We wrap up the Eastern Conference season preview with a look at the Southeast Division. It’s a division that welcomed an All-Star in Dejounte Murray while saying goodbye and good riddance (we assume) to someone who had All-Star potential in Miles Bridges.
At a glance, Atlanta and Miami should be battling all season to win the division, but there are some plucky rosters in Washington and Orlando that will try to surprise some teams.
Now that we’ve finished the East, how do you see the conference playing out?
In This Episode:
4:20 — Can the Hawks soar higher with Murray?
After making a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, the Atlanta Hawks fell down to Earth last season, barely making the playoffs and plunging to a bottom-5 defense. Enter Dejounte Murray. Atlanta swooped in on San Antonio’s fire sale and picked up a triple-double threat in Murray. In addition to taking the offensive load off of Trae Young, his defense should help prop up a roster of poor defenders. I’m skeptical of how the two Alphas will work together (and not a fan of Murray’s post-San-Antonio persona), even though Jason is. How do you think Atlanta will perform in the stacked East?
14:25 — Charlotte is Miles away from contention
The Charlotte Hornets played well enough to make the play-in tournament last season but relinquished the lead midway through the first quarter against Atlanta and never saw it again. What should have been an off-season of re-tooling and re-focusing instead turned into a cringeworthy summer of discontent. Montrezl Harrell faced felony drug charges (which were reduced to a misdemeanor) and never re-signed with Charlotte (he’d later sign with Philadelphia). Miles Bridges... let’s just say it’s safe to assume he’s not returning to the NBA.
20:20 — Was last year Miami’s last stand?
The Miami Heat were one pull-up three from Jimmy Butler from returning to the NBA Finals. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and now Heat fans must be wondering if that was their last chance to win a title with this group. Kyle Lowry will be 37 when the playoffs start. Tyler Herro will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Butler is at the tail-end of his prime. The loss of PJ Tucker may be harder to accept knowing that Miami’s well over the cap this season and next. Pat Riley will have to pull off some of his trade magic to upgrade this roster (if/when it’s needed).
28:50 — Can Orlando find Magic with their young roster?
Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, and Paolo Banchero are all born in the 2000s. Think about that as this Orlando Magic team does its best to speed up the team’s trajectory. Last season, this young team was able to get wins over Golden State, Miami, Denver, Dallas, and Minnesota (twice). This season will be judged on how quickly they can consistently put together winning efforts like those.
37:05 — Will Beal’s loyalty pay off in Washington?
Breaking news: Teams can make trades that do not include multiple draft picks! The Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets completed an all-guard swap of one starter (KCP for Will Barton) and one reserve (Ish Smith for Monte Morris). That’s not the kind of deal that will shift the NBA landscape. So, what exactly are the expectations in Washington?