Season Preview: Eastern Conference - Southeast Division
Web Editorial Associate
Editor’s Note: Timberwolves.com will break down each of the NBA’s six divisions leading into training camp, highlighting the moves each team made and what to watch for during the 2012-13 campaign. Part IV looks at the Southeast Division, where the Miami Heat look to repeat last year’s magic and bring home another championship.
2011-12 Season record: 46-20, 1st in division, 2nd in Eastern Conference, won NBA Finals over Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1)
Ray Allen (from Celtics), Rashard Lewis (from Hornets), Justin Hamilton (from Draft)
Ronny Turiaf (to Clippers)
After losing the previous season’s NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat returned to the postseason hungry and captured the NBA title for 2011-2012. They became the first NBA team to win the Finals despite trailing at some point in three different series, and LeBron James—who averaged 30.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs—finally got his much-awaited championship ring.
The “Big Three” formula worked for Miami last season, as LeBron James (27.1 PPG), Dwyane Wade (22.1) and Chris Bosh (18.0) were far and away the top scorers for the Heat. James and Bosh tied at 7.9 rebounds per game to lead the team’s efforts on the boards, with Udonis Haslem pitching in an extra 5.5 per game. Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony rounded out the starting lineup, contributing key minutes at point guard and center, respectively.
Virtually everyone will be back for 2012-2013, as the only player lost from the championship roster is Ronny Turiaf. Miami's perimeter shooting will only improve with sharpshooters Ray Allen (Boston) and Rashard Lewis (New Orleans) joining the roster. While the Big Three continue to chug along and terrorize opponents, watch for younger players like Norris Cole to emerge as strong bench options. Cole, drafted out of Cleveland State in 2011, averaged 6.8 PPG in his rookie season and was selected to participate in the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend.
Will we see a repeat this next season? It certainly seems possible. James and Bosh are enjoying a special summer, having played for a dominant Gold Medal team along with winning an NBA ring. If the core of this team can stay healthy and the rest of the roster can step up when needed, Miami should make another run at a title.
2011-12 Season record: 40-26, 2nd in division, 5th in Eastern Conference, lost Eastern Conference quarterfinals to Boston Celtics (4-2)
Devin Harris (from Jazz), Kyle Korver (from Bulls), Anthony Morrow (from Nets), Lou Williams (from Sixers), DeShawn Stevenson (from Nets), Jordan Williams (from Nets), Johan Petro (from Nets), Damion James (from Nets), James Anderson (from Spurs), John Jenkins (from Draft), Mike Scott (from Draft)
Joe Johnson (to Nets), Marvin Williams (to Jazz), Jordan Farmar (to Anadolu Efes, Turkey), Willie Green (to Clippers), Kirk Hinrich (to Bulls), Jerry Stackhouse (to Nets), Vladimir Radmanovic (to Bulls), Jason Collins (to Celtics)
A promising season ended in a disappointing fashion when the Hawks, who entered the playoffs with the third-best record in the East, were eliminated in the first round by the Boston Celtics. This ended Atlanta’s three year streak of advancing to the second round, and significant changes were made to both the front office and roster during the offseason.
On June 25, Atlanta hired Danny Ferry as its President of Basketball Operations and General Manager; Ferry was previously the San Antonio Spurs Vice President of Basketball Operations. The team went on to trade leading scorer and six-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for a package of players and a 2013 first round draft pick on July 2. On the same day, Marvin Williams was swapped with Devin Harris of the Jazz, and a week later guard Lou Williams was signed in free agency.
Returning for the Hawks are frontcourt centerpieces Josh Smith (18.8 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game) and Al Horford, who is recovered from a pectoral injury that kept him out of most of the regular season. Jeff Teague comes back at point guard after leading the team in 2011-2012 with 4.9 assists per game. Atlanta also added a great perimeter shooter in Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins through the draft.
It remains to be seen who will pick up the minutes left behind by Joe Johnson; whoever steps up will have some big shoes to fill. Regardless, the Hawks organization will need someone to step up and help them take care of some unfinished business for a franchise that hasn’t captured their division since 1994.
2011-12 Season record: 37-29, 3rd in division, 6th in Eastern Conference, lost Eastern Conference quarterfinals to Indiana Pacers (4-1)
Arron Afflalo (from Nuggets), Gustavo Ayon (from Hornets), Christian Eyenga (from Lakers), Moe Harkless (from Sixers), Al Harrington (from Nuggets), Josh McRoberts (from Lakers), Nikola Vucevic (from Sixers), E-Twaun Moore (from Houston), Andrew Nicholson (from Draft), Kyle O’Quinn (from Draft)
Dwight Howard (to Lakers), Chris Duhon (to Lakers), Ryan Anderson (to Hornets), Earl Clark (to Lakers), Jason Richardson (to Sixers), DeAndre Liggins (to Thunder), Daniel Orton (to Thunder), Von Wafer (waived)
For the first time since 2004, the Orlando Magic will tip-off their season without Dwight Howard at center. The six-time NBA All-Star was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason, ending an era in Orlando that was filled with ups and downs.
