The latest step in our Southeast Division preview: a breakdown of each team by position. First up, the point guards.
5) Heat - Miami won two NBA titles and made three finals appearances with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole at point guard. Thanks to the Heat's Big 3, that Chalmers/Cole combo never had to take control of a game, which is good because it's uncertain if they could. Now Miami adds first round pick and two-time NCAA Tournament champion Shabazz Napier to the rotation. Based on his summer league effort, don't count on Napier changing the PG dynamic - or rotation - overnight.
4) Magic - Good news is Orlando finally moved on from the underwhelming Jameer Nelson. The bad news is the Magic probably take a step back in the position next season. Elfrid Payton went from Louisiana-Lafayette to the NBA Draft lottery thanks to his playmaking, length and defensive tenacity. Tons of upside and Payton will eventually form a frightening ball-hawking tandem with Victor Oladipo, but the leap from the Sun Belt conference to the NBA is Muresan-sized. Veteran Luke Ridnour takes over as the veteran stopgap. By comparison, Nelson isn't looking so bad.
3) Hawks - Even though Atlanta tumbled down the standings over the second half of last season, Jeff Teague's play improved significantly. The fifth-year player averaged over 19 points per game in the opening round of the playoffs as Atlanta took top-seed Indiana to seven games. The Hawks brought back ex-Wizard Shelvin Mack and are hoping 2013 first-rounder Dennis Schroder can play a larger role this season.
2) Bobcats - The addition of power forward Al Jefferson is often credited with Charlotte reaching the playoffs last season. Fair point, but it overshadows the contributions from Kemba Walker, who set career-highs in points, assists, free throw percentage and 3-point percentage last season. Walker is no mere stat-stuffer. The floor leader lives for the big moments and his winning ways are passed on to his teammates. Backups Brian Roberts and Jannero Pargo are decent enough.
1) Wizards - John Wall might not be Team USA worthy in the eyes of some, but the All-Star is the best of the best in the Southeast Division. Wall led the entire in NBA in total assists last season and Washington to its first playoff appearance since 2008. It's no coincidence that shooters Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster had their best seasons playing with Wall. Andre Miller provides leadership, court vision and the occasional post up offense off the bench while Garrett Temple brings the defense.