The Eastern Conference Southeast Division was the most balanced division in the NBA during the 2015-2016 season.
The Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Hornets all tied for the division’s top record, 48-34. The Washington Wizards finished the season 41-41, fourth in the division, and the Orlando Magic finished 35-47, last in the division.
The Southeast will remain one of the most balanced divisions in the upcoming season, but will have a shake-up in the rankings.
The teams in the division dealt with a lot of roster turnover during the off-season, a lot of top end talent came in and out of the Southeast.
Here are outlooks and the predictions for the five Southeast teams for the 2016-2017 season.
1. Washington Wizards
Last Year’s Record/Standing: 41-41/ 4th- no playoffs
Next Year’s Record- 49-31-playoffs
G: John Wall
G: Bradley Beal
6th man: Trey Burke
2016-2017 is the year Wall and Beal finally put their potential and talents together and become an unstoppable force.
The Wizards took a step back last season after a promising playoff run during the 2014-2015 season. However, Washington will have a bounce back 2016-2017 season and regain their form.
Washington stayed pretty much the same, roster wise, from last season, apart from bolstering the team’s depth.
The Wizards are going to depend on the offense, athleticism, and flash of the young backcourt of Wall and Beal.
Beal just signed a huge contract this off-season and is just entering his prime. He will be a perfect sidekick to Wall this season. He is going to establish himself as a deadly outside shooter, who can also get to the rim and run an offense.
Wall is already a top-5 point guard but will take his game to a whole new level this upcoming season. He has been steadily improving his jump shot, and next season he will take the next step in his development. Wall will also have Beal’s developing game to help take the pressure off of himself.
2. Atlanta Hawks
Last Year’s Record/Standing: 48-34/2nd-playoffs
Next Year’s Record- 45-37-playoffs
G: Kyle Korver
F: Paul Millsap
6th man: Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Hawks will finish second in the division for a second straight season, but the team as a whole will regress.
Atlanta lost two key veteran presences this off-season, Teague and Horford. Both players have been major factors in the Hawks success over the last few years.
Atlanta is replacing Teague with their 2013 first-round draft pick, Schroder, at point guard. Teague is a more polished player than Schroder on the offensive side. However, Schroder is a highly explosive athlete, who offers much more upside and potential than the older Teague.
The Hawks will be filling their void at big man left by Horford with their signing of Howard in the off-season. If Howard can remain healthy all season, he has a chance to bounce back from a rough 2015-2016 season, and try to regain his form from his Orlando Magic days.
3. Miami Heat
Last Year’s Record/Standing: 48-34/ 1st-playoffs
Next Year’s Record- 41-41- no playoffs
G: Goran Dragic
F: Chris Bosh
6th man: Tyler Johnson
The Miami Heat took some major blows to their roster from last season.
The organization seemed to be focusing on the future and building around their young talent.
Miami parted ways with some big name veterans, none bigger than Wade, who has been a dominant player for the Heat for over a decade.
Along with the players the Heat are losing, Bosh’s status is questionable at best with his blood cots. Miami seems reluctant to play Bosh, even though he says he is ready to play, because of concern for his long-term health.
4. Orlando Magic
Last Year’s Record/Standing: 35-47/ 5th– no playoffs
Next Year’s Record- 40-42- no playoffs
F: Jeff Green
F: Serge Ibaka
6th man: Bismack Biyombo
Orlando made big off-season trades and signings to help improve their roster. However, the improvements are still not enough to help push them back into the playoffs.
Orlando made one of the biggest trades of the off-season when they acquired Ibaka from the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and other assets.
The Magic have a lot of new pieces, and players stepping up into bigger roles. So, at first, while all the new pieces mesh together the team might experience some rough patches trying to find their identity.
Orlando needs to find where their scoring is going to come from and who is going to be taking their big shots.
Ibaka could end up being the go-to offensive option for Orlando in the 2016-2017 season. He has the tools to score in the low post as well as, stretch the floor and knock down perimeter jump shot.
Fournier is another option to take over as the go-to-scorer for the Magic in this upcoming season. With Oladipo leaving to Oklahoma City, Fournier has a golden opportunity to step up and make the most of his increased minutes. He has a solid perimeter game and has the length to finish above the rim.
5. Charlotte Hornets
Last Year’s Record/Standing: 48-34/ 3rd-playoffs
Next Year’s Record- 35-47- no playoffs
G: Kemba Walker
C: Cody Zeller
6th man: Marco Belinelli
The Hornets will be unable to follow up last season’s playoff appearance with another one in 2016-2017.
Charlotte was led with strong seasons by Walker, Jefferson, and a deep supporting cast.
The Hornets had a few players who had breakout seasons that ended up being major catalysts for their team.
Williams was the biggest player who stepped up last season for the Hornets. He developed into a coveted power forward in the league that has the explosiveness as a wing and the ability to bang with the big guys.
Walker will continue to have the offense run through him next season. He has been extremely inconsistent throughout his professional career. After the season he had last year, the Hornets are hoping that he will be a consistent franchise player for years to come.
If Charlotte hopes to have a shot at having back to back playoff-births, Walker is going to need to maintain his all-star level of play for another season.