2013-2014 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

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Oct 23, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a preseason game at New Orleans Arena. The Heat defeated the Pelicans 108-95. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings! We’re wrapping up the 6 divisions today, but be sure to check out our full-length previews of the Northwest, Pacific, Southwest, Atlantic, and Central divisions here. Without further ado, let’s get to the resident division of our hometown Atlanta Hawks.

Miami Heat (60-22)

The 2-time defending champion Miami Heat are back to defend their title (again) and this preview nearly writes itself. They have the best player on Planet Earth in Lebron James, and he is my pick to win a 3rd consecutive MVP award that would give him 5 such honors in a 6-year period. Lebron averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game last season while shooting a complete insane 56.5% from the field, and if it was possible, he made a “leap” to another stratosphere. That was evidenced by a 31.67 PER (with all-World defense), and while I could go on for days, it is simple to say that they have Lebron James and no one else does.

Next to LBJ, Miami will send out what seems to be a healthy Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade battled knee trouble throughout the playoffs last year, and while he’s reportedly healthy, that will seemingly always be a concern for the former Marquette guard. However, he was electric at times last year (even though no one noticed) in averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game with 52% field goal shooting. There is a legitimate argument that Wade is the best shooting guard on Earth (when healthy), and even if he’s not, he’s certainly in the top 3 along with James Harden and a healthy Kobe Bryant.

Bosh is a divisive player thanks to his admittedly “weird” personality, but he’s also an outstanding basketball player. Even as the absolute 3rd option, Bosh averaged nearly 17 points per game last season, on the strength of tremendous mid-range shooting and versatile play around the rim. He’s still too small (read: thin) to deal with legitimate NBA centers, but Miami regularly gets away with using him at the 5 thanks to their smallball tendencies and that Lebron James guy. The one knock on Bosh is his relative lack of rebounding (6.8 per game last year) but if he can get that back up to his career average (8.9 per game), he’d be near-perfect for this team.

The next group for the Heat represents a steep drop-off in talent, but they fit into roles in a beautiful way. Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem are the default “starters” alongside the big 3, and each does certain things well. Chalmers plays solid defense at the point, can knock down shots (41% from 3 last season), and run the offense in a pinch. He’s a guy that many people (including myself) give a hard time, but he’s actually been pretty solid for a team that doesn’t need a traditional point guard. Haslem is a tenacious defender despite his relatively short stature, and his mid-range jumpers provide some balance when needed. His minutes have been on the decline for years (18.9 last season), but he’s valuable.

Ray Allen and Shane Battier form a tremendous veteran wing duo off the bench, and they’re back for another year. Allen’s shooting speaks for itself, and the NBA Finals hero (the game-winner in Game 6 was incredible) shot 41.9% from 3-point distance again last year. He’s slipped in other areas thanks to declining athleticism, but Allen’s marksmanship is still in tact, and that’s really all they need from him. In the case of Battier, he is also declining athletically (just look at his rebounding numbers), but he has one of the league’s highest basketball IQ’s and the 35-year-old shot a blistering 43% from 3 last season as well. He won’t make the spectacular play, but he always makes the right play.

Lastly, the Heat brought in two high-profile castoffs this season, and if one of them hits, they’ll be even more devastating. Greg Oden is in camp with Miami, and the former #1 pick looked spry in his first appearance during a preseason game. Obviously, expectations are low for the oft-injured big man, but it’s easy to forget just how dominant he was in college (and even as a rookie at times), and if he could give them rebounding and defense in small spurs, it would be a fantastic story. The second player is Michael Beasley, and while staying on the floor hasn’t been the issue, his off-court antics have been. This is the perfect spot for him as he has no pressure and a group of vets to keep him in line, but if he flames out here, it may be all over for the former Kansas State gunner.

Miami almost has to be the default front-runner for the 2013-2014 title, and they hold that spot for me. It’s very possible that the Heat get bored in the regular season (literally) and cruise to a 50-something win season, but with Lebron on the court, I’m giving them 60 wins and the #1 seed.