Last year, the Southeast Division was in dire straits.
The division’s most prestigious team, the Miami Heat, only managed 44 wins, and this was still enough to have them claim the division crown. The Orlando Magic crashed out with a record of 25-57 and the Atlanta Hawks failed to qualify for the playoffs with a disastrous record of 24-58 – making last season the first time they have missed the playoffs since 2007.
The Southeast has been firing off brick-shots towards any form of success, so what lies ahead as the next season draws ever closer?
Since last year, the Hawks have made some progressive moves, beginning with the trade of the rather expensive Dennis Shroder to the Thunder. The most notable move, however, was their securing of Trae Young, a potential marvel who is regarded by Steve Nash to be in the same league as himself and Chris Paul, all being well.
“Trae Young can really pass the ball. He has the natural ability to get that thing humming around in with energy.”
Offensively, the Hawks are looking strong. The signing of Jeremy Lin and the clinical three-point shooting from Taurean Prince and John Collins, who was placed in at rank 28 in the Best Players Under 25 scene and made it into CBS Sports’ Top 100, makes Atlanta’s front line look tasty.
Whilst under the new management of the inexperienced Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks may not perform to unseen heights this time around – but progressively thinking – their scene has potential. They also have Vince Carter.
Dwyane Wade announced that this year will be his very last, and that he will be having ‘one last dance’ with the Heat.
Goran Dragic took the helm whilst Wade was away with the Bulls and Cavs, and recovered from an injury laden season. We all remember Head Coach Erik Spoelstra describing Wade walking “like Frankenstein”.
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) September 17, 2018
Dragic’s one-point game buzzer against the Lakers last year displayed his tremendous ability to perform under pressure. He also averaged 17.3 points and 4.8 assists last season, won Gold for Slovenia in EuroBasket and further went on to make the NBA All-Star team of 2018.
Despite Dragic’s arguably underrated ability, the Heat have been nailed down by costly contracts that never managed to pan out.
However, they still have a dash of hope against increasing strength within the division, upon the re-signing of Wayne Ellington. Last season, he managed to sink the most three-point shots ever made by a reserve – 247 in all. All being well, the return of Wade may see Miami top of the division once again. A fitting end to his career.
The Magic, whilst coming off an excellent draft, look to remain similarly mediocre in the season ahead. Yet, there will no doubt be ripples in the water, a beast lurking beneath the surface in the form of Mohamed Bamba, a contender for Rookie of the Year.
Further to add to the future potential, the Magic managed a sound deal upon the re-signing of Aaron Gordon to a four-year, $84 million contract. Whilst seemingly heavy at first glance, we could see Gordon rise to the rim and reach stardom in years to come. He’s only 22 after all. His prompt decision to remain in Orlando bodes well, as he seemingly sees his future with this franchise.
The days of McGrady and Hill feel like a distant memory for the Magic, and they still have not managed more than 30 wins in over five seasons. All hopes are left in the more than capable hands of Gordon and Bamba.
Austin Rivers was likely the Wizards’ most significant trade. His time with the Clippers was nothing less than turbulent upon Chris Paul’s resentment for Doc Rivers, arguing that he “favoured” his son – an issue which may have led to Paul’s jump to Houston.
Rivers averaged 15.1 points and four assists in his time with the Clippers, and his punch off the bench could fill a void that has anchored down the Wizards in recent times.
Dwight Howard also marks an upgrade from Marcin Gortat, who had some issues with Wall last season. Despite his notoriety for jumping ship, his time with the Charlotte Hornets displayed his consistent defensive prowess, averaging 12.5 rebounds and 16 points.
Kemba Walker is the Hornets’ power-play. When Walker graces the court, the Hornets outscored their opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions. When he sits out, this same number drops considerably to -7.8. The numbers that he put up last season, an average of 22.1 points per game, put him in at rank 16 in the entire league.
Now that Dwight Howard has jumped over to Washington, the Hornets have either Cody Zeller or Bismack Biyombo. Zeller would be the stronger pick of the two, but his recent torn meniscus will be at the back of James Borrego’s mind.
Tony Parker has also been signed- n for a tidy 2-year, $10 million contract. Despite his age and his wishes to eventually end his career in San Antonio, his presence alongside draft pick Myles Bridges could spell good form for Charlotte.
Each and every team is looking more diverse and colourful, which may lead to some issues for Miami. They have a fight on their hands this time, that is for sure, and it’s only going to get more difficult in the seasons ahead as the young talent in the Southeast becomes mature and experienced.