The last Eastern Conference division preview features the Southeast Division. This division is by far the worst in the Eastern Conference as the five teams combined for a record of 172-238 last season. With only one Southeast Division title, the Washington Wizards come in as the betting favorite behind their dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
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Last Season Record: 24-58
Projected Season Record: 24-58
After making the playoffs for 10 straight seasons, the Atlanta Hawks had a 24-58 record last season which was the worst season since 2004-05. Their pitiful record allowed them to draft at pick number five where they took Oklahoma guard Trae Young who led the country in points and assists. An undersized guard with Stephen Curry comparisons, Young got off to a very rough start in Summer League. He shot 38% from the field, but dazzled the Vegas crowd with his court vision as he finished with 6.8 assists per game which was tied for the fourth highest in Summer League. It’s safe to say he’s looked a little bit more comfortable in the preseason as you can tell by these highlights against the San Antonio Spurs. Young ended the game with 22 points, seven assists and one game-winner from the logo! With the Hawks expected to have another poor season, Young is going to get all of the opportunity that he can handle in his rookie season. I think he’s a great sleeper pick to win Rookie Of the Year solely based on what type of opportunity he will get with the Hawks. Second year player John Collins was extremely impressive towards the end of the season when he got the opportunity. In the last month of the season Collins averaged 12.2 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game while he shot 50% from the field. He carried that success over to Summer League where he led the entire league in points per game with 24.0. Unfortunately for Collins, he is dealing with an ankle injury in which he will be re-evaluated at the end of October. With Collins out for the first month of the season, the Hawks will relay on Alex Len to control the paint. Len may finally get the minutes to be a big time fantasy asset. Len is capable of big games, but only playing 20 minutes per game in his last two seasons limited him. In their last preseason game, Len played 36 minutes and had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. A great sign of things to come.
Last Season Record: 36-46
Projected Season Record: 36-46
The Michael Jordan experience has yet to bring much success. Since taking over the team in the off-season of 2010, the Charlotte Hornets have had two winning seasons and zero playoff series victories. Mixed in those last eight seasons is a 7-59 record during the shortened season in 2011-12. Two time All Star point guard Kemba Walker has really flourished in his last three seasons with the team. He has averaged over 20 points per game and over five assists per game in each of the past three seasons. Walker is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and many people think he will be on his way out. Potentially going to the Mecca of basketball in Madison Square Garden, the place where Kemba Walker became Cardiac Kemba. Another losing season might push Walker out of Charlotte, but that is to be determined. He has a chance to learn from one of the most respected point guards in the game this year in Tony Parker. Parker signed a two year deal to play under Michael Jordan who he idolized growing up. Parker is the ninth highest scoring player in NBA playoff history. It would take quite the season from the Hornets for the 36-year old Parker to add to his totals this season. The veteran point guard will not only be a mentor to Kemba Walker, but should provide much needed knowledge to a team with a plethora of young talent. Rookie Miles Bridges has shined in the preseason thus far as he’s averaged 12.3 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 56% from the field and 50% from three point range in four games. Third year player Willy Hernangomez has notoriously been a player who fills up the stat sheet in limited minutes. He’s averaged 12.5 points per game 5.5 rebounds per game despite playing no more than 18 minutes in four preseason games. Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams have been a steady veteran core that has started every game for the Hornets in the last three seasons.
