The NBA's Southeast Division should be one of the most competitive and fun to watch in the entire league. The up and coming Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets, retooled Miami Heat, and healthy Atlanta Hawks are all likely playoff teams that have a shot at taking the division crown, and the Orlando Magic have a solid young core and should be much more competitive this year. With each team boasting a strong collection of talent, division games should be competitive affairs marked by strong positional battles, especially at point guard, where a quartet of talented young playmakers will battle it out to determine the point guard pecking order.
1) John Wall, Washington Wizards: Wall is coming off a breakout season where he averaged career highs in points (19.3), assists (8.8), and steals (1.8), while making the All-Star team for the first time. His success continued into the playoffs, where he helped lead the Wizards to a 4-1 series win over the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards' first playoff series win since 2005. Wall's blinding speed and athleticism have always been his calling cards, but it was his improved shooting, especially from beyond the arc, that made him a more complete and dangerous scorer. His playmaking also improved, as he led the NBA in total assists and created a ton of open three-point opportunities for his teammates. Wall's combination of scoring, passing and defense make him the most well-rounded and productive point guard in the Southeast Division, and at 23, he's only getting better.
2) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: Walker earns his spot thanks to the strength of his playoff play, where he averaged nearly 20 points on 47% shooting to keep the overmatched Bobcats competitive against the Heat. Walker showed little to now statistical growth from last season, but he logged heavy minutes as the second-best player on a playoff team, and he seems capable of raising his game in the postseason. With the addition of fellow playmaker Lance Stephenson, Walker should be able to play off the ball a bit more often, so don't be surprised if he manages an uptick in scoring.
3) Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks: Teague also had a breakout year last year, averaging a career high 16.5 PPG along with 6.7 APG.Teague is hard to contain when he plays aggressively, but he struggled struggled from the field last season, posting a .438 FG%, and he's not a great defender. The return of Al Horford should benefit Teague, and the Hawks have enough shooting to provide Teague with plenty of weapons. If he can improve his shooting and defense, he can move higher up on this list.
4) Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic: Oladipo may end up playing more shooting guard this season with the addition of Elfrid Payton, but he'll stay on this list for now. Oladipo had a strong rookie season last year, averaging 13.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 4.1 APG. He's an explosive athlete and he projects as a strong defender and above-average rebounder for his position. Oladipo has the least talent surrounding him of the guards on this list, but young players like Payton, Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have a lot of potential. If Oladipo continues to grow and improve alongside his young teammates, he could realize his All-Star potential sooner rather than later.
5) Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat: Chalmers is the biggest question mark on this list. The loss of Lebron James means that Chalmers will have to orchestrate more of the offense than ever before, and while he's talented, he hasn't shown the ability to be the primary facilitator and playmaker for an NBA offense before. He still has plenty of talent around him, so if he proves up to the task, he should easily average a career high in assists, but if he struggles he could get pushed put of the starting lineup by rookie Shabazz Napier.
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