NBA preview: Southeast
by Steve Kerr, Yahoo Sports
October 29, 2004
After years of doing battle in the West with the likes of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, David Robinson and Vlade Divac, Shaq now faces the following roster of big men in his new division: Kelvin Cato, Brendan Haywood, Jahidi White and Jason Collier. Does the word "domination" come to mind? As a result the Heat shouldn't have any problem winning this division, with only Orlando a distant threat to knock them off.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat will take a while to develop and learn to play as a team, but in this division they'll have plenty of time to work out the kinks.
2. Orlando Magic
Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley form an explosive backcourt, and Cato and Tony Battie are both solid defenders and rebounders, something Orlando lacked desperately a year ago. The Magic were the worst defensive club in the NBA last season, and Battie and Cato will help them improve.
Pat Garrity is healthy and ready to display the shooting skills at the forward spot that make him one of the league's best marksmen, and Grant Hill will quietly make another comeback attempt after his fourth foot surgery. Hill is apparently healthy and played well in training camp, and a complete recovery would make the Magic one of the more talented teams in the East.
Rookie Dwight Howard is gifted but young, and coach Johnny Davis would love to bring him along slowly. A playoff berth is certainly a possibility for this club.
3. Washington Wizards
Eddie Jordan is attempting to change that, but he has a difficult task. Kwame Brown hasn't developed the way the Wizards had hoped when they drafted him years ago, and already he is injured and expected to miss the first part of the season. Still, there's talent on this squad, especially on the perimeter.
Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes are both dynamic young talents, and the addition of Antawn Jamison gives Washington a 20-point scorer at the small forward spot. The question for the Wizards, though, is whether they can stop anyone. They gave up 97 points per game last season. Jordan hopes young big man Etan Thomas can stabilize a weak front line.
4. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta seems to go through major personnel overhauls yearly, and this season is no different. The new faces include Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Jon Barry and Al Harrington. The Hawks also drafted a couple of swingmen: Josh Childress of Stanford and Josh Smith from Oak Hill Academy.
Woodson will try to build a foundation for the franchise by emphasizing defense, as his mentor Larry Brown did in Philadelphia and Detroit. Unfortunately, there's nobody named Ben Wallace or Rasheed Wallace to help.
5. Charlotte Bobcats
But the Bobcats will build a young team around the defensive exploits of UConn star Emeka Okafor, who is an outstanding shot blocker and rebounder. They hope Okafor can eventually develop a reliable offensive game, but his post game is unrefined. He's also undersized at 6 feet 8 inches, so he'll have to adjust to playing against the bigger, stronger athletes in the NBA.
Okafor will be joined by a collection of unproven young players and aging veterans, which means the Bobcats will have a tough time putting points on the board. It'll be a long season in Charlotte, but at least there will be a season.
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Friday, Oct 29, 2004 5:27 pm, EDT