Southeast Division team-by-team capsules
Capsules for the NBA’s Southeast Division, listed in predicted order of divisional finish by AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds’:
LAST SEASON: 44-38, lost to Indiana Pacers 4-2 in second round.
STARTING FIVE: G John Wall (19.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 8.8 apg), G Bradley Beal (17.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg), F Paul Pierce (13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.4 apg), F Nene (14.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.9 apg), C Marcin Gortat (13.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Pierce (free agent, Nets), F Kris Humphries (trade, Celtics), F DeJuan Blair (trade, Mavericks).
KEY LOSSES: F Trevor Ariza (trade, Rockets), F Trevor Booker (free agent, Jazz).
COACH: Randy Wittman, fourth season with Wizards (91-122), ninth season overall (191-329).
EYES ON: Beal. Wall is supposed to the brash one, but it was usually more reserved shooting guard who proclaimed on media day that the Wizards have “definitely the best backcourt in the league.” The process of backing it up was set back when Beal broke a bone in his wrist in preseason, which should sideline him about six weeks. It’s hard to imagine the Wizards going far without his smooth shooting touch.
OUTLOOK: Pretty good, which hasn’t been said about the Wizards in a long time. Replacing Ariza’s defense will be tough, and Beal will be missed early on, but Pierce adds veteran savvy, and the experience and excitement of last season’s return to the playoffs after several dormant years has energized the franchise.
LAST SEASON: 54-28, lost to San Antonio Spurs 4-1 in NBA Finals.
STARTING FIVE: G Norris Cole (6.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.0 apg), G Dwyane Wade (19.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.7 apg), F Luol Deng (16.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.9 apg), F Josh McRoberts (8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.3 apg), C Chris Bosh (16.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: Deng (free agent, Cavaliers), McRoberts (free agent, Bobcats), F Danny Granger (free agent, Clippers), F Shawne Williams (free agent, Lakers), G Shabazz Napier (draft, Connecticut).
KEY LOSSES: F LeBron James (free agent, Cavaliers), G James Jones (free agent, Cavaliers), F Shane Battier (retired), G Ray Allen (unsigned), F Rashard Lewis (unsigned), F Michael Beasley (free agent, China).
COACH: Erik Spoelstra, seventh season with Heat (314-162).
EYES ON: Wade. So much of what this team will do is predicated on Wade not having the struggles that slowed him in the NBA Finals last June, plus with him being able to play in more than the 54 regular-season games he appeared in a year ago. If he declines, Miami is probably in trouble.
OUTLOOK: No, the Heat aren’t as talented as they’ve been in the last four years that ended in the NBA Finals. But there’s still a proven system and proven stars, plus a solid core of newcomers. Miami will likely get better as the season goes along.
LAST SEASON: 43-39, lost to Miami Heat 4-0 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Kemba Walker (17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.1 apg), G Lance Stephenson (13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.6 apg), F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.8 apg), F Marvin Williams (9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.2 apg), C Al Jefferson (21.8 ppg, 108 rpg, 1.1 bpg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Stephenson (free agent, Pacers), F Williams (free agent, Jazz), G Brian Roberts (free agent, Pelicans), Noah Vonleh (draft, Indiana), P.J. Harrison (draft, North Carolina).
KEY LOSSES: F Josh McRoberts (free agent, Heat), Luke Ridnour (free agent, Magic).
COACH: Steve Clifford, second season with Hornets (43-39).
EYES ON: Stephenson. He brings some needed playoff experience and intensity to a team coming off a breakthrough season. Stephenson has vowed to control his on-court “antics” and focus on remaining in control. Clifford expects him to become more of a scorer in Charlotte and someone who can take the pressure off Jefferson.
OUTLOOK: Charlotte has a new name and new expectations after reaching the playoffs last season, and the 7-59 campaign from three years ago now seems like a distant memory. After signing free agents Jefferson and Stephenson in back-to-back seasons, the Hornets could compete for a top four seed in the East.
LAST SEASON: 38-44, lost to Indiana Pacers 4-3 in first round.
STARTING FIVE: G Jeff Teague (16.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 6.7 apg), G Kyle Korver (12.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apg), F Paul Millsap (17.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), F DeMarre Carroll (11.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.8 apg); C Al Horford (18.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.6 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: G Kent Bazemore (free agent, Warriors), G-F Thabo Sefolosha (free agent, Thunder), F-C Adreian Payne (draft, Michigan State).
KEY LOSSES: G Lou Williams (trade, Raptors), F Cartier Martin (free agent, Pistons), F-C Gustavo Ayon (free agent, Spain).
COACH: Mike Budenholzer, second season with Hawks (38-44).
EYES ON: Horford. Successful recovery from torn right pectoral muscle is key to Hawks’ hopes to be more than an also-ran in East. Hawks were third in conference when Horford was hurt and then began dropping to bottom of playoff teams. Horford has made steady progress in preseason, working up to about 20 minutes per game, and hopes to be ready to start in season-opener.
OUTLOOK: There is much stability on the roster and much turmoil in management following racially charged comments from co-owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence. Levenson is selling his majority share. Teague, Horford and others prospered in Budenholzer’s scheme he brought from Spurs and Hawks should return to playoffs in coach’s second season.
LAST SEASON: 23-59, missed playoffs.
STARTING FIVE: G Elfrid Payton (rookie), G Victor Oladipo (13.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.1 apg), F Tobias Harris (14.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.3 apg), F Channing Frye (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.2 apg), C Nikola Vucevic (14.2 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.8 apg).
KEY ADDITIONS: F Frye (free agent, Phoenix), G Payton (draft, Louisiana-Lafayette) F Aaron Gordon (draft, Arizona), F Devyn Marble (draft, Iowa), G Ben Gordon (free agent, Hornets), G Willie Green (free agent, Clippers), G Evan Fournier (trade, Nuggets), G Luke Ridnour (free agent, Hornets)
KEY LOSSES: G Arron Afflalo (trade, Nuggets), G Jameer Nelson (free agent, Mavericks).
COACH: Jacque Vaughn, third season with Magic (43-121).
EYES ON: Oladipo. The second overall pick in last year’s draft, Oladipo showed Magic fans he was worthy of the selection as well as their hopes for the future, finishing second in rookie of the year voting and as first team all-rookie team member. He produced multiple 30-point games and toiled with playing both guard positions. Coaches are excited now to see what he and Payton can produce together.
OUTLOOK: There is plenty to like about the young pieces the Magic have assembled despite not landing the top 3 in this summer’s draft. It should produce more wins this season, but this group will need time to mature. It seems general manager Rob Hennigan and Vaughn have the confidence of the Magic bosses, having both had their contract options picked up for 2015-16.