Preseason picks: Wizards in Southeast Division

Preseason picks: Wizards in Southeast Division
September 27, 2013, 11:00 am
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Could Wizards return to playoffs this season?

Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0) attempts a layup while Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) defends during the second half at the Verizon Center.

(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

The Wizards are set to open training camp on September 28 with the 2013-14 season tipping off a month later. Over the next few days, J. Michael and Ben Standig will examine several notable topics heading into camp, including... 

Countdown to tip-off question 4: Entering camp, prediction on Wizards’ SE Division finish?

J. Michael: Second. 

The Heat are the class of the NBA and won't be overtaken, which means the Wizards and Hawks are battling for second place. 

The Magic and Bobcats have improved their rosters but there are still too many unknowns given neither team has an identity yet. 

The Wizards have been together for a year and have the toughest part of teamwork under control: Defense. Being in the top 10 isn't by accident. 

The Hawks qualified for the playoffs last season as a No. 6 seed and won 44 games, 15 more than Washington. They lost Josh Smith to free agency but acquired Paul Millsap. They have a new coach in Mike Budenholzer, who was arrested in the off-season for a DUI. 

Still, the Hawks have the better post player in Al Horford. 

Who knows how this will work itself out, but I prefer to lean on stability, defense and having an identity.

Ben Standig: Two teams are vying for second place in the Southeast. Miami, Orlando and Charlotte are not part of the conversation.

While the Heat will continue their reign and the improving but still scuffling Magic and Bobcats remains outside the playoff chase, the Wizards and Hawks battle for a postseason berth - and the ultimately irrelevant division slot.

The oddity is that for the first time in years, its Washington sporting the stable roster. While still packing a potent roster, led by big man Al Horford, Atlanta is a completely different looking squad than the one that finished sixth in the Eastern Conference last season and has been a postseason fixture. Out went Josh Smith, Devin Harris and coach Larry Drew, in came Paul Millsap, Elton Brand and new head coach

While the Wizards wait on Emeka Okafor's neck injury status, the Hawks will be without Lou Williams early in the season as the scoring guard recovers from a knee injury. Perhaps that's the opening Washington needs to take an edge on the Hawks - assuming the Wizards can avoid their usual early season skidding.

Ultimately these two squads, along with the Pistons, Cavs, Bucks and Celtics, will compete one of the final three slots in the East. That's the real competition. Then again, if it ends up that only two teams from the Southeast make the postseason, claiming second place will have be rather important after all. Good thing that's exactly what Washington does.

Question 1: Do the Wizards needs to make a move before the start of the regular season?

Question 2: Will John Wall make the All Star team?

Question 3: Most likely to receive more minutes than expected?

Question 4: Harder to replace, Nene or Emeka Okafor?

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