The 2023 offseason is mostly over, which means its time for me to do my annual division previews. First up is a preview of the Southeast Division, which contains the 2023 NBA Finals losing Miami Heat as well as a couple candidates for worst teams of the 2024 season.
Additions: Jaime Jaquez (18th pick of 2023 Draft), Josh Richardson, Thomas Bryant
Subtractions: Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Victor Oladipo
Other: Re-signed Kevin Love (2 year vet minimum), re-signed Orlando Robinson (2 year minimum), re-signed Jamaree Bouyea (two-way), re-signed Dru Smith (two-way)
Outlook: It’s hard to really talk much about the Heat with the potential Damian Lillard trade looming over everything. If they acquire Lillard, even if it costs a lot of their depth and young guys, the Dame-Jimmy-Bam troika would immediately be the best trio in the Eastern Conference. They would be my pick to come out of the East, probably, and a solid bet to win it all. Without Dame, the Heat took a step back, losing two key contributors in Strus and Vincent and replacing them with a rookie and a washed Josh Richardson. Maybe the Heat juju can get Richardson back on track, but it seems like a long shot. The Heat would be good, maybe very good, without Dame, but their whole offseason has centered around him. It just seems like a matter of time.
Prediction: 46-36 (Predicted 49-33 last year, actually 44-38)
Additions: Kobe Bufkin (15th pick of 2023 Draft), Mohamed Gueye (39th pick of 2023 Draft), Patty Mills, Seth Lundy (two-way), Miles Norris (two-way)
Subtractions: John Collins, Aaron Holiday, Tyrese Martin, Trent Forrest
Other: Extended Dejounte Murray for 4 years, $120M
Outlook: The Hawks finally traded John Collins, ending a national rumor mill that has been churning for years. Unfortunately for them, they got virtually nothing back for him. Onyeka Okongwu is more than ready to handle all of the backup big man minutes, Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin can step into larger roles, and there are other young guys on the roster. But it still feels like a lot of talent has exited Atlanta in recent years, and the Hawks, despite the offensive brilliance of Trae Young, seem like a team that can’t do much better than the bottom half of the playoff bracket. Their young guys could pop, so there is some upside, yet none feel like stars in the making. Maybe De’Andre Hunter finally puts it all together? I just don’t love the Young-Dejounte Murray pairing, but the Hawks are committed to that now with Murray’s extension. At least they’ll be fun to watch on offense wit Quin Snyder getting a full training camp and preseason at the helm.
Prediction: 46-36 (Predicted 47-35 last year, actually 41-41)
Additions: Anthony Black (6th pick of 2023 Draft), Jett Howard (11th pick of 2023 Draft), Joe Ingles
Subtractions: Bol Bol, Kevon Harris, Michael Carter-Williams
Other: Re-signed Mo Wagner to 2 year, $16M deal, Re-signed Admiral Schofield (two-way)
Outlook: The Magic mostly sat on their hands in free agency, merely bringing back a couple of their depth pieces and adding a veteran forward presence in Ingles. Still, they had a .500 record last season after Markelle Fultz returned, and nearly every player on their roster should be in line for some kind of improvement. The Paolo Banchero-Franz Wagner duo is an amazing start, Anthony Black is a nice addition, Jett Howard will bring shooting, and Wendell Carter Jr. is a stable presence at center. With moderate improvement from young guys, the Magic should be a play-in team. If Banchero, Wagner, or any of their other prospects makes a leap, they could hit the playoffs. I’ll be watching a lot of Magic ball.
Prediction: 41-41 (Predicted 35-47 last year, actually 34-48)
Additions: Jordan Poole, Tyus Jones, Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, Danilo Gallinari, Bilal Coulibaly (7th pick in 2023 Draft), Patrick Baldwin Jr., Ryan Rollins, Eugene Omoruyi (two-way)
Subtractions: Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Monte Morris, Jordan Goodwin, Taj Gibson, Kendrick Nunn, Vernon Carey Jr., Jay Huff, Isaiah Todd
Other: Re-signed Kyle Kuzma to a 4 year, $100M deal
Outlook: No other team remade the direction of their franchise this summer, who finally bid adieu to the Bradley Beal era and embraced a full rebuild. Not only was Beal moved, but “co-star” Kristaps Porzingis was traded as well, and other veterans were moved or let go. In came a diverse hodgepodge of veterans, youngsters, rookies, and picks. The Wizards actually still have a fair amount of veteran talent, but the question is how long those players – Tyus Jones, Delon Wright, Kyle Kuzma, Danilo Gallinari, and Mike Muscala among others – remain on the roster before they’re traded. If they kept their opening day roster all season I actually think they’d win a few more games than this, but the Wizards seem like a lock to fully lean into the tank by mid-season. Jordan Poole and Kuzma will get up a million shots, and it will probably be entertaining for everyone but Wizards fans.
Prediction: 29-53 (Predicted 38-44 last year, actually 35-47)
Additions: Brandon Miller (2nd Pick in 2023 Draft), Nick Smith Jr. (27th pick in 2023 Draft), Amari Bailey (41st pick in 2023 Draft), Leaky Black (two-way)
Subtractions: Dennis Smith Jr., Theo Maledon, Svi Mykhailiuk, Kobi Simmons
Other: PJ Washington and Kelly Oubre are still free agents, Miles Bridges re-signed on a one-year qualifying offer
Outlook: I would feel a whole lot better about the Hornets’ long-term future if they’d drafted Scoot Henderson or Amen Thompson instead of Brandon Miller. But even with one of those guys, this Hornets’ roster would be one of the worst in the NBA. It’s a very young roster, with the only veterans of note being Terry Rozier (just fine) and Gordon Hayward (declining and always injured). That’s not counting the re-signed Miles Bridges, who I’d rather not discuss. Unless LaMelo Ball makes a leap to true superstar or some of their other young talent pops in a big way, the Hornets seem like they’ll once again be awful on defense and probably not much better on offense. Keep an eye on second-year big man Mark Williams, who really came on towards the end of his rookie season.
Prediction: 27-55 (Predicted 33-49 last year, actually 27-55)