Southeast Division Part I: ATL, CHA, MIA.
The Southeast Division has the potential to be the only division in the league to not yield a single playoff team. It could yield, at most, probably two. But there is a high likelihood that these teams are lottery-bound, especially its bottom feeders like the Orlando Magic, who have missed six-consecutive playoff appearances. We will begin with the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and Miami Heat here in Part I, and Part II will then focus on the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards.
Odds c/o Bovada
Atlanta Hawks: Over/under 23.5 wins
The Atlanta Hawks are not a good basketball team, but it does feature a few youngsters that are worth keeping an eye on. First of those, is second-year forward John Collins. While most focused attention on the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum last year, Collins quietly put together an impressive First-team All-Rookie campaign down in “Hotlanta.” He compares favorably to a young Dwight Howard, with pogo-stick-like legs and a defensive presence that the Hawks will surely need to make up for its lack of perimeter defenders.
Adding to that excitement is rookie Trae Young, whose upside and bust potential are both about even, but he offers the high-upside of perhaps even a Stephen Curry. He is a dynamic shooter and playmaker who could even be a franchise savior, but his flameout potential may run just as high given his “all or nothing” approach to the game of basketball.
Lastly, Taurean Prince has shown some bright signs of being a premier small forward, but he is still putting it all together. He is a great two-way player who, like others, has gone largely unnoticed simply due to where he plays. Even the addition of Jeremy Lin might be the most under stated since Lin performs perhaps at his best when he is surrounded by the least talent. This quartet of players alone seems to be better than the 23.5 wins set by Vegas, but do not read too much into this statement. We like the Hawks to snag 24 to 27 wins, which makes this a call for the OVER.
Charlotte Hornets: Over/under 30 wins
The Charlotte Hornets are a team that has been on the cusp of the playoffs the past several seasons, but it simply cannot manage to break through. We have speculated that perhaps moving past its best player is in its best interest, but the Hornets would have to obtain some major talents to part with Kemba Walker at this point. Nicolas Batum is an outstanding two-way talent, but he is also known to disappear. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may never be a statistical monster, but the Hornets are best with his defensive talents and intangibles on the court.
Similar can even be said about power forward Marvin Williams, notwithstanding his disappointing career after having been a No. 2 overall pick at one point. Cody Zeller is not physically imposing, but he is a deceiving athlete and better than most credit him for. Perhaps the most interesting thing on this team is what it might seek to do with veteran Tony Parker.
Parker gives Walker a chance to play off the ball more, where the explosive Kemba is definitely at his best. It will mean less playmaking for Batum, but the Hornets never seemed to make the most of what Nicolas Batum is capable of at any rate. The bench is weak, even welcoming back Bismack Biyombo, who returns to the Hornets after having played in Toronto and Orlando, and mostly disappointing. He did have one outstanding playoff run with the Raptors, but outside of earning him a super bloated contract, it seemed to do little towards propelling him towards any major role.
Wisconsin product Frank Kaminsky is a defensive dud, but he has shooting range and will keep opposing 5-men honest in second units. Overall, this team probably struggles to reach the 30-win mark and lands plus or minus right at it. We are going to go ahead and PUSH this right back to the dealer, as it is just a team without enough upside to feel confident betting the over, but with still too much talent to expect it to utterly tank and fall far below that 30-win mark.
Miami Heat: Over/under 43 wins
The Miami Heat are one of the league’s top defensive teams, and it sports enough offense to hold its own. It does not, however, have enough offense to keep pace with the “true contenders” in the Eastern Conference, and that caps its potential somewhere around .500. Vegas concurs, in setting the over/under at 43 wins, just a notch better than breaking even.
Goran Dragic is still a quality starting point guard, even if he starts alongside an ancient but still effective Dwyane Wade. Josh Richardson was discussed in trade talks to acquire Jimmy Butler, and ultimately, he actually compares well to a young Butler. James Johnson is the least known power forward absolutely capable of wrecking havoc on the defensive end. Where it gets really interesting is the 5-spot: Hassan Whiteside is a premier center in many respects, but there is the argument that he plays for statistics, and that he is selfish and lazy.
Most importantly, for the Heat, he is blocking the development of Bam Adebayo, who enters his second-year out of Kentucky and has all the makings of a premier center. Neither Whiteside nor Adebayo, though, really seems to fit the mold of this era. But then again, the Heat itself do not either. This is a strong and physical team that is best suited to perhaps being an upset-maker in the postseason but expecting it to shred through the regular season and win 50-plus is fully silly simply because of the lack of major offensive talents. That said, the Heat probably exceeding the 43-wins set and manage to win more like 45 or 46. So, OVER, in short.