Let’s talk about the southeast division with last season’s runner-up for the Larry O’Brien the Miami Heat as the current division champ, the bright-future Magic and the Hornets and Hawks in the last two teams that had expectations in the last year but their performance was a disappointment for a lot of fans.
2022-2023 record: 44-38
The offseason didn’t go as expected, Damian Lillard was traded to Milwaukee and the Heat ended with Josh Richardson, Thomas Bryant and the rookie Jaime Jacquez Jr as their most notable additions in the summer. In addition, two of their most important pieces in Gabe Vincent and Max Strus left in free agency.
Are the Heat less talented this season? It is. The Heat know everyone is writing them off already for not getting Lillard so the chip on their shoulder narrative within the Heat Culture will shine once again this season. Lowry will come back to the starting lineup and Love will have an offseason to get to know his teammates and the system. Jaime Jacquez and Nikola Jovic are the two that I’m most excited to see this season and the two pieces that can help the Heat improve on last season’s record.
It’s tough to see a team getting to 60 wins this season so I’ll put the Heat in the 50 range and a spot in the top three of the Eastern conference.
2022-2023 record: 41-41
The main threat to the Heat within the division is the Hawks. They added Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews for some veteran experience, but it doesn’t solve the big questions with the team. Currently, I’d put them in the playoff limbo where they are a lock to make the playoffs but I don’t see them winning the conference.
Defense is still a concern after finishing 22nd in the rankings last season and Trae Young’s performance doesn’t translate to winning yet. The team has only one Final Conference appearance and two exits in the first round in his five years in Atlanta.
For my prediction, I’m expecting them to be in the playoffs with a .500 record but they won’t beat the Heat in the division nor have a playoff run surpassing the first round.
2022-2023 record: 34-48
Will the forever rebuild come to an end with the Magic entering the playoffs? Paolo Banchero proved to be a star franchise player in his first year in Orlando winning the Rookie of the Year Award, so the Magic finally have step one of the rebuild process.
The rest of the team is full with a lot of talent. Franz Wagner had a great performance in Germany’s run to win the World Cup and their first-round pick in the draft, Anthony Black adds to a backcourt that already has Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz. How will they deal with the rotation with these four is a question for Jamahl Mosley to answer but it’s been a while since the future looked this bright for Orlando fans.
Whether they make the playoffs or not, it will be an exciting season for the Magic.
Prediction:38 – 44
2022-2023 record: 27-55
We all know last season was a disappointment for the Hornets, injuries never allowed them to find their groove and when your best player, Lamelo Ball misses half the season, it is difficult to compete for a spot in the playoffs. With the addition of Brandon Miller in the draft, the Hornets can get into the play in tournament if the roster stays healthy, and that’s a big if when your two veterans in Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier play 50 and 63 games respectively.
It’s hard to see them win less than 30 games again this season and with a healthy LaMelo Ball season paired with a big man with Brandon Miller skills. I’ll be watching their games every now and then.
Prediction: 35 – 47
2022-2023 record: 34-48
Last season the Wizards won 35 games with Kristaps Porzingis, for most of the season, and Bradley Beal on the team, now they play for the Celtics and Suns respectively. So what do we expect from the Wizards?
One thing I know, Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole will go for 30 often but winning is not a priority right now. The Wizards are likely to be the last seed in the East and maybe of all the NBA. Currently, they have the lowest regular season wins predictions at 23.5.
This season, the most important thing for the franchise is to figure out a path for the future. Which players on the current roster that you want to keep and which are going to be traded on the deadline to contribute on a contending team.
Prediction: 15- 67