The Magic received a package from the four-way trade that included five veterans, first-round selection Moe Harkless and draft picks. The front office was also revamped, adding former Oklahoma City assistant general manager Rob Hennigan as the team’s new general manager and Jacque Vaughn as the new head coach.
Jameer Nelson returns at point guard for Orlando after averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 assists per game last season. Sharpshooting guard JJ Redick (11.6 PPG) and forward Hedo Turkoglu (10.9 PPG) will also provide veteran guidance for this young roster. Rookie Moe Harkless is extremely long and athletic, and second-round pick Kyle O’Quinn is a hardnosed, rugged post player who made a name for himself during March Madness.
The rebuilding process has begun in Orlando; there will be quite a bit of shuffling in the lineup before all of the new faces find their place. There are some talented names on this roster, and Orlando fans can look forward to seeing who steps up in the absence of “Superman.”
2011-12 Season record: 20-46, 4th in division, 14th in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs
Bradley Beal (from Draft), Trevor Ariza (from Hornets), Emeka Okafor (from Hornets), Tomas Satoransky (from Draft), AJ Price (from Pacers), Martell Webster (from Wolves)
Andray Blatche (to Nets), Rashard Lewis (to Hornets), James Singleton (to Xinjiang, China), Morris Almond (to Red Star Belgrade, Serbia)
Randy Wittman dropped his interim label over the summer, becoming the head coach for a Washington club that compiled a 20-46 record in 2011-2012. Last season ended on a high note with six straight wins to close the year, including two victories over the eventual champion Miami Heat.
This young team will have a different look this year, as they lose veteran contributors Rashard Lewis (7.9 points per game) and Andray Blatche (8.5 PPG, 5.8 rebounds). Factor these moves in with midseason trades that shipped out Nick Young (16.6 PPG) and Javale McGee (11.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG), and Washington is losing four players who played more than 20 minutes per game for them last season.
The backcourt promises to be a dynamic one, as No. 3 overall draft choice Bradley Beal (Florida) will pair with team centerpiece John Wall. Wall, who averaged 16.3 points and 8 assists per game last year, continues to develop as an athletic and talented point guard who is still only 22 years old. Also returning for Washington are Jordan Crawford (14.7 PPG) and Nene (14.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG) — the latter of which was acquired mid-season and will have a fresh start in Wittman’s system this year.
For a young roster that continues to gel, there are plenty of things to be optimistic about in 2012. John Wall has star potential, and new coach Randy Wittman will have a sharpshooter to work with in Bradley Beal. Good progress for this team would be reaching the third spot in the Southeastern division.
2011-12 Season record: 7-59, 5th in division, 15th in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (from Draft), Jeff Taylor (from Draft), Ramon Sessions (from Lakers), Ben Gordon (from Pistons), Brendan Haywood (from Mavs)
DJ Augustin (to Pacers), Corey Maggette (to Pistons), Eduardo Najera (retired), Jamario Moon (waived)
When you logged the worst winning percentage in the history of the NBA in 2011-2012, there truly is nowhere to go but up. The Charlotte Bobcats used the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft to pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a do-it-all forward with a great motor and a championship pedigree. Also added were veterans Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon along with high-flying second-round pick Jeff Taylor (Vanderbilt).
The roster was not without talent last year, either. Gerald Henderson will return as the team’s top scorer (15.1 points per game) and their captain, while Kemba Walker closed out his rookie season with a 12.1 PPG average. Walker, who like Kidd-Gilchrist also won an NCAA title, should see plenty of time in the guard rotation along with Henderson and newcomers Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions.
While Charlotte missed out on the top overall pick during the NBA Draft Lottery, Kidd-Gilchrist is a great consolation prize. Described by Kentucky coach John Calipari as the hardest-working member of last season’s championship squad, Kidd-Gilchrist will bring much-needed energy to the Bobcats. Their roster also features a young shot-blocker in Bismack Biyombo, a 19-year-old who is developing the rest of his game along with his terrific defense.
New head coach Mike Dunlap does not lack resources to begin building in Charlotte. The question will be, when can all of the young players can become accustomed to playing in the NBA? And will it be sooner rather than later? The Bobcats and their fans can only hope for the former.