1. Washington Wizards
This is their time to build on the success of last season.
2. Charlotte Hornets
Being the Hornets again means the expectation of instant success.
3. Miami Heat
They’re still a solid team, but they still have issues in the paint.
4. Atlanta Hawks
Health is critical for them getting into the playoffs.
5. Orlando Magic
With Oladipo and now Aaron Gordon the Magic’s future should be brighter.
Head Coach: Randy Wittman
Key Position: Point Guard – It’s not an easy division to play in, but having the best point guard certainly gives you the edge. John Wall has been superb the last two seasons and will look to take it up a notch. Having a safety net at the end of games in Paul Pierce will help the Wizards win those close games down the stretch. Having two cogs in the paint in Nene and Gortat helps clear the path for Wall and Beal to drive.
Key Rookies: None
Key Acquisitions: F Paul Pierce (Brooklyn Nets)
Starting Lineup: G John Wall, G Bradley Beal, F Paul Pierce, F Nene, C Marcin Gortat
Head Coach: Steve Clifford
Key Position: Shooting Guard – Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker will do their jobs, but which Lance Stephenson is Charlotte getting? They hope they get the one that lead the league in triple doubles last year and was a solid defensive player all season. The Hornets will need Kidd-Gilchrist to be more involved on offense, but with him and Stephenson they won’t be giving up many easy opportunities for opponents wing players.
Key Rookies: F Noah Vonleh, G P.J. Hairston
Key Acquisitions: G Brian Roberts (New Orleans Pelicans), G Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers), F Marvin Williams (Utah Jazz)
Starting Lineup: G Kemba Walker, G Lance Stephenson, F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F Bismack Biyombo, C Al Jefferson
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Key Position: Power Forward – The thought was that LeBron was going to stay and with him, McRoberts and Bosh the rebounding issues would subside. Now without LeBron those issues still remain. Miami doesn’t have a true presence in the paint and that will bite them when it counts. Look for a more involved Chris Bosh though if the Heat want to remain contenders.
Key Rookies: G Shabazz Napier
Key Acquisitions: F Chris Bosh (re-signed), F Luol Deng (Cleveland Cavaliers), F Danny Granger (Los Angeles Clippers), F Josh McRoberts (Charlotte Hornets), G Dwayne Wade (re-signed)
Starting Lineup: G Mario Chalmers, G Dwayne Wade, F Luol Deng, F Josh McRoberts, C Chris Bosh
Head Coach: Mike Budenholzer
Key Position: Center – If Al Horford isn’t healthy then the Hawks will consider this a lost season. When he’s present the Hawks are a very good team that can wreak havoc in the paint. Adding Adrian Payne in the draft will help offset any injury issues in the front court. Millsap is coming off an All-Star season and will be counted on to once again answer what Horford brings to this team on a nightly basis.
Key Rookies: F Adreian Payne
Key Acquisitions: G Kent Bazemore (Los Angeles Lakers), G Thabo Sefolosha (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Starting Lineup: G Jeff Teague, G Thabo Sefolosha, F DeMarre Carroll, F Paul Millsap, C Al Horford
Head Coach: Jacque Vaughn
Key Position: Point Guard – With the departure of Jameer Nelson there is a void now in the floor generals spot. Most likely it will be up to Luke Ridnour to man that spot to start the season. The veteran will be flanked by rookie first rounder Elfrid Payton who oozes potential, but he will be brought along slowly. Evan Fournier can play the point, but will be a combo guard for the Magic.
Key Rookies: F Aaron Gordon, G Elfrid Payton
Key Acquisitions: F Channing Frye (Phoenix Suns), G Ben Gordon (Charlotte Hornets), G Luke Ridnour (Charlotte Hornets), G Evan Fournier (Denver Nuggets)
Starting Lineup: G Luke Ridnour, G Victor Oladipo, F Tobias Harris, F Channing Frye, C Nikola Vucevic