Minutes before his franchise selected Bradley Beal in the 2012 NBA Draft, Wizardsowner Ted Leonsis said he would find it "unacceptable" should hisbasketball team wind up in the lottery again next year. Fair enough, but it'snot solely up to the players, coaches and management in Washington when itcomes to landing a postseason berth. The other 14 teams in the Eastern Conference will have something to sayabout the playoff race. Well, other than the woeful Charlotte Bobcats, ofcourse. Therefore tracking free agency and other transactions through the prismof the Wizards is not enough. Monitoring the others in the Southeast divisionis however, a good starting point.First off, Washington is not catching Miami unless LeBron James has apetulant moment and insists on taking his talent to some beach other than SouthBeach. In addition, even with the addition of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, theBobcats are not jumping past the Wizards in the standings unless 1980's MichaelJordan dons a uniform.
That leaves the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic, two playoff teams that ifthey were to stay intact likely remain ahead of the Wizards in the divisionstandings. Based on the recent buzz, the idea of either squad looking the samenext season appears iffy at best.Obviously, we start in Orlando where Dwight Howard is fast tracking hisquest to make James' "decision" process seem reasonable bycomparison. The broad-shouldered All-Star center is onlyinterested in playing for and signing a long-term deal with the Brooklyn Nets.The thought of a "Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers for Andrew Bynum" deal makessense for both sides, but apparently, Howard is not interested in a left coaststay.Bully for Dwight, but there is not much the Nets can offer Orlando in returnthat will make the deal interesting for the Magic. Outside of landing a Bynumor coming up with an outside the box deal that brings upside talent the MagicKingdom, Orlando's status as a perennial playoff contender dramatically dips ifHoward is not manning the middle. At some point, the Magicmay realize it's time to move on no matter what. That time might be approaching and if so, the Wizards could take advantage with a rise in the standings.Speaking of the Nets, they are reportedlyin talks with the Hawks about Joe Johnson. Put me in the camp that saysAtlanta must break up the Johnson-Josh Smith-Al Horford dynamic that has provenunworthy of a deep playoff run. Johnson, the one player who actually received max money during the fabledfree agency summer of 2010, is himself an All-Star, but not a franchise player.If Atlanta can find the right deal that brings back talent (Marshon Brooks?) Orfrees up cap space, they have enough talent onboard to remain playoff worthy,though they could take a step back. The drafting of Vanderbilt sharpshooter JohnJenkins might be part ofa contingency plan. Therefore, if you're gauging the Wizards playoffs hopes and dreams, dealing Howardlikely moves Washington up a slot in the Southeast. Trading Johnsonlikely bringsthe Wizards and Hawks closer together.Of course, if the Nets land Howard and Johnson AND DeronWilliams, another team will have just moved into the playoff lock category. So, there's that..