By Chris Mannix
October 18, 2010
2010-11 NBA Preview: Southeast Division
How They'll Finish
Miami Heat
2009-10 Record: 47-35; lost to Celtics in first round
Top Addition: LeBron James | Biggest Loss: Michael Beasley
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh make up arguably the most formidable troika in NBA history. And the chemistry should develop quickly; Wade scores, LeBron facilitates (and yes, scores) and Bosh knocks down open jumpers and cleans up any mistakes. Once coach Erik Spoelstra settles on a rotation, the veteran-laden supporting cast -- Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, James Jones, Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers, Jamaal Magloire, Joel Anthony -- should jell quickly and give the Heat a shot at Chicago's NBA-record 72-win season.
Orlando Magic
2009-10 Record: 59-23; lost to Celtics in East finals
Top Addition: Quentin Richardson | Biggest Loss: Matt Barnes
A summer spent working with Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone should enhance Dwight Howard's game, while the addition of Richardson adds another shooter to Orlando's arsenal. The Magic will experiment with Rashard Lewis at small forward at times and give Howard another big body at power forward to bang with in the paint. Playing in his contract year should raise the level of Vince Carter's play, too.
Atlanta Hawks
2009-10 Record: 53-29; lost to Magic in second round
Top Addition: Jordan Crawford | Biggest Loss: Coach Mike Woodson
Rookie coach Larry Drew has tinkered with the offense (the Iso-Joe is out, replaced with a more balanced motion attack) and defense (the Hawks hope to get away from the constant switching and focus on staying with their own man) with the goal of energizing a team that stumbled down the stretch last season. Speedy second-year point guard Jeff Teague will play a bigger role as Atlanta transitions away from the aging Mike Bibby.
Washington Wizards
2009-10 Record: 26-56
Top Addition: John Wall | Biggest Loss: Mike Miller
Questions abound in D.C.: Is Wall ready to run the team? Will Gilbert Arenas last the season? Is the real Andray Blatche the player from the first half of last year (8.9 points, 5.0 rebounds in 22 minutes per game) or the second (22.1 points, 8.3 rebounds in 37 minutes)? The Wizards have the potential to be a matchup nightmare with the three-guard lineup of Wall, Arenas and Kirk Hinrich, and if the focus is there (hello, Gilbert), they have enough firepower to sneak up on people.
Charlotte Bobcats
2009-10 Record: 44-38; lost to Magic in first round
Top Addition: Shaun Livingston | Biggest Loss: Raymond Felton
D.J. Augustin will attempt to climb out of Larry Brown's doghouse and bolster an offense that ranked 28th in scoring and second in turnovers last season. Charlotte's top-ranked scoring D should be stingy again, but the void left by Felton and Tyson Chandler wasn't filled (unless you count Kwame Brown), which places the pressure on Augustin, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw to find ways to generate enough scoring.
Players To Watch
Gilbert Arenas
2009-10 Season Stats: 22.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.2 RPG
Career Stats: 22.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 4.2 RPG
The unpredictable Arenas already made waves when he let slip that he faked a knee injury in the preseason. It's no secret the Wizards will listen to any offers for Arenas, but his injury history and the $80 million he is owed over the next four seasons make a trade unlikely. A healthy and focused Arenas could be part of a strong backcourt with Wall; an erratic one could torpedo Washington's season.
Jeff Teague
2009-10 Stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.7 APG, 0.9 RPG
Career Stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.7 APG, 0.9 RPG
The former Wake Forest standout didn't dazzle as a rookie. But Drew is enamored with Teague's speed, defense and ability to break down a defender off the dribble -- the type of things the 32-year-old Bibby does not offer. He'll make mistakes early, but Teague's growth throughout the season will be a good indicator of the Hawks' ability to compete with the top-tier teams in the East.
Mario Chalmers
2009-10 Stats: 7.1 PPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG
Career Stats: 8.6 PPG, 4.2 APG, 1.6 SPG
Lingering effects of an ankle injury slowed Chalmers during training camp and created a battle for the Heat's starting point guard spot between him, Arroyo and Patrick Beverly. Much of Miami's offense will flow through James and Wade, but strong play from Chalmers -- whose focus, not talent, has been a question -- would put another quality defender on the floor and fortify one of the Heat's weakest positions.
Burning Questions
Can Pat Riley stay upstairs all season? Speculation has run rampant that Riley is itching for the opportunity to coach another potential dynasty. But it's unlikely he would submarine protégé Spoelstra without good reason. Expectations for the Heat are predictably absurd -- anything less than the all-time wins record en route to a title would be, in the minds of some, a disappointing season -- but what if the team gets off to a sluggish start? Will Riley give Spoelstra room to mold this new roster? Or will the Armani'd one take over at the first (or second, or third) sign of trouble?
Will the Magic make a deal? Orlando GM Otis Smith may have fantasized about trading for Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony this summer. And with new digs (the sparkling new Amway Center) and a few attractive assets in Carter (one year, $17.3 million remaining), Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus, the Magic may have what it takes to bring another All-Star to central Florida this season.
How far will the Bobcats fall? Ordinarily, optimism would be running high with a team coming off its first playoff appearance. But the departures of Felton and Chandler have left Charlotte perilously thin, and the volatile personalities of Jackson and Tyrus Thomas could bubble to the surface with a slow start. Then there is Larry Brown, the Bobcats' biggest asset, who reportedly flirted with leaving last season. If the team takes a step back this year, Brown could very well be headed out the door.
By The Numbers
$380 million Construction cost of Orlando's new 875,000-square-foot Amway Center. The arena will seat 18,500 and has eight levels, five concourses and more than 1,400 club seats.
1.69 Average number of points the Heat's Miller had off open jump shots last season, the highest of any player. According to Synergy Sports, 80 players took at least 50 unguarded jump shots last season. Miller connected on 41 of his 67 open attempts.
1,974 Number of games coached by Larry Brown entering this season, the fourth-highest total in NBA history and the most of any active coach.
Bold Prediction
LeBron will cede the MVP trophy to Kevin Durant, but James will lead the NBA in assists while powering Miami to 70 (not 72) wins.
Southeast Video Preview
NBA Preview: Orlando Magic
Source: SI's Zach Lowe breaks down the 2010-11 season and what Orlando needs to do to come out on top in the Eastern Conference.

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