The NBA 2013-14 season is just over one week away. Training camps and preseason action is fizzling out as the nature and likely story lines of the upcoming season become more obvious. The Southeast division will once again be all about the Miami Heat and their attempt to reach a fourth consecutive NBA finals and to win a third straight NBA title. The rest of the story lines will follow the attempts of the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards to be a part of the NBA playoffs.
The Heat’s real challenge in attempting to secure an historic three-peat will not come in their own division. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all return with a pretty similar supporting cast. The main upgrades that Miami have managed to add to their 2013-14 roster are a pair of projects in 2007 first overall pick Greg Oden and 2008 second overall pick Michael Beasley. Oden has been seriously held back by injury problems during his career playing in only 82 NBA games in six years. He has already re-agitated those knee problems during Miami’s preseason schedule as well. Meanwhile, Beasley hasn’t fulfilled his potential despite numerous opportunities. This could be his last serious chance in the NBA. Regardless, the crucial factor for the Heat will be the health of Wade. If he can avoid the injury problems that plagued him last season, then Miami can still be just about an unstoppable team.
Atlanta never really broke into the major free agency discussion last summer despite lots of noise beforehand. However, they’ve assembled a pretty nice roster led by a decent front court tandem in Al Horford and new signing Al Horford. Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Lou Williams are all pretty decent when it comes to the back-court as well. This team should make the playoffs pretty comfortably while maintaining decent financial flexibility. The Josh Smith era finally ended, but it did not end in catastrophic fashion and that is something that the Hawks can be pleased about this season.
Emeka Okafor’s preseason injury could be the blow that ruins Washington’s postseason return plans. Still, this is a team that enters the season reliant upon a potentially dynamic back-court duo in John Wall and Bradley Beal. The two haven’t played together very much during their careers so far, but both are set to start 2013-14 healthy and should be able to feed off of one another especially against the weaker teams in the Eastern conference. With Okafor out, the back-up will need to come from veteran Martell Webster and center Nene Hilario. Wizards fans will understandably watch the beginning of the season somewhat nervously.
In truth it wasn’t an easy decision to pick between Orlando and Charlotte for the wooden spoon in this division. Both teams have been mired in long-term troubles and neither have much reason to feel brighter about their future right now. There might even be some competition between the two trying to claim last place. Orlando probably wins a few more games with a starting line-up that still has some useful NBA players in Nikola Vucevic, Arron Affalo and Jameer Nelson. There are also very high expectations set on second overall pick Victor Oladipo. He has tremendous athleticism, scoring ability and defensive potential. Oladipo is a very raw player, but how he is managed right from the get go will be crucial for this franchise moving forward.
Maybe things are just starting to come together for the Bobcats, but it is still something that needs to be seen before it can be believed. Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordan are manning the back-court, while the front court could either come together and be one of the most under-rated in the conference, or it could become one of the most over-billed. Major free agent addition Al Jefferson manages the center position and he will need 2013 draft pick Cody Zeller and 2012 pick Michael-Kidd Gilchrist to come together. We don’t see it happening.