Sunday, November 11, 2018
NBALord.com Southeast Division Preview
The last division preview on NBALord.com looks at the Southeast Division, home to the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Washington Wizards. Enjoy!
The Atlanta Hawks are in rebuilding mode, but they have a pretty exciting piece to build around for the future in rookie point guard Trae Young, who is averaging 18.4 points and 7.8 assists per game on 42.4% shooting from the field and 80.7% shooting from the foul line. Kent Bazemore (14.1 points) and Taurean Prince (14.6 points) are the other two Hawks players scoring in double figures on this team, taking some of the pressure off of Young.
Giving how young and inexperienced this Hawks team is, they're not going to win a lot of games, but they will be exciting to watch thanks to the presence of Trae Young. They have a piece they can build around for the future, but they don't have enough around him at the moment. This is a team that should be looking to make some moves at the trade deadline so as to acquire more assets for the future.
Kemba Walker is the face of this Charlotte Hornets team, averaging 28.3 points and 6.2 assists per game. He's established himself as one of the best players in the NBA and the Hornets as a result are playing .500 level basketball. Around Walker, the Hornets have some solid players in Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk, and Tony Parker, who I'll admit is still weird watching in a non-Spurs uniform.
As presently constituted, this Hornets team has the pieces to make the playoffs and possibly win a game or two once they get there. If they want to go beyond that and actually compete to win a series, they're going to need to get a legitimate number two option to go along with Kemba Walker. The pieces they have around him are nice, but not enough to make them a serious threat. They need someone else who can average around 16-17 points per game.
How the Hornets go about doing that remains to be seen, but they might be wise to unload some players in exchange for some draft picks that could blossom into the type of number two option that they need. There's also the possibility of maybe making a trade for a younger player with more upside. The bottom line with this Hornets team is they're nice and heading in the right direction. It's a just a matter of taking that next step and figuring out how to put the right pieces around Kemba Walker.
The Miami Heat have themselves a couple of really nice players in Josh Richardson (20.8 points) and Hassan Whiteside (14.0 points and 15.5 rebounds), who both look like keepers for the future. In addition to those guys, they also have Goran Dragic (16.1 points), Rodney McGruder (13.6 points), and Dwyane Wade (14.3 points), who help give this team some balance.
Given that this is Dwyane Wade's final season in the NBA, the Heat would like to make the playoffs and be competitive in his final year. However, it's probably good for their long-term future that he's moving on after this year so as to focus on the next chapter of their franchise.
The way I read this Heat team is that if everyone stays healthy, they have the pieces to sneak into the playoffs and maybe win a game or two, but that's it. They have the potential to be really good down the road, but they're still young and in need of more seasoning. The main thing to look for this year is how D-Wade's final season goes and whether or not he has any playoff magic left in him. If he could make them competitive in a first round series, that would be a lot of fun.
The Orlando Magic are another team with a lot of nice young talent in Aaron Gordon (16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds), Evan Fournier (16.5 points), and Nikola Vucevic (17.8 points and 10.7 rebounds). It's just a matter of these guys growing together and staying patient.
I truly believe that if this core can stay together for the long-term, they have the chance to be a force in the Eastern Conference. They're not so much in need of another piece as the are in need of going through the maturation process that all teams have to go through.
One name to keep an eye on this year is second year wing Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State. He hasn't been playing as well as the Magic would have hoped and it's unclear whether or not he'll become the elite scorer that they've been hoping he'd be. If he could have a breakout sophomore year and really turn the corner, that would be huge for this team.
At the moment, I see the Magic as a team that will be in the mix for the eight seed in the playoffs, but nothing beyond that. They're too young to make serious noise in the playoffs, but if they can get there, that'll be progress for them.
Led by John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards on paper should be the best team in this whole division. Both of those guys are scoring over 20 points per game while Otto Porter, Jr. and Kelly Oubre, Jr. are both evolving into solid players in their own right. On top of that, they added Dwight Howard into the fold, who while getting old is still a pretty productive big man. For whatever reason, this Wizards team is failing to live up to the hype, starting the season 3-9.
For them, they need to not panic and see if they can calmly right the ship. The season is still young and with a division filled with young teams, they should have plenty of opportunities to catch up. If the Wizards do not make the playoffs this year, that will be a major disappointment considering the level of talent that they have. When you have guys as good as John Wall and Bradley Beal on your team, you should be an automatic playoff team. Especially in the Eastern Conference.
How things go for the Wizards over the next six weeks will be really interesting to follow. My money is on them figuring things out and getting back in the playoff race. I really like Wall and Beal and I also really like the pieces they have around them. If they cannot get it together this season, there will be a lot of questions for their front office to answer in the offseason.
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