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One on one: Where do Wizards rank in Southeast division?


One on one: Where do Wizards rank in Southeast division?

With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.

Division races are not a hot topic in the NBA, but remain important for now. Where do the Wizards rank among the Southeast teams?

J. Michael: One of the weaker divisions in the league has gotten significantly stronger. I don’t expect the Hawks to be the dominant team they were last season because their Achilles’ heel – rebounding because of the lack of size and relying heavily on Kyle Korver to execute their offense – was revealed long before they entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the East and a 60-win team. They’ll still be good enough to be reckoned with but won’t come close to that type of domination. 

The Miami Heat are a playoff team again, and just how big much of a leap they make will depend on how healthy Dwyane Wade can remain at 33, how quickly rookie Justice Winslow adapts and how Hassan Whiteside performs over an 82-game season. The latter is important because Whiteside had a strong run at the end of last year, but the center has yet to secure himself long-term in the NBA because of questionable behavior and decision-making throughout his career. Also, Chris Bosh is coming off life-threatening blood clots in his lungs. These are a lot of ifs and usually most of them don’t come to fruition at once. 

I’m picking the Charlotte Hornets to return to the postseason and they’re traditionally a difficult matchup for the Wizards. I really like the addition of Nicolas Batum, one of the NBA’s more underrated two-way players, and the subtraction of Lance Stephenson is an addition all unto itself. Their interior defense remains a weakness and if rookie Frank Kaminsky can have any sort of impact the Hornets will make this  division extremely competitive. 

I still rank the Wizards above all three because they don’t have the same question marks. At worse, a No. 2 seed.

Ben Standig: Let's do some super early rankings, in reverse order...

5. Magic - Every year I love their young talent. This year is no exception. Maybe the addition of a tough-minded coach like Scott Skiles pushes them to another level. Of course, even in the East a jump of multiple levels is required for Orlando to reach the postseason. Very curious to see what the group of Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja, Nik Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Elfrid Payton can do this season.

4. Hornets - Are they better on paper, yes. Adding a two-way threat like Nicolas Batum and subtracting a nusance like Lance Stephenson is all good. Are they good enough to make real noise in the East? Eh. Al Jefferson rules when healthy, but their point guard play still doesn't excite me. Head coach steve Clifford does. Hey, at least they can't suffer injuries at an insane rate again, right?

3. Hawks - From winning the East regular season title to third in the Southeast division is quite a fall, though pegging three teams from these group to finish among the top six in the conference. Everything went perfect for Atlanta last season, at least before the playoffs started. Though the pass-heavy system on coach Mike Budenholzer worked perfectly for this NBA era, I just can't see such perfection again. Losing Demarre Carroll hurts and adding Tim Hardaway Jr. doesn't help much.

2. Wizards - Jared Dudley seems super positive on Twitter following back surgery. Bradley Beal didn't hurt his leg in Africa. John Wall is smiling. Good enough to contend for the division title and  top-4 seed in the East. Let's move on.

1. Heat - The wild card team in the entire Eastern Conference. Does anybody have a better starting lineup than Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside? Even if Whiteside can't duplicate last season's highs, Miami can go with Amar'e Stoudamire and Josh McRoberts for size or Gerald Green or rookie Justise Winslow for wing help. Of course, we must note that half of those players are notable injury risks and Bosh is returning from a blood clot. All these factors together put the Heat's range anywhere from No. 2 in the East to thinking about lottery balls. Then again, there is NO WAY Pat Riley allows this team to miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

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Wizards bringing in UNC teammates Coby White and Nassir Little for pre-draft workout

Wizards bringing in UNC teammates Coby White and Nassir Little for pre-draft workout

The Wizards are holding their highest-profile pre-draft workout yet on Monday, hosting UNC teammates and projected lottery picks Coby White and Nassir Little. 

White earned All-ACC and All-Freshman honors during his lone season in Chapel Hill, averaging 16.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. Little's season with the Tar Heels did not go as smoothly as White's, but he is an NBA-ready athlete with tons of upside. 

Both White and Little could be options for the Wizards at No. 9 and would provide solutions to some of Washington's major needs. White would give the Wizards a primary play-maker while John Wall recovers from his Achilles injury, while Little would fill Washington's hole at small forward and bring some much-needed defense and rebounding to the team.

Before White and Little, the Wizards had brought in very few projected lottery picks during their pre-draft process, outside of Kentucky forward Keldon Johnson and French prospect Sekou Doumbouya. But with the 2019 NBA Draft looming on Thursday, the Wizards are ramping up their search for the player they'll pick at No. 9. 


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Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

The Anthony Davis trade will have ripple effects across the NBA, not only on teams, but also on the players involved.

Josh Hart, who was traded from the Lakers to the Pelicans as part of the package for Davis on Saturday, could stand to benefit from the move.

First, here's a look at all of the assets reportedly swapped in the deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Now, where does the Silver Spring, Md., native figure in the proceedings?

Hart spent his first two NBA seasons with the Lakers. He averaged 7.9 points in 24.4 minutes per game in his two years in Los Angeles. 

Still, Hart was often the Lakers' third or fourth option at shooting guard behind starter Brandon Ingram and shared minutes with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock and Lance Stephenson. 

LeBron James and the Lakers' win-now strategy left little room to develop Hart last season.

Now in New Orleans, he is part of a franchise rebuilding around presumptive No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. The trade gave the Pelicans both a younger roster and a long enough timeline for success to develop players.

That can only be good news for Hart, giving him the chance to start fresh and impress Pelicans general manager David Griffin and head coach Alvin Gentry with his potential. 

Where the Sidwell Friends alum fits into the lineup depends on several factors.

At first glance, the new-look Pelicans could start Lonzo Ball at point guard, move Jrue Holiday to shooting guard, then complete the lineup with Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and Julius Randle at center. 

If both Ingram and Holiday remain healthy, Hart would compete with Stanley Johnson to be the first wing off the bench for New Orleans.

But if Ingram does suffer recurring issues related to blood clots, Hart could press his case to start. 

The only issue complicating his place in New Orleans' plans is the No. 4 pick that was traded from the Lakers.

If the Pelicans keep that pick and draft a wing player like Jarrett Culver, Hart could find himself on the outside looking in again.