Last week, we took a look at some of the divisions of the NBA. We’re continuing those previews, and this time we’ll be taking a look at the Southeast Division.
The Atlanta Hawks led the Southeast Division last season, and it’s safe to say they put the league on notice. Will they remain on top of the division? Or, does a contending team like the Heat beg to differ? With that said, let’s look at the Southeast and what to expect from this exciting division.
The Atlanta Hawks were the best team in the Southeast last season. They had a record of 41-31 and were the fifth seed of the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks turned some heads last season, as their young guard Trae Young led them to a deep playoff run. Young and the Hawks beat the New York Knicks 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs. Young became a villain (of sorts) to Knicks fans and did it in style. He averaged 29.2 points and 9.8 assists against the Knicks and put an end to their hopes of getting out the first round. But it didn’t stop there.
Always supporting the ATL! #BattleATL (📸: @Braves) pic.twitter.com/xnE8HmXGWL — Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) October 18, 2021
Young and the Hawks went to the Eastern Conference finals after beating the Philadelphia 76ers in a seven-game series. The Sixers were first in the East, and factors like injuries or lackluster performances of key players cost them the series. While the Hawks lost to the Bucks in the Conference finals, they showed they’re a legitimate playoff team.
Things look good for the Hawks this season. They didn’t make any drastic changes to their roster, and they brought back their head coach Nate McMillan. This is a sign that the Hawks believe in their current team and are going for another solid playoff run. But there are a few things to consider. Injuries played a factor last season, as Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish missed time with various injuries. And despite the Hawks having a talented roster, there isn’t a true All-Star caliber player to play alongside him. If the Hawks can avoid injuries and (potentially) add more talent around Young (through a trade), they could have a good season.
The Hawks are a team to keep an eye on, and if they can get contributions from players like the always underrated Lou Williams off the bench, they’ll be fine.
The Miami Heat were second in the Southeast with a record of 40-32. They were also the sixth seed of the Eastern Conference.
The Heat had a short playoff run, as the Milwaukee Bucks swept them in the first round. Miami did not look like the team that made the Finals in 2019-20, but this season, they could potentially return to the Finals.
The Heat made a few moves this offseason, as they brought in Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris. The three veterans are all champions. Lowry won back in 2019, Morris won in 2020 and Tucker won with the Bucks last season. So, the Heat have that to their advantage. But, could it also be a weakness?
📸 dope pics of Jimmy doing dope things pic.twitter.com/LNLtkFs5mB — Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 16, 2021
While Miami has young talent, it will be the vets who lead them to success. Tucker is 36. Lowry is 35. Morris and Jimmy Butler are 32. Can the veterans keep up with a team like the Hawks?
Despite their age, they do have a few things in their favor. They’ll be a great defensive team. The veterans (Butler, Lowry and so on) are defensive threats, and young star Bam Adebayo can be added to that mix. So, if the Heat can slow down younger teams, they have a chance.
The Heat are in for a solid season, and if the veterans come together, they can bring a chip to Miami.
Washington made the playoffs for the first time since 2018 last season but lost to the Sixers 4-1. The Wizards were a part of one of the biggest offseason trades when they traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers. So, while they’ll be a different looking team, they could still be a decent team.
Sunday Fun Day 😁#DCAboveAll pic.twitter.com/275dF4Syo0 — Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 17, 2021
The Wizards still have one of their star players. Bradley Beal averaged 31.3 points and 4.7 rebounds last season. Only Stephen Curry averaged more points than Beal and didn’t happen until April of last season. Beal led the league in scoring for most of the season, and as the Wizards focal point, he’s bound for another great season.
Washington also has some young talent in players like Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija. The duo will be players to watch out for as they help Beal throughout the season. It will be interesting to see how they do.
The Wizards are in a weird space. They’re in-between being a playoff team and a rebuilding team. If the Wizards can establish an identity, they’ll be fine.
The Charlotte Hornets had a chance to make the playoffs last season. They were in the play-in tournament but lost to the Indiana Pacers.
The Hornets have one thing going for them, as they have the exciting LaMelo Ball. Ball is the reigning Rookie of the Year after averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals.
YESSSUHHH! 🕺🏽 It's the LaMelo dictionary! #AllFly | #NationalDictionaryDay — Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) October 17, 2021
Ball and the Hornets are a rebuilding team with their share of strengths and weaknesses. They’re a good perimeter team with reliable 3-point shooters. Gordon Hayward shot 41.5 percent from deep, Malik Monk and Miles Bridges (who could be a sleeper) shot around 40 percent, and Terry Rozier shot 38.9 percent. The Hornets have shooters, and a talented player like Ball can get them the ball.
Charlotte is also young and inexperienced. They’re still in their rebuild, and while they’re on the right track, they still have a way to go.
The Hornets may be a better team, but I am not sure if they’re a playoff-bound team just yet.
The Magic were last in the Southeast. They were also second to last in the East. The Magic had a rough season, but they have a promising player in Jalen Suggs.
Suggs was the fifth pick of the 2021 draft. He’s a tough guard that loves to compete. He also had a good Summer League, where he averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Suggs is a player that could potentially help the Magic weak points. They were 27th in 3-point shooting last season and 28th in assists. If Suggs can contribute in those areas, he’ll be fine.
“We’re a bunch of kids that love to play basketball.” 🔥 – @RjHampton14 pic.twitter.com/GxdUBRQhL4 — Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) October 14, 2021
The Magic are in for another lottery season, but if key players like Jonathan Isaac remain healthy, it won’t be as painful.