Last Season Record: 44-38, #6 Seed
Projected Season Record: 43-39
Since 2004 when the Southeast Division was created, the Miami Heat have won the division title in nine of 14 years. Unfortunately after LeBron James left they have won only one playoff series. Last year they had some really good chances to beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs, but ultimately fell short. They’ll look to rebound this season with a roster that has not changed. There has been a lot of chatter on the Miami Heat being the most likely team to trade for Jimmy Butler. However, after multiple offers and counter offers to the Minnesota Timberwolves a deal has yet to be accepted. By the time the season starts a deal still could be done, but not many teams are willing to overpay for Jimmy Butler especially when they feel that they can sign him after the season is over. Rumored to be in the trade discussions was Miami Heat small forward Josh Richardson. Richardson is coming off of a career year where he played every game except for one. Uber-talented center Hassan Whiteside is a major fantasy producer when he is on the court. Since playing in Miami for the last four seasons, Whiteside has averaged a double double with points and rebounds in each season. Also in each of those four seasons, Whiteside has been in the top eight in blocks per game. The unfortunate part with Whiteside is that he often gets benched due to lack of defense. For instance during their playoff series against the 76ers, Whiteside was just getting embarrassed by Joel Embiid so Head Coach Erik Spoelstra only allowed Whiteside to play 15.5 minutes per game. Goran Dragic took a step back from his play last year, but is still as steady as they come for a point guard. After a short stint with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade is back in Wade County where he belongs. Despite not being much of a fantasy asset anymore, Wade averaged 16.6 points per game in the playoffs which was second to Dragic.
Last Season Record: 25-57
Projected Season Record: 31-51
Consistently one of the worst teams in the league lately has been the Orlando Magic who haven’t sniffed the playoffs in six years. The Magic have won less than 30 games in five of their last six seasons and they haven’t made any moves that would make it seem like that will change this season. Let me start with a question. Who are the Orlando Magic first round draft picks in the last four seasons? Answers: Mario Hezonja (2015 – 5th Overall), Domantas Sabonis (2016 – 11th Overall), Jonathan Issac (2017 – 6th Overall) and Mohamed Bamba (2018 – 6th Overall). Hezonja played 219 career games with the Magic and averaged 6.9 points per game. Sabonis was traded on draft night along with Ersan Ilyasova and Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. Ibaka played 56 games with the Magic before he was traded away to the Toronto Raptors. Issac played in 27 games last season and averaged 5.4 points. Minus the horrendous trade for the Magic in 2016, Hezonja and Issac have basically been non factors to this franchise. Hezonja is now on the New York Knicks as Issac is still a back-up on the Magic. I have my doubts with Bamba for the fact that Orlando is the place where draft picks go to disappear. Their only good draft pick still on the team is Aaron Gordon. Last season, Gordon set career highs in points per game (17.6), rebounds per game (7.9) along with field goal attempts, blocks and steals despite only playing in 58 games. He is the star of this organization as we can expect another leap this season if he’s healthy enough to play a full year. Nikola Vucevic another player last year who dealt with injuries as he was only able to play in 57 games, is always a double double candidate on any given night. The point guard position is the weakest spot for the Magic. They currently have two point guards on the roster in D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant. Both Augustin and Grant have been career back-ups and provide little upside on this team.
Last Season Record: 43-39, #8 Seed
Projected Season Record: 46-36
The favorite to come out of the Southeast Division is the Washington Wizards currently at -140. Since the division was created in 2004, the Wizards have only won it once which was in the 2016-17 season. Despite not winning the division, the Wizards have reached the playoffs in four out of their last five seasons. They have also won the first playoff series in three out of those four seasons. The Wizards have one of the best backcourt duos in the entire league with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Over the last four seasons, Wall has averaged 20.1 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game. An injury riddled season last year allowed Wall to only play in 41 games, but he was effective as he recorded a career high 37.1% from three point range. Wall has always been a player to rely on his mid-range game than test the waters out deep. He has given those responsibilities to his partner in crime Bradley Beal. With Wall sidelined for half of last season, Beal took advantage of the extra opportunity. He had career highs in minutes (36.3), rebounds per game (4.4), assists per game (4.5) and field goal attempts per game (18.1). His shooting percentages took a hit with the extended volume, but Beal still averaged 22.6 points per game as he played in all 82 games. After three consecutive seasons in the bottom 10 in rebounds, the Wizards went out and added one of the best rebounders in the league in Dwight Howard. Hate on Howard’s post moves all you want, the man still knows how to gather rebounds in bunches. In all 14 of his seasons he’s averaged a double double with points and rebounds. Last year Howard became the eighth player in NBA history to record a game with 30 points and 30 rebounds. This will be Howard’s fourth team in the last four years. Another journeyman added by the Wizards was Jeff Green who played in last year’s NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This will be Green’s eighth team in his 11-year career.