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Featured Gallery, NBA / Dec 21, 2011 / 12:00 pm

Dime’s 2011-12 NBA Preview: The Southeast Division

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh (photo. David Alvarez)

Everyone wants to talk about super teams. Of course, the Heat, Knicks, Clippers, Celtics and all the rest of ‘em capture the imagination of the NBA fan base. There’s nothing quite like feeling the anticipation and excitement in the air when you see that news hit telling you Chris Paul has finally been traded and he’s going to the Clippers. What immediately follows is typically more invigorating than what eventually happens. The promise of what could be is almost always better than what is. Even here at Dime, we find ourselves talking about one third of the NBA about 80 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about everyone else.

In the final week before the regular season tips off for real this Sunday on Christmas, we’ll break down each division, team by team in an effort to give you an overall look at what to expect in what’s sure to be a relentlessly exciting season.

We started things off by getting our East Coast bias on and diving into the Atlantic on Monday and then the Central Division yesterday. Today, we’re hitting up the Southeast Division.

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5. Charlotte Bobcats
The New Guys That Count: Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Corey Maggette, Reggie Williams
Projected Starting Five: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, Tyrus Thomas, Boris Diaw

Kemba won’t be winning any titles or going on championship-worthy playoff runs this season. His first order of business will probably be to get acclimated with the NBA, take over the starting gig from Augustin and learn to deal with losing. They’ll be a lot of that this season. Want to know how much of a basketball outpost Charlotte has become for NBA heads? Name me some players off their bench. Shoot, there were times this summer where I couldn’t even remember who was coaching them (Paul Silas). It’s never a good thing when your owner is the most famous person – BY FAR – in your entire organization.

There hasn’t been much winning for the Bobcats lately, and even when they did make the playoffs in 2010, they were swept right into summer. What they’ve lacked throughout their existence is a star. Someone to capture the public’s imagination. A player who can take over games late in the game clock, and get a decent shot at the end of a shot clock. Walker’s been known to do that, and already had 18 in his first preseason game.

Charlotte has a long road ahead of them and it’s a steep climb. Reggie Williams is out for two months with a knee issue, and Maggette – thought to be their best offensive weapon – is already battling lower back problems. Even Tyrus Thomas is bound to get hurt at some point. Boris Diaw is apparently their point-center, probably the first to play such a thing in NBA history. If he didn’t look he became Boris Diaws over the lockout then we might go along with it.

BEST CASE: Walker gets his mini Jordan on and takes over a few games early in the schedule. Charlotte survives long enough to get completely healthy and Silas brings everyone together long enough to drive them towards 30 wins
WORST CASE: Walker gets disinterested early, Maggette’s trigger finger is uncontrollable and injury problems banish Charlotte to the league’s cellar.

4. Washington Wizards
The New Guys That Count: Shelvin Mack, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Ronny Turiaf
Projected Starting Five: John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee

If the NBA was the playground, and no one cared about running plays, playing together and defense, the Wiz would be one of the best teams in the league. Blatche would be the skilled big dude running point, Wall would stand at halfcourt and leak out on every shot and no one would ever challenge McGee. They’d win every game. Take a look at that lineup. It’s better than solid. It looks almost like a playoff team. They’re already one of the most exciting teams to watch. Now they just need to grow up a little.

Wall will make the jump this year. I’m betting on a lineup of somewhere around 19/5/10 with over two steals a night. Blatche is promising to take his job more seriously, McGee is already stuffing opposing centers through the rim and even if Young and Jordan Crawford go after shots like Stacey Patton from Eddie, Washington should bring some semblance of competitiveness to the nation’s capital.

I know it sounds cliche, but Washington needs someone to step up. That locker room is too much like a high school, with cliques and petty problems and players always concentrating on the wrong stuff. No one wants to be signaled out. No one wants to hold people accountable. That should be Wall. We know he loves the game. We know he’ll never stop playing. We know how good he wants to be. But the longer the Wizards continue to sputter, the more it’ll hurt his development.

