Kemba Walker's Hornets & Goran Dragic's HEAT both look to return to the postseason in 2017. (Getty Images)
Kemba Walker’s Hornets & Goran Dragic’s HEAT both look to return to the postseason in 2017. (Getty Images)

Sizing up the Southeast Division…

Orlando Magic

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

2015-2016 Season Result: 35-47 • 11th, Eastern Conference (5th, Southeast Division) • Missed Postseason

Current Head Coach: Frank Vogel

Draft Picks

  • #41 Overall: Stephen Zimmerman

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Bismack Biyombo
  • D.J. Augustin
  • Jeff Green

Notable Offseason Losses

  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Jason Smith
  • Brandon Jennings
  • Dewayne Dedmon

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Orlando Magic…had an interesting offseason! After all the dust settles, will the Magic return to the playoffs in 2017?

TBD.

Elfrid Payton is talented but is he ready to assume two-way responsibilities every night? Frank Vogel is juggling front court minutes between 5 capable players, including Top DOG Nikola Vucevic – Serge Ibaka complements Nik well tho, so kudos Rob Henigan.

Frank Vogel wants to push it (Evan Fournier could be a 20-pt. scorer) – if Orlando’s young tricksters (Payton, Aaron GordonMario Hezonja) quickly get up to speed, they’ll challenge for a playoff spot.

If not, the lottery awaits.

Undisputed X-Factor: Aaron Gordon • AG got on the map following his impressive aerial display at last year’s All-Star Weekend. His role w/ ORL should expand under Frank Vogel – Gordon will spend plenty of time at both forward positions, will be counted on to lockdown top, hybrid scorers in 2017.

Strong candidate for Most Improved if his 3-ball approaches 36-38%.

Season Prediction: 5th, Southeast Division • Will Miss Playoffs


Miami HEAT

side

2015-2016 Season Result: 48-34 • 3rd, Eastern Conference (1st, Southeast Division) • Lost to TOR in Semifinals

Current Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Dion Waiters
  • James Johnson
  • Derrick Williams

Notable Offseason Losses

  • Dwyane Wade
  • Luol Deng
  • Joe Johnson
  • Chris Bosh

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Miami HEAT…are tough peg after losing Dwyane Wade (CHI) & Chris Bosh. Bosh’s serious medical condition (blood clots) forced MIA to part ways w/ the two-time champ & future Hall of Famer.

Hassan Whiteside gets the baton: he’s the new star in South Beach – Whiteside will have a monster year in 2016-17. It remains to be seen if Miami’s a playoff contender but Whiteside will work his way to the All-Star game and avg. something like 20 points, 13 rebounds & 3 blocks.

Going in a younger direction, Erik Spoelstra must count on second-year swingman Justise Winslow to set the tone defensively (Whiteside covers the interior, Winslow the perimeter – get it, got it? good!) while providing an offensive spark at SF.

This season hinges upon consistency from Whiteside, Winslow & Goran Dragic (most notably) – if Coach Spoelstra keeps everyone ready, the HEAT are a dark horse 8th-spot contender.

Undisputed X-Factor: Tyler Johnson • This spot is reserved for Josh Richardsonunless TJ takes the reigns. A projected starter at the two, the athletic lefty could emerge as one of the best young, two-way players.

We haven’t seen a full season of Johnson at the two but w/ his ability to score through contact & knock down the long ball, he gives Dragic a ton of support in Coach Spo’s backcourt.

Season Prediction: 4th, Southeast Division • Will Miss Playoffs


Charlotte Hornets

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

2015-2016 Season Result: 48-34 • 6th, Eastern Conference (3rd, Southeast Division) • Lost to MIA in Quarterfinals

Current Head Coach: Steve Clifford

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Roy Hibbert
  • Ramon Sessions
  • Christian Wood
  • Brian Roberts

Notable Offseason Losses

  • Al Jefferson
  • Jeremy Lin
  • Courtney Lee

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Charlotte Hornets…were a pleasant surprise in 2015-16 • Steve Clifford’s group locked in on D, returned to the playoffs and fell just short of a Semifinals berth. Not too shabby, considering Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder) only played a few games.

Kemba Walker was a near-All-star (avg. career-high 20.9 points/game), taking it upon himself to will Charlotte to victory on some nights. But for some reason, that’s normally the case in Queen City.

