for Wall going forward.

RH: Yes, I expect an ASG selection on the reserve list as well as a 7/8 seed playoff berth.

SG: If John can improve on the second half of last season you maybe able to make a case for him being the starting point guard in the East. Now, I don’t think he’ll end up being better than Rose just yet. But he should be on the All-Star team next season save for any health issues.

EM: John Wall will be an All-Star this season. He got the big contract in the offseason and I believe it will be good for his confidence. We saw a small sample of how good he can be last season once he returned from injury. If he stays healthy, he will be an All-Star.

JB: In order for John Wall to get an All-Star nod he has his work cut out for him. With point guards like Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose in the East, it’ll be tough. I’m definitely not counting Wall out, because he is emerging at a rapid pace.

OW: Yes he will. It depends if he stats healthy. Wall has the talent but needs to be on the floor to display his talent.

4. What impact will Al Jefferson have in Charlotte?

MS: I think that Jefferson gives the Bobcats another option aside from Kemba Walker to go to offensively. Kemba was their main weapon when he really shouldn’t have been. He isn’t advanced enough to carry an offense with so little on it. So Jefferson will bring some much needed versatility and they’ll be able to officially expand the chalkboard.

RH: I’m not sure he has a great impact overall, as he’s a terrible defender, but he’s a guy who can give you some points that are desperately needed. I still think Charlotte is a long way from being a fully formed team.

SG: Offensively, he’s still a guy you have to double in the post which should open up things for the other players on the court. Unfortunately for him most of the guys on the wings are below average shooters. I hope he’s ready for a lot of missed open shots from his teammates.

EM: Not much. First off, it’s the Charlotte Bobcats, who are terrible. Second off, it’s Al Jefferson. He won’t keep them out of the lottery.

JB: Al Jefferson will have a huge impact in Charlotte in my opinion. More importantly he will open up opportunities for others offensively. Kemba Walker is going to benefit a great deal from this move, now he is not the Bobcats only scoring option. Jefferson can also stretch the defense because he can knock down the 18 footers with some consistency thumbs up Bobcats.

OW: Probably a big one. They have a lot of young talent so I think Al’s veteran mindset will help. Charlotte needs a big man who they can depend on to score on the post.

5. Is Victor Oladipo going to fit in Orlando?

MS: I don’t know? I can’t really say because I don’t know what role he will play. The Magic have insisted upon Oladipo being a hybrid swingman/point guard and I just don’t think that works. If he can make a Westbrook-like transition, fine. But right now I just don’t see it.

RH: Yes. I love the idea of converting Oladipo into a hybrid in the form of Russell Westbrook, and he’s also my ROY selection.

SG: Victor Oladipo would be a good fit anywhere, he’s a extremely hard worker with a winning attitude and he’s the kind of guy young teams needs more of. I’m not saying he’s the second coming of Michael Jordan or even that he’ll be a great player in this league just that hard work is contiguous and not many are going to outwork him.

EM: Victor Oladipo was one of the top players of his draft class so I think he will fit in just fine. He’ll learn from Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo and benefit from that. He has a good chance of being Rookie of the Year.

JB: I say “Dipo” in Orlando will be a hand in glove fit. He is a shooting guard, who can also play the point guard when Jameer Nelson needs wind. I see him coming off the bench behind Aaron Afflalo. Both guys really get after it defensively, so I don’t see why there would be any problems in Orlando. I see Victor Oladipo being a serviceable sixth man for now.

OW:  Oladipo defense will help Orlando’s sub par at best defense. He’s reportedly been improving his shooting so those point to good signs for the Magic.

6. Let’s make the safe assumption that the Miami Heat finish first in the division? Who finishes second?

MS: I’ll go with the homer pick of the Washington Wizards. When you see this team, they’re really fun to watch and have brought in some pieces that can provide them with some versatility on offense. The defense was already there so aside from a few tweaks I think they’ll stay on pace as far as that end of the floor goes. They’ll contend for a lower seed in the conference, but that’s better than years prior.

RH: Atlanta and then Washington, both making the playoffs.

SG: Health permitted the Washington Wizards will be the second best team in this division because of the play of Wall, Beal, and the defense. If the Wizards can’t get a full year of health from their key guys the Atlanta Hawks will finish second in this division, unless they go into full rebuild mode, which would make the Bobcats the second best team by default

EM: The Atlanta Hawks will finish in second to the Heat just like last year. It’s not like it will matter, because if you aren’t the Heat, Pacers, Bulls, or Nets, you don’t really have a shot at winning the title. Washington will challenge Atlanta for the second spot, if Wall can live up to the expectations most have given him.

JB: Washington Wizards will finish second in the Southeast division. I like the compilation of young talent there in our nations capital, the Wall/Beal backcourt is going to be exciting.  I like the weapons and pieces on this Wizards team. I also like them to make the playoffs.

OW: Second place is a toss up. Depends on which teams that’s healthly, and what new faces mesh well together.

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