BEST CASE: Wall makes ‘The Jump,’ Young and Crawford’s subsequent gunning cancels each other out, Blatche realizes his talent and stops shooting running 15-footers, the Wizards sprint into the playoffs and set the stage for an epic breakthrough in 2012.
WORST CASE: Wall’s summer dominance was a mirage, and Washington continues to play like they’re trying to make the playoffs of the EBC at Rucker Park rather than the NBA’s second season.

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  • Tha Boddy “You build the Wall with steel”

    In my opinion the Wizards are built better than the Hawks they just need to pull it together which is the job they are paid to do. About Miami, LeBron is the Alpha dog with Wade being a Jr version of him (no offense) the problem is LeBron doesn’t wanna step on any toes and his selflessness is the reason he is underperforming. Because him and Wade do the same thing and really aren’t that different (if Wade was 6’8 they would be the same person) its very hard for them to work off each other because they are each other. They are doing an excellent job of doing so but know this “an apple and an apple are still just apples”

  • north

    There are so many other teams that just keep making the playoffs and don’t even get past the first round, yet every time you guys write about the Hawks you jump all over them. You act like ex-girlfriends. Over the last few years the Hawks have beaten or scared the crap out of the “top” teams in the East in the playoffs. No they haven’t won the ‘ship, but neither have a ton of other teams lately.

  • BiGShoTBoB

    The two best players in the league are Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitski…Lebron is a flop!

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    @north
    The Hawks have made 2nd round and never advanced since as long as JJ has been there. The criticism is warranted IMO. you would think if they have THAT much experience in the second round, at some point they’d get over the hump but, to me at least, it looks like they always give up. Like they’re 100% satisfied with advancing one round.

  • north

    @JAY
    While I get that they should be jumping to the next step and they aren’t the issue is that the same conversation can be had about multiple other team but isn’t. DIME just harps on ATL but not on the Bulls, Spurs, Mavs (until last year, Rockets, Suns, 76ers etc.
    It’s not about the fact that it’s true, it’s about the fact that there is more to say about that team then just the playoff stuff. JJ’s contract hinders them… they need to trust Teague and not pull him early, Smith gets passed up for an All-Star spot each year because he’s in a small market.
    Read my original comment again. It’s not that it’s not true, it’s that it’s been done and done again by DIME. Time to write something new.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    I don’t understand why people are so low on Joe Johnson. I know he makes a ton of money, but it’s not like he forced ATL into that position; they offered and he took it just like anybody else would. Am I crazy overrating JJ, or isn’t he still a Top-5 (even Top-3 on a good day) shooting guard in the league?

  • Tha Boddy “You build the Wall with steel”

    @Austin Burton Hell no!!! S.Jack is better than him stamp that

  • LETSGOKNICKS

    Tha Boddy “You build the Wall with steel”

    are you nuts? I’m with Austin, Joe just took the money that was offered, wouldn’t you?

    I say he’s one of the top 3 shooting guards in the league today:

    1. dwayne wade
    2. kobe bryant
    3. joe johnson

    who is a better shooting guard than joe johnson other than wade and bryant?

  • cdubb

    “The two best players in the NBA both play in red and black”. Yea right. Um, who did beat them again in the ’11 finals? I love how you guys at DIME constantly try to ignore Dirk’s spot among the league’s greats. Get your shit together and make a reality check. Miami might be the big favorite to win it all eventually, yet you guys should show respect, where it is due. And as long as those to guys did not win a Larry together, we are not talking about “the two best players in the NBA”. Period.

    Though, I widely agree w/ the south-east preview you put together.

  • D-NICE

    D Wade is not a jr version of anybody. IMO he’s better than Lebron and the Heat is his team. How quickly people forget that he was the one who put MIA on his back and won them their first title in franchise history in 2006