NBA Southeast Division Preview
Some would say this division is owned by the Miami Heat and they would not be wrong. Historically, Miami has been dominant over this division, winning 8 of the last 13 division titles. If you want a more recent non Lebron-Wade Heat perspective, they’ve won 4 of the last 6 in the division. They are also in line to win their third in a row for the second time in the last 14 years. Can they continue their dominance even with the teams under them improving? Let’s discuss.
The off season went from an all time high to some (me) questioning what the outlook of this roster is going to look like. How will the team respond to losing two of their key rotational pieces and losing out on the Dame Lillard sweepstakes? Not to mention, Tyler Herro was being dangled out in rumors since the Finals ended. Can he put that behind him and take another step? Miami better hope so because there is going to be a lot expected from Herro without Vincent and Strus.
Last year the Heat won 44 games and were a Chicago Bulls second-half collapse away from being out of the playoffs. Now with what I perceive to be a downgraded roster, how effective will they be in a division in which each team (sans Washington) has improved. The weaknesses that haunted them in the regular and post-season are still glaring. There is no size outside of Bam and the depth of the roster is made up of unproven players.
I’m in see it to believe it mode with the Heat. The culture, player development and excellent staff from top to bottom are too elite for me to write them off completely. However I do think they take a small step back due to the eastern conference being improved and their lack of proven production from their depth pieces. After all, they have a proven track record of not caring about seeding and playing their best basketball in April.
There is a new era (again) in Atlanta. Quin Snyder is entering his first full season as the head coach and is looking to help the Hawks elevate back to the top of this division and perhaps even into a top 4 or 5 seed in the conference. Snyder took over late in the season and went 10-11 during that span. The record might not show it, but stylistically you could see the difference Snyder made in a short amount of time that likely consisted of zero practice time.
The Hawks off-season has been a bit of a wash. They traded away John Collins which is a surprise to no one, but outside of that and the addition of their rookies, not much of a downgrade or upgrade. The trade of Collins does open up some responsibilities for the younger guys and puts more on the shoulders of their X-factor, Deandre Hunter. When healthy, Hunter adds a dimension that Collins or no one at his position can add to this team.
Snyder is known for his brilliant offensive sets, and that was on full display in that 21 game sample size. There was more movement and fluidity offensively and taking Trae off the ball made him more effective. Now with a full season to actually implement what he wants to do, I think this Hawks offense will vastly improve. Defensively is what has to be better, and more Onyeka Okongwu will help that.
Capela is a fine piece but his limited offense is something Snyder dealt with in Utah with Gobert. I would think he doesn’t want to go that route again, especially being an offensive minded coach. Onyeka is a younger and more athletic versatile player than what Capela is at this time and I think his ability to guard pick and rolls will help the defense better overall. In summation, I think the Hawks win this division and don’t be surprised if the Hawks soar to a 4-5 seed in the conference. Snyder is that good of a coach.
This Magic team is extremely easy to fall in love with. If you are a fan of what the OKC Thunder are doing, I think this Magic organization is on a similar trajectory. Obviously they do not have a SGA but they have an overload of talent and with a few tweaks here and there, could be a viable contender in this division. After a 5-20 start, they ended the season one game over .500 and were led by a rookie. They were fighting for a playoff spot and had it not been for that slow start, they would have been right in the mix.
While talented, this is not the best put together roster from a position by position standpoint. Paolo and Franz are your cornerstones which is an excellent start but they are young and don’t have much veteran leadership. My biggest issue with the Magic is that they have a bevy of guards who all do the same thing. None of which help one of the biggest weaknesses of the team, which is shooting.
Orlando ranked 23rd in effective field goal%, 24th in three-point%, and 26th in mid-range%. Their best shooter is Gary Harris who can shoot the lights out but can he stay healthy? You also drafted two more guards, one of which is supposed to improve the shooting but can he even get on the floor? See where I’m going with this? Lack of interior size and depth is also a concern but in the East, there are not many teams who have dominant frontcourts.
The roster construction is not good but the individual player talent is incredible. If you want to buy stock, I think this is the team you want to get in on now. Once the roster is shaped to coincide with their best players, I think we see a big leap from them. Right now, even with an improved team, I think the 3rd spot is their ceiling.
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I want to tell you that the Hornets are capable of winning this division, I really do. The roster is better and history tells us that when Lamelo is healthy, they are at least a fringe play-in team. The re-insertion of Miles Bridges gives them well needed scoring on the wing as well as someone who at times showed to be a plus defender. The upside of Brandon Miller also is what is really putting me on the edge. I’m higher on him than most and think he could really thrive on this team.
Miller is a lengthy wing with the ability to create and score at all three levels. I would argue his defense is the more underrated part of his game and if the offense can get and stay consistent, he and Bridges could be something Charlotte has not had in quite some time, if ever. From a metrics perspective, not sure it can get any worse. Hornets ranked dead last in offensive rating, 27th in net rating and pretty much near the bottom in all other offensive metrics.
A lot of those numbers were without Lamelo and Miles Bridges which are the best scoring options. This was also against a top three strength of schedule last season. Where the Hornets hang their hat is on the defensive end. They were a much improved defensive team once they inserted Mark Williams into the lineup. They finished the season top 15 in rim defense and three-point defense.
Health being the top priority I think the Hornets are in line for a good year. If I was a betting man (which I am), I would take a dart on them to win the division. The upside is there offensively and the defense anchored by Mark Williams will be even stronger. If only they had a better coaching staff, I would really be in but unfortunately the front office has been inept for some time. James Borrego should still be roaming the sidelines, by the way.
The long overdue rebuild is finally upon us. Or is it? The roster is better than what their win total and overall perception is perceived to be. Will I bet their win total over? Maybe, but what I will be doing is buying on this team in spots where they are big underdogs. Jordan Poole is in a great spot where he could be a high volume scorer alongside Kyle Kuzma and the young players started ascending towards the end of the season.
They also added a veteran point guard who is proven in this league in Tyus Jones. He is going to distribute the ball at a high level and not turn it over. The lack of interior depth is a concern but the strength might be them going small and playing at a high pace. This re-build might be coming a year too soon because this years draft is not that appealing. It definitely is not what the 2025 class is going to be, headlined by Cooper Flagg. Overall, I’m with Kyle Kuzma, I think Vegas has the win total too low but as for the division, they’ve got no shot.
THIS IS AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY DELONTE SMITH
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