NBA Southeast Division preview: Heat head and shoulders above all
The defending NBA champs are huge favorites to top the Southeast Division, big chalk to win the Eastern Conference and the oddsmakers’ choice to repeat their NBA title. But while all eyes are on the Heat, there could be hidden value below them in the standings.
Atlanta Hawks (2011-12: 40-26 SU, 36-28-2 ATS)
Odds to win division: +1,400
Season win total: 43.5
Why bet the Hawks: Atlanta has overhauled its roster and we see that as a good thing. The Hawks were getting too complacent with the guys they had and they just got stagnant. Atlanta went as Joe Johnson went, but he is now gone and the Hawks will be more of a team this season.
Why not bet the Hawks: Defense. The Hawks ranked sixth in overall defensive efficiency last season, but they will decline this year. Atlanta is a small team and, with a wealth of scorers, the Hawks will likely need to outscore opponents to win. The Hawks will play at a faster pace, so transition defense will be a key.
Season win total pick: Over 43.5
Charlotte Bobcats (2011-12: 7-59 SU, 23-43-0 ATS)
Odds to win division: +15,000
Season win total: 21.5
Why bet the Bobcats: There’s nowhere to go but up for Charlotte. The Bobcats won just seven of 66 games last season - that’s no misprint. Charlotte went 7-59. The Bobcats overhauled the coaching staff and they’ve added five new players to the roster. They have a fresh start and they will be catching a lot of points on most nights this season.
Why not bet the Bobcats: Bad. A simple adjective is all that is needed to describe Charlotte. With a new system plugged with recycled players, there’s going to be a lot of losing once again. New head coach Mike Dunlap is a defensive strategist, but he’s going to need a couple of years to get the right players in place.
Season win total pick: Under 21.5
Miami Heat (2011-12: 46-20 SU, 32-34-0 ATS)
Odds to win division: -2,500
Season win total: 60.5
Why bet the Heat: The defending NBA champs should be even better this season. Miami is a loaded team and when it plays small, it’s virtually impossible to beat. The Heat added Ray Allen and he brings two major upgrades with his 3-point shooting and his free-throw shooting.
Why not bet the Heat: Health. Teams were able to attack Miami inside last season, especially when Chris Bosh was out with injury. He’s a fragile guy and if he misses time, the Heat could slip up a bit. Dwyane Wade will also be playing on an unstable knee and Ray Allen is coming off ankle surgery.
Season win total pick: Over 60.5
Orlando Magic (2011-12: 37-29 SU, 34-32-0 ATS)
Odds to win division: +7,000
Season win total: 24.5
Why bet the Magic: Orlando won’t have the Dwight Howard drama to deal with anymore and without that distraction, the Magic will be able to focus on basketball. Their offense should be more dynamic and the team, as a whole, will be unselfish. New head coach Jacque Vaughn also brings new life to Orlando.
Why not bet the Magic: Losses. Despite the negative attention he brought, Dwight Howard was still a dominant player. And you just can’t replace that type of talent. Orlando’s defense will be easy to score upon and since it’ll be playing with youth in a rebuilding year, the Magic will struggle.
Season win total pick: Under 24.5
Washington Wizards (2011-12: 20-46 SU, 26-36-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +5,500
Season win total: 31.5
Why bet the Wizards: Washington has low expectations once again this season. The Wizards do
have plenty of talent on hand and they got rid of the headache known as Andray Blatche. Washington will have a much-improved defense which will keep it competitive in a lot games this season.
Why not bet the Wizards: Offense. Washington’s offense will struggle to score points as it simply doesn’t have enough high-powered offensive players. That weakness will be glaring without John Wall on the court. He will miss about six weeks with a stress injury in his left knee. If he has a setback, the Wizards are in the danger zone.
Season win total pick: Over 31.5