The Washington Wizards finished last year with a record of 41-41, fourth in their division. This season they hope to turn that around and possibly be one of the frontrunners coming out of the Southeast division. They fell short of making the playoffs last year, but as always health is a key in terms of what they may or hope to accomplish this season. Specifically the health of their two best players, John Wall and Bradley Beal. We’ll talk about Washington later though, let’s take a look around the division and see what’s changed with the competition.
Miami finished first in the Southeast division last season with Dwayne Wade leading them along with Hassan Whiteside. This season the Heat will look different since the Wade era is over, he’s now a member of the Chicago Bulls. Chris Bosh is the last player standing of the “Big 3” of him, Wade and LeBron James. However, there has yet to be a solution regarding his health, due to blood clots.
They’ve added Dion Waiters from OKC who could possibly come off the bench with the second unit and play the shooting guard position, or if Josh Richardson isn’t ready to play in the season opener due to his recent injury Waiters may fill in for him in a starting capacity. Waiters wasn’t the only addition as Wayne Ellington (G), Luke Babbitt (F), James Johnson (F), Willie Reed (F-C), Derrick Williams (F), and Rodney McGruder (G) landed in South Beach this offseason. The head-to-head matchup between the two teams were split with both teams winning and losing two games. It’ll be interesting to see what Miami becomes as they are now built around Whiteside, Bosh is a welcome luxury should he play, but there season largely depends on the growth of their youngsters.
The Atlanta Hawks finished behind Miami as the number two seed and entered into the playoffs as the fourth seed last season. They’ve added Dwight Howard and guard Jarret Jack. They lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague, to the Celtics and Pacers respectively. Dwight isn’t the force he once was back in his Orlando days, nor is he the same offensive threat as Horford. Still, in a league dominated by pick-and-rolls, there is some value there. Since they lost Teague, Dennis Schroder will probably fill the starting position and although he was Teague’s back up he still averaged around 11 points per game. Even though the Hawks have added Howard they’ve gotten rid of two of their primary scorers. Like Miami, Atlanta split their series with Washington last season as well. Atlanta has a ton of youngsters on the perimeter, but it’ll be about the paring of Paul Milsap and Dwight to see how far they go this season. Those two can and will cause matchup problems for Washington’s bigs.
The Charlotte Hornets finished third in the division and entered into the playoffs as the sixth seed. Some key additions they’ve made would have to be big man Roy Hibbert as well as the shooter Marco Belinelli who can play the guard or forward position. A few faces who will no longer be seen in Hornets jerseys are Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, and Courtney Lee. In the head-to head matchup with the Wizards and Hornets both teams went 2-2, this season the Wizards could possibly have an edge on them but it will be a great matchup between Wall and Walker. Charlotte’s success will depend on Walker and Nic Batum, but up front it’ll be about the development of Frank Kaminsky. In their matchups with Washington last season, Wall and Walker often cancelled eachother out. The difference was the front court, Charlotte’s bigs run the floor better and aren’t liabilities in screen/rolls like Washington’s are.
The Orlando Magic finished last in the division behind the Wizards and finished with a record below .500. They chose to skip the youth movement and bring in some veterans. Joining the Magic this offseason were Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks and Bismack Biyombo. Each of these players bring more experience into the locker room to go along with offensive and defensive help from the three big men. They’ve added other players too such as D.J. Augustin, C.J. Wilcox and a few more to make up for the loss of Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, and others. The Wizards swept the Magic in the head-to-head matchup last season, but it may not be as easy especially with the bigs Orlando added. Washington still has the edge in the backcourt though.