The Wizards come into this next season as favorites in the Southeast. Will we see another team in this division make it to the postseason?
1. Washington Wizards
16-17 Record: 49-33
Major Additions: Tim Frazier, Jodie Meeks, Mike Scott
Major Losses: Brandon Jennings, Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton
Washington looks like the clear favorite to win the Southeast division again this year. PG John Wall is coming off his best season in D.C., and his backcourt partner, Bradley Beal, appears to possibly be coming into his prime as well. The team was able to keep young F, Otto Porter, matching a contract given to him by the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards lost several backcourt players this summer, most importantly Brandon Jennings to China. They did however attempt to replace the guard depth with former Pelican, Tim Frazier, and sharpshooter, Jodie Meeks. With their 3 centerpieces all expected to be even better this season, I predict the Wiz crack 50 wins.
17-18 Record Prediction: 54-28
2. Charlotte Hornets
16-17 Record: 36-46
Major Additions: Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon, Michael Carter-Williams
Major Losses: Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, Brian Roberts
The Hornets made an early off-season trade to acquire Dwight Howard, only giving up Marco Belinelli and Miles Plumlee to Atlanta. The move gives Buzz City their first “star” inside since Al Jefferson. Charlotte also replaces backup PG, Brian Roberts, with former ROTY, Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams isn’t the same player he was in Philly, but he provides size for a Hornet backcourt consisting of 6’1″ Kemba Walker and 6’3″ Malik Monk. Monk was selected 11th overall in the 2017 draft by Charlotte and will likely start the season as the team’s 6th man, sitting behind Nic Batum at the 2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be a valuable piece for the Hornets, giving them elite defense on the wing despite being yet to develop a reliable jumpshot. Cody Zeller will start the year behind Howard at the 5 while the team has a solid rotation of stretch forwards at the 4 with Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky. With the positive win-now moves made by Charlotte this summer and All-Star guard, Kemba Walker, coming off his best season as a pro, I see the Hornets getting above .500 and grabbing a playoff spot in the weakened Eastern Conference.
17-18 Record Prediction: 43-39
3. Miami Heat
16-17 Record: 41-41
Major Additions: Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Walton Jr.
Major Losses: Willie Reed, possibly Luke Babbitt
The Heat made the necessary moves this offseason to improve their frontcourt depth. They’ll lose C, Willie Reed, to the Clippers, but replace him with stretch 7-footer, Kelly Olynyk, and 2017 1st round draft pick, Bam Adebayo. After re-signing G Dion Waiters, and F James Johnson, Miami keeps important starters to surround the teams two “stars”, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. I believe the player that could make or break this season for the Heat is Wake Forest product, James Johnson. Johnson is coming off his best season as a pro, with averages of 12.8 ppg 4.9 rpg and 3.6 apg. He was the definition of a stat-sheet-stuffer for Miami last year and finished the season with the highest real plus-minus on the team, even ahead of Hassan Whiteside. The Heat finished the year 11th in the league in team 3pt shooting percentage, and with the addition of Olynyk to South Beach, we could see them jump into the top 10 in this metric this coming year. If Miami’s core players play as well as they did post All-Star Break last season, I can see them challenging for a spot in the Eastern Playoffs again in 17-18.
17-18 Record Prediction: 42-40
4. Atlanta Hawks
16-17 Record: 43-39
Major Additions: John Collins, Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, Tyler Dorsey, Diamond Stone, Dewayne Dedmon
Major Losses: Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap
The Hawks made the decision this summer that it was time for a rebuild. Their starting frontcourt from last year consisting of Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap will not be returning to Atlanta this season. The team has replaced these old stars with younger talents such as John Collins. Collins has the ability to be a top 5 rookie this year in a stacked class due to the presumed hefty playing time he’ll receive as a result of the Howard-Millsap departure. Collins is long at 6’10” and at just 19 years old, has the potential to develop into a double-double machine at the NBA level. The keys to the franchise appear to have been given to PG, Dennis Schroeder. The 23-year old is coming off his best NBA season after becoming the full time starter last year. A deep, young trio of wings in Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, and DeAndre Bembry will be solid pieces for Atlanta next year, but with the loss of several of their core players last year, it would take a miracle for the Hawks to grab another postseason bid again this season.
17-18 Record Prediction: 30-52
5. Orlando Magic
16-17 Record: 29-53
Major Additions: Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu, Arron Afflalo, Jonathan Simmons, Shelvin Mack
Major Losses: C.J. Watson, Jeff Green
The Magic will again come into this next season with low expectations. The team has yet to find an identity since the Dwight Howard trade years ago. Nikola Vucevic’s future with Orlando remains in question while PG, Elfrid Payton, is yet to make significant improvements as a pro. The Magic have however managed to sign rookie, Jonathan Isaac, and energetic SG, Jonathan Simmons. The team stole Simmons from the Spurs after they rescinded their qualifying offer to him. He could bring a winning mentality and slashing ability to a weak Magic backcourt. Isaac will be a project but his defensive versatility could be huge for Orlando in the future. With a new front office in place, the Magic appear to be headed in the right direction, though it could be years before they truly contend in the Eastern Conference.
17-18 Record Prediction: 27-55