SE Division: Can Beal overtake Wade as top wing guard?

SE Division: Can Beal overtake Wade as top wing guard?
September 2, 2014, 8:45 am
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The latest step in our early Southeast Division preview: a breakdown of each team by position. After starting with the point guards, let's look at the shooting guards.

5) Magic - If we only looked at starters, Orlando doesn't bring up the rear. Victor Oladipo might never turn into a perennial All-Star, but the former DeMatha and Indiana University product is already a defensive force and he averaged early 14 points per game as a rookie. Alas, Oladipo is now backed up by Ben Gordon, who inexplicably received a two-year, $9 million offer from Orlando. In theory the contract shouldn't be part of the discussion, but I'm indeed holding it against the Magic. That and the fact that Gordon's play has been going the wrong way over the second half of his career.

4) Hawks - Kyle Korver spends some time at the two, but he's also a small forward and that's where we're labeling him in this discussion. Rather than add a headlining free agent, Atlanta signed two defensive-minded wings in Thabo Sefolosho and Kent Bazemore. That pairing will serve as a nightly pest for scoring threats. They just won't do a ton of scoring themselves. That's fine with Korver, Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague around.

3) Hornets - Those that consider depth the primary tiebreaker surely have Charlotte in the top spot. Free agent signee Lance Stephenson is expected to take over for last year's starter Gerald Henderson with first-round selection P.J. Hairston backing up the two veterans. But when we factor in Stevenson's wild mood swings on the court, Henderson's solid but not spectacular skill set and Hairston's inability to avoid off-court trouble, the Hornets rank right in the middle. If Stephenson plays like his "Born Ready" nickname rather than a player whose focus often breaks bad without any help from Walter White, then we'll need to revisit.

2) Wizards - Bradley Beal is a shooting star in more ways than one. Let's not forget the 21-year-old averaged over 19 points per game and sank 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts in his first postseason experience. Beal is the real deal -- and he'll need to be because of the uncertainty behind him. Martell Webster could miss a month, maybe more of the regular season. Glen Rice Jr. hit the MVP jackpot during the Las Vegas summer league, but we shouldn't just assume he'll automatically strike it rich in the regular season. It is however fair to believe in Beal. He'll top this list soon enough.

1) Heat - When we last saw Dwyane Wade, he was turning into an old man punchline during the NBA Finals. Those with a longer memory might recall that the 10-time All-Star was actually quite productive earlier in the postseason. No doubt, Wade's body eventually broke down. Next season he'll turn 33. Also next season, the 2006 finals MVP returns to his lead playmaker role now that LeBron James returned to Cleveland. That role shift combined with so many doubting how much gas is left in the tank should fuel Wade for at least another high-end season. Based on Wins Above Replacement Player projections, Wade ranks second among all NBA wing guards. Oh, the reason so much time in the section was spent on one player? Not much behind him at the moment, at least for now.

[RELATED: Morning tip: Wizards await new arrivals]