Miami can win the Southeast by as many or as few games as it wants. Last season it became clear that the Heat are the perfect team for the playoffs. The rest of the division is made up of young talents, but each of these teams is missing crucial pieces that will prevent them from achieving elite status.

Miami Heat: The Heat will take over the Southeast Division, but not as much as you might think, as the Wizards will likely be a close second. After capturing an NBA title last season, Pat Riley will make sure his players are healthy as they enter the postseason. If that means dropping Shaq sometimes and cutting Dwayne Wade’s minutes down, Riley will. Jason Williams and Antoine Walker proved to be great acquisitions last season as they proved they could be role players. Riley stepping in as the main man may have been a franchise’s best move, period, last season. Shaq, Zo and The Glove give this team the experience and leadership that many NBA teams lack and D-Wade is the icing on the cake.

Washington Wizards: Gilbert Arenas finally reached NBA elite status last season and will increase his numbers again this year, but I don’t see much improvement in the Wizards’ record. Jamison and Butler can score, but neither play much defense and the Wizards can never afford to have Arenas on the bench. Maybe that’s why he led the league in minutes last season. Not having a great man is the downfall of this team like so many others in the league. Championship teams have a force in the middle unless Michael Jordan is on the team.

Orlando Magic: The Magic have one of the best young talents in the game in Dwight Howard. He dominated the paint last season leading the league in dunks and I think you’ll see even more important things from him this year. The big “yes” is Grant Hill. When he played last season, it was easy to see that he can still be a great player in this league and has the experience and veteran attitude that this young team needs. If he somehow manages to get through a full season, or most of it, the Magic could surpass Washington and take second place in the Southeast. Jameer Nelson is a consistent 16-six on the point and Milicic can do his thing in his first full season as a starter. This team has great prospects.

Charlotte Bobcats: Despite being incredibly young and inexperienced, I think the Bobcats can avoid last place in the southeast. Felton will be making a lot of noise this season at that point. He averaged nearly 17 points and nearly eight assists in 27 games after the All-Star Break. With rookie Adam Morrison, explosive forward Gerald Wallace and double-double Emeka Okafor, the Bobcats have some great young talent. They will play with nothing to lose and will really light up the scoreboard this season. His big concern is defense and that concern will not be answered throughout the season.

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are another team that falls into the “young and talented” category. The subtitle for this category should be “no chance of making the playoffs.” Joe Johnson is not a franchise player with only 20 points per game, and I don’t see Marvin Williams or Josh Smith reaching that status ever. Williams may surprise me this season, but he has such an ease in his game that I have a feeling he lacks the determination it takes to excel in the NBA. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking and winning will change that, but I don’t see much of a win-win for the Hawks anytime soon.

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