Southeast Division Preview
The Charlotte Hornets had a disappointing offseason, to say the least. Observers were puzzled by the way Charlotte handled the Kemba Walker situation, as they didn’t even offer him the full max contract, and if they didn’t offer him the full max, I don’t understand why they expected him to stay. If they weren’t planning on offering the full max, I don’t understand why they didn’t trade him in order to get some value and return instead of letting him walk for nothing as a free agent.
With all that aside, the Hornets still have a season to play and they essentially traded Kemba Walker for backup point guard Terry Rozier, who signed with the cap space opened up when Walker left. Rozier, even though he’s a solid player, is a significant downgrade from Walker, but it’ll be interesting what he can do as the full-time starter. He looked fairly proficient filling in for Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas when they were injured and was jokingly revered for how prized he seemed by Danny Ainge and his unwillingness to give him up in trade talks. So this is Rozier’s chance to shine and he will definitely have the shot opportunities on this lineup that is devoid of shot creators. Rozier will be joined in the starting lineup by Dwayne Bacon at shooting guard, small forward Nicolas Batum, power forward Miles Bridges, and Cody Zeller at center.
Charlotte will bring Malik Monk, Marvin Williams, and Bismack Biyombo off the bench. It appears that Charlotte is finally trying to bottom out after Walker led them to mid 30 win seasons every year, which resulted in the never getting a top lottery pick. Will this be their year to be at the top of the draft? Because this roster looks like it’s going to struggle to win games. Charlotte is +35000 to win the NBA Southeast Division. Charlotte’s win total for the season is a paltry 23.5, which is currently the lowest number on the board. So not a lot of expectations for Charlotte for this season, and there’s not a good betting angle here either.
The Wizards will be in a similar situation this year as Charlotte was last year as Bradley Beal appears to be the only thing keeping this team in relevancy. The John Wall injury has neutered Washington’s chances of being a playoff team. Wall’s huge contract prevents them from getting Beal sufficient help.
Bradley Beal will start at shooting guard, joined by point guard Ish Smith, small forward CJ Miles, power forward Rui Hachimura, and center Thomas Bryant. Coming off the bench will be Isaiah Thomas, Ian Mahinmi, and Davis Bertans. With Beal in the lineup, Washington will win some games, but I struggle to see how this roster will get anywhere near a playoff spot. Hachimura is an interesting project, but he’s not a game-changer right off the bat, and Smith, Miles, and Bryant are average starters at best.
Washington would do best to learn from the Kemba Walker situation in Charlotte and try to trade Beal at some point this season to bottom out and give them a better lottery pick, and get something in return. Although Beal has a little more time left on his contract, there’s a small probability that Beal by himself will lead this team to a playoff spot. It’s going to be another tough season for Wizards fans. The Wizards are + 9500 to win the Southeast Division and their win total is set at 26.5. If we had a reasonable idea that the Wizards will trade Beal, the under would be appealing, but for right now, staying away from that one.
There is excitement in Atlanta for the first time since coach Mike Budenholzer left, and Atlanta has rebuilt this team. They’re attempting to replicate the Warrior’s formula for success. The Hawks brought over members of the Warriors front office and training staff to look over their team, and so far it seems to be paying dividends. They have loaded this team with talent, Trae Young is a rising young star. Starting at point guard, he’ll be joined by shooting guard Kevin Huerter, the Hawks attempt at getting a Klay Thompson style player. Huerter is definitely going to have to increase his shooting and defensive capabilities to live up to the Klay comparison.
They drafted rookie small forward DeAndre Hunter, a very interesting prospect. Power forward John Collins has been a pleasant surprise so far, as he’s developed into one of the top power forwards in the league. Collins will be joined in the paint by Alex Len at center. Off the bench, the Hawks bring Jabari Parker, Cam Reddish, Allen Crabbe, and Evan Turner. So they should have plenty of scoring firepower and defensive capabilities in the second unit. I have a lot of hope for this Atlanta team. They were doing great to be competitive late in the year, as Trae Young figured out the speed of the game, and with fewer expectations after a rough start, Young settled down. He found his shot and understanding of his role in the game. I expect Young’s development to increase tenfold this year, as he’s finally getting accustomed to the speed of the game. Young will be surrounded with even more talent to help him.
Cam Reddish is an interesting prospect who got lost at Duke, dealing with Zion Mania and RJ Barrett controlling the ball. With a little less pressure on him, and a chance to shine against the second units, he’s going to prove to be a very good draft pick. Fellow rookie DeAndre Hunter will help this team immensely if he develops to the Hawks’ expectations, so that will be something to keep an eye on. The Hawks team provides the best value for a long-shot bet. Currently, they’re sitting at +700 to win the Southeast, and their win total is set at 35. I’m staying away from the win total, but I think the +700 provides a good long shot value for the Atlanta Hawks win the Southeast Division.
The Orlando Magic are the reigning Southeast Division Champions and return most of the roster from that team. They added Al-Farouq Aminu to bolster starting point guard DJ Augustin, shooting guard Evan Fournier, small forward Jonathan Isaac, power forward Aaron Gordon, and center Nikola Vucevic. They bring Michael Carter-Williams, Terence Ross, Jonathan Isaac, and Mo Bamba off the bench.
Markelle Fultz is a wild card as he is going to try to play after suffering numerous setbacks with his shoulder and mind. Fultz went from a number one pick to a project but his development could really throw a wrench in Miami’s plans for Southeast Division domination. If Fultz finally lives up to his potential he could give this team the punch that it needs to compete for the upper tier in the East. As of right now, I have them slated as a bottom 4 playoff seed again as they should be solid. Steve Clifford is a fantastic coach. Gordon and Isaac should continue to develop. Mo Bamba is another wild card, but could definitely still develop, he is too young to give up on. Terrence Ross is a solid piece to bring off the bench. Evan Fournier displayed in the FIBA World Cup how much he’s grown as a score and a leader, and Nikola Vucevic does everything that a team needs a center to do.
He rebounds, plays solid help defense, and can pop an open jump shot to provide a little space on the floor for the wings. The Magic have a very good chance of repeating this year, especially if the Jimmy Butler experiment doesn’t work in Miami, but at a price of + 168 I don’t see a lot of value to be had in Orlando to win the Southeast Division. Their win total is set at 41.5, which also seems about right.
Miami has become the favorite to win the division after adding Jimmy Butler in the offseason. Butler fits this grit and grind team perfectly as they play the style of game that he likes to play, yet he’s quite more talented than their current players. Joining Butler will be point guard Goran Dragic shooting guard Dion Waiters, power forward Justise Winslow, and center Bam Adebayo in the starting lineup. With James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Herro coming off the bench, this team is constructed perfectly for coach Erik Spoelstra, and the type of sets and offense he wants to run. Spoelstra wants his team to move the ball and defend well.
The Heat will benefit from addition by subtraction, losing Center Hassan Whiteside, who brought shot-blocking and defensive rebounding, but was not the fastest getting up and down the floor and had attitude problems at times. With Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk at center, they’ll be much more suited for the “pace and space” ball of the new NBA and should fit this team better. Goran Dragic has always been a reliable bucket getter, and Dion Waiters, when he’s on, can be one of the best players in the NBA.
The Waiters/Butler dynamic will be interesting as they both have the alpha in them, but Butler needs to be the one leading the team. As long as they work that out, I see no reason why this team shouldn’t win the Southeast Division and the odds reflect that at -132. Even at -132, I think this provides excellent value because with the star power and depth at the Miami Heat have, there is no reason why they shouldn’t win this division. Miami’s regular-season wins total is set at 43.5, and I like the over 43.5 here.