Far too often, Kemba is tasked to do too much offensively – Nic Batum alleviated a good deal of pressure a year ago but they lost a key contributor/creator in Jeremy Lin (BKN) & low-post presence in Al Jefferson (IND) – does CHA have enough playmakers & shooters to make a jump in the standings?

They’ll rely on a top-10 defense to stick around the playoff picture but temper expectations in 2017.

Undisputed X-Factor: Jeremy Lamb • Don’t give up on Jeremy Lamb!

With Lin’s departure, Lamb is now a featured scorer off the bench – whether (or not) he stays consistent (especially on defense) is a lingering stigma Lamb looks to shake in 2017.

There’s room to operate & create in Steve Clifford’s second unit – look for Lamb to avg. 12-14 points & 3 assists.

Season Prediction: 3rd, Southeast Division • Will Miss Playoffs


Washington Wizards

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

2015-2016 Season Result: 41-41 • 10th, Eastern Conference (4th, Southeast Division) • Missed Postseason

Current Head Coach: Scott Brooks

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Trey Burke
  • Ian Mahinmi
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Jason Smith
  • Tomas Satoransky

Notable Offseason Losses

  • Nene
  • Ramon Sessions
  • Garrett Temple
  • J.J. Hickson
  • Jared Dudley
  • Alan Anderson
  • Drew Gooden

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Washington Wizards…are ever-so-slowly transitioning into their Final Form: a two-way team.

A two-way team is, quite literally, a collection of basketballers playing both ends of the floor…very well. Washington is already top-10 offensive team ft. explosive All-Star John Wall & semi-sharpshooting-$126-million-dollar-man, Bradley Beal.

But what else?

Otto Porter Jr. avg. a career-high 11.6 points/game in 2015-16, he’s settling into a tertiary role • Trey Burke is an underrated pickup if he buys into the concept of ‘spot’ minutes • New additions Ian Mahinmi & Tomas Satoransky should play huge roles under Scott Brooks – Ian is a versatile defender, Tomas is a versatile wing creator 

Hmm, not bad.

WAS will hover around the 6-8 spot all year long – they’re a “defensive identity away” from surprising folks in 2017.

Undisputed X-Factor: Kelly Oubre Jr. • Similar to Otto Porter Jr. a year ago, KO is poised to make a big jump in yet another campaign running next to Wall & Beal – each progressive season playing w/ WAS’s deadly backcourt should make you better by default!

Oubre’s competitive, defensively inclined and has range out to downtown – Scott Brooks needs his second-yr. wing ahead of the curve for future small ball lineups*

*Wall-Beal-Oubre Jr.-Porter Jr.-Mahinmi?

Season Prediction: 2nd, Southeast Division • Will Miss Playoffs


Atlanta Hawks

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

2015-2016 Season Result: 48-34 • 4th, Eastern Conference (2nd, Southeast Division) • Lost to CLE in Semifinals

Current Head Coach: Mike Budenholzer

Draft Picks

  • #21 Overall: DeAndre’ Bembry
  • #44 Overall: Isaia Cordinier

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Dwight Howard
  • Taurean Prince (rookie, Baylor • via trade w/ UTA)

Notable Offseason Losses

  • Al Horford
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Jeff Teague

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Atlanta Hawks…got Dwight Howard in the offseason! For the first time in 7 or so years, we can’t put a ceiling on ATL’s potential. Usually, it’s second round (at best) w/ the exception being the dream 60-win-still-no-shot-at-beating-LeBron squad from two seasons ago.

D-12 is playing w/ his most versatile front court threat since Lewis-Turkoglu! in 3x All-Star, and ATL’s undisputed franchise player*, Paul Millsap. And with Dennis Schröder taking over full-time, it opens up a new PnR tandem (Dennis & Dwight) as well as the opportunity to push the break in multiple lineups.

ATL has so many wild cards heading into 2016-17 – if everything clicks (could finish top-5 in scoring), they could challenge for an Eastern Conference Finals berth.

Undisputed X-Factor: Kent Bazemore • Freshly awarded a 4 yr/$70 million extension, Bazemore is getting better by the season.

If ATL overachieves, it’s (in part) due to Bazemore’s improved activity defensively & another jump in scoring.

Season Prediction: 1st, Atlantic Division • Will Lose in Quarterfinals

*it’s Sap’s title til D-12 takes it – or Schröder – or (most likely) not

…the Southeast Division features 1 playoff team 

#delay

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