When it comes to overall win percentage, the Southeast division was the worst division in the NBA last season. They were the only division in the NBA to have a team that did not win 45 games or more making it the second straight season a team in the Southeast division did not win at least 45 games. The last time a division in the NBA failed to have a team win at least 45 games (excluding the lockout season) was in the 2006-2007 by the Southeast division once again. It will be interesting to see which team is able to buck the trend as teams in the division either made some interesting moves this offseason, have the same players as last season looking to build on success last season, are ravaged by injury and will have to move on without their top star or are building with players they acquired on draft night.
The Miami Heat made what was probably the biggest move of any team in the Southeast division acquiring multiple time all-star Jimmy Butler during free agency. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets will be without franchise point guard Kemba Walker for the first time since 2011 replacing him with former Celtics sixth man Terry Rozier. The Orlando Magic did not make any major moves this offseason but maintained their roster from last season and will look to continue to build with the players they have. The Washington Wizards will be without star point guard John Wall who is recovering from an achilles injury suffered last season. Last but not least, the Atlanta Hawks had a solid draft trading for fourth overall pick De’Andre Hunter and picked Cam Reddish with the tenth overall pick.
Who will finish at the top of the Southeast division? Will they be able to end the trend of teams in the division failing to win 45 games? Are any of the teams in the division legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference? Only one way to find out here are my predictions for the Southeast division!
Miami Heat: 47-35
Turns out I do have a team in the Southeast division ending the trend of not being able to win 45 games in the division. Ultimately, the addition of Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat will pay dividends for the Heat making them a much better than they have been over the past two years. In addition to Butler, the Heat were able to steal Tyler Herro in the NBA draft with the 13th pick in this year’s draft a dynamic guard with a supreme shooting ability and the ability to makes plays off the dribble. Both of these players along with Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk give the Heat the edge as the best team in the Southeast division. Will this lead to success in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference? Only time will tell.
Orlando Magic: 44-38
Coming in second place in the Southeast division I have the Orlando Magic. The Orlando Magic were the only team in the division to make the playoffs last season. The Magic opted to keep their roster intact re-signing Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross and Michael Carter-Williams in free agency. If their young core of bigs Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, and Aaron Gordon are able to continue their development as a unit, the Magic could be a dangerous team in the next few years. The one area where the Magic struggle is they have a below average backcourt. Outside of Evan Fournier, the backcourt of the Magic is either inexperienced, have played below expectations or have passed their prime. One backcourt player that comes to mind for the Magic is Markelle Fultz who since coming into the league has had problems remaining healthy. The Magic need to make moves to improve their backcourt if they want any chance of competing in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta Hawks: 34-48
I already talked about the moves the Hawks made during this year’s draft but their moves during free agency were very underrated signing Jabari Parker, re-signing Vince Carter and trading for Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Chandler Parsons. These acquisitions may not make too much of a difference on the court but it will when it comes to veteran leadership in the locker room. The Hawks’ future success will defend on the development of their young core Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter and 2019 draftees De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. As for this season, I think the Hawks are ready to take that next step to get back to contendership in the East but they still have a long way to go.
Washington Wizards: 30-52
I have the Washington Wizards finishing with the same record that they did last season. The Wizards will be without star point guard John Wall at least until before the All-Star break at the earliest. This means the bulk of the scoring and playmaking will come from backcourt mate Bradley Beal. Last week, the Wizards signed Bradley Beal to a two-year contract extension coming at a time when Beal was in the midst of trade rumors. Though I do believe this was a wise decision by the Wizards, they do not have enough talent around him to make an impact in the East. This offseason, the Wizards made histoy drafting Rui Hachimura the first Japanese born first round pick in history. In addition, the Wizards picked up Isaiah Thomas and Ish Smith via free agency while acquiring Mo Wagner via trade. While these are solid pickups, they will not have much impact on the Wizards place in the standings which is why I have them finishing fourth in the division.
Charlotte Hornets: 28-54
Finishing in last place in the Southeast division will be the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets for the first time since 2011 will not have Kemba Walker in their lineup. The Hornets moved from their former franchise point guard executing a sign and trade that sent Walker to the Celtics with the Hornets receiving Terry Rozier. While I picked Terry Rozier to win the Most Improved for the 2019-2020 season, the rest of the Hornets roster is very below average. There is potential in the Hornets roster with young players like Miles Bridges and Malik Monk both having rookie and sophomore seasons last season respectively. Outside of these two, the rest of the Hornets roster is filled with underachievers, draft busts, and one-dimensional players with no redeeming qualities. For these reasons, I have the Charlotte Hornets finishing last in the Southeast division.