With the NBA season underway, let's preview the landscape of the league. As part of a six-part series, we will preview each team division by division. We will discuss our thoughts on each team, as well as provide a potential team MVP, breakout player, and whether the team will be over/under on their win totals projected by our friends in the desert.
Let's get into the Southeast Division.
2017-2018 Record: 24-58
Team MVP: Tauren Prince
Breakout Player: Prince / John Collins
Over/Under - 23.5 Wins: Under
The Atlanta Hawks have three legit pieces looking forward in their rebuild; Trae Young, John Collins, and Tauren Prince. They lack that transcendent franchise type player, but they do have potential starters for the long-term.
It's unfortunate that everytime Trae Young does something good or bad that he will always be compared to Luka Doncic. We already saw it on the first night of the NBA season, Young doesn't have the greatest night and shoots 1-for-5 from 3-point range and scores 14 points, in a loss. Meanwhile, Doncic is throwing behind the back passes to DeAndre Jordan and doing a little bit of everything for the Dallas Mavericks.
Young is not in a spot to succeed right away, so we shouldn't cast aspersions onto his career based on his rookie year. Just look at the talent around him, there are only three players around them that I am actually intrigued about their future prospects.
Atlanta is going to be bad this year, like really bad. But, Trae Young is going to have some "Wow" plays this year, like the one he had in the preseason where he shot a DEEP game-winning 3-pointer. The Hawks are going to get a high draft pick and add to the core of players they have. Atlanta is on the rise, its just going to take a couple years until everyone sees it.
2017-2018 Record: 36-46
Team MVP: Kemba Walker
Breakout Player: Malik Monk
Over/Under - 36 Wins: Over
The Charlotte Hornets, aka the most mediocre team in the league.
I'm not going to talk about your teams season that much because I don't see it being exciting. Instead, I will discuss some problems I see with the franchise.
Charlotte will be jockeying for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a team like the Detroit Pistons for the 8th seed.
I like who Charlotte has drafted over the last couple of year, with Malik Monk in 2017, and Miles Bridges in 2018. I expect Malik Monk to have a bounce-back campaign this year, after an underwhelming rookie season. Bridges look's NBA-ready and I would not be surprised to see him supplant Marvin Williams at the Power Forward position early on in the year.
The problem with the Hornets is that they have money tied up in bad contracts. Paying players who are not difference makers is exactly how you end up being a mediocre team. Nicolas Batum is a solid NBA player, but they're paying him 24-million a year for the next three years. Bismack Biyombo is back where he was originally drafted, this time he's making 17 million for the next two years. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is overpaid at 13 million a year, Marvin Williams is being paid over 14 million dollars, and let us not forget Cody Zeller who for the next 4-years is getting 13.5 million dollars.
When you start paying average players starting-calibre money you are killing yourself with managing the salary cap.
It will be even worse when Charlotte has to make a decision on Kemba Walker, their franchise player, who will be eligible for a super-max extension worth five-years, $188 million.
Is he worth it?
Do you need to keep him?
2017-2018 Record: 44-38
Team MVP: Josh Richardson
Breakout Player: Josh Richardson
Over/Under - 43.5 Wins: Over
Are the Miami Heat going to get Jimmy Butler?
It doesn't look like it right now, and that could change at a moments notice. But in the meantime, we will look at this current Heat team.
The Heat are a solid team, right now I would have them around the 7th seed in the East. If they were to get a Jimmy Butler, they could vault themselves into the same tier as the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks.
There is not a lot of variance when I look at the floor and ceiling of this team and most of its players. You know what to expect from players like, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside (If he's not in the doghouse), and even Dwyane Wade. There are roles for their players and their players play them, which is uncommon to find in the league today.
Can Josh Richardson turn into a two-way star this year? He's off to a hot start averaging 24.5 points in a small sample size of two games.
If Richardson makes the leap, then this Heat team can give a top-seeded team in the East a run for its money.
2017-2018 Record: 25-57
Team MVP: Aaron Gordon
Breakout Player: Jonathan Isaac
Over/Under - 30.5 Wins: Under
Teams like Toronto and Boston have three potential starting-calibre point guards on their rosters. The Orlando Magic have none. They have some of the most interesting front-court talent in the league, they also have the worst back-court in the league.
Orlando has been in a rebuild ever since Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2012. Six years later not much has changed, they have intriguing players, but nothing to show for it.
A front-court of the future that consists of Johnathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, and Mohamed Bamba seems to work on paper. In reality, I'm not sure that one of Gordon or Isaac can play the Small Forward position in the NBA. So even with their core of their team, there are questions on if they can all coexist together, or is a player like Aaron Gordon dangled out there to acquire future assets.
The Magic are going to suck this year, they are going to be a tough watch due to their guard play. If they the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and get R.J. Barrett to play the Shooting Guard position and sign a Terry Rozier, or acquire a Point Guard through other means, then this team could be a really fun team to watch next season.
2017-2018 Record: 43-39
Team MVP: John Wall
Breakout Player: Kelly Oubre
Over/Under - 46 Wins: Under
Now that Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan are no longer the best backcourt in the East, the combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal seem to have taken the throne.
Did the Washington Wizards improve this offseason? Kind of. The Wizards swap in Dwight Howard for Marcin Gortat, that is an improvement. The biggest move they made this offseason was getting Gortat out of Washington. Clearly, there was a problem with the relationship between Gortat and John Wall, and now that one of them is gone there is now one less of a reason why the Wizards will blow up from a chemistry perspective.
The new problem is Dwight Howard. He's already hurt this year with a Butt problem (yeah, you read that right). He was a problem last year because he was farting on his teammates. The Charlotte Hornets actually got worse from a talent standpoint by trading Howard away and getting one of the worst contracts in the NBA in Bismack Biyombo, but they felt it was something they had to do. The Hornets viewed the trade as addition by subtraction, not only would they get Howard out of their locker room, they would also gain cap relief.
Dwight Howard has been cancerous to every locker room he has been in (Orlando, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte), why would this year be any different?
So the Wizards get rid of one problem and create a whole new problem.
On the court, the Wizards are in the tier with the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers. These three teams will fight throughout the year for the 4 through 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Kelly Oubre is my choice for breakout player. Oubre isn't that good right now, but with how he is covered in the media, you would think is a star player on his team. Oubre has all the talent in the world and if he emerges the Wizards can run out there a really intriguing lineup of:
PF- Otto Porter
C- Dwight Howard
The Washington Wizards could blow up in everyone's faces and dismantle themselves to a point where the front office has to trade one of its star-guards. Or they could be in a "forgot about me?" situation, and how everyone forgot about how good that back-court is. They could end up being a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference again. In a league where we have an idea of the teams that are good and will make the playoffs, the Wizards are a team that is good, but there are situations where it could go awful.