- Atlanta Hawks, Last season’s record and division finish: 41-31/1st, Lost in East Finals
The Hawks surprised by beating the Sixers in the second round of the playoffs and that same team is back together again. Nate McMillan did a great job coaching this team and is a big reason to believe in this Hawks team’s ability to be a top-four team in the East. The team is led by young superstar Trae Young who averaged 25.3 points per game on 43.8% shooting to go with 9.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds. Clint Capela gave a great performance at center putting up 15.2 points per game on 59.4% shooting and grabbed 14.3 rebounds per game. Capela is also a great rim protector on defense.
The Hawks aren’t filled with stars like some teams, but their team plays well together and they got a coach they seem to like. In offensive points per 100 possessions, the Hawks were 9th at 115.5 and were 17th defensively at 113.2. The good news on defense is while they were 17th in points per 100 they were 6th in effective field goal percentage defensively at 53.3%. If the Hawks can continue to play as a team and maintain the offense this team will be a tough out for anyone.
2. Miami Heat, Last season’s record and division finish: 40-32/2nd, Lost in the first round of playoffs
If this was a ranking of coolest uniforms in the league the Heat would be number one. The basketball played in these uniforms is still good and should be better this offseason. The addition of Kyle Lowry was very nice especially when Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are already in place. Jimmy Butler last season averaged 21.5 points per game on 49.7% shooting, 7.1 assists, and 6.9 boards per game. Butler is the leader of this team and top scorer while also being good on defense. Bam put up 18.7 points per game on 57% shooting with 9 boards and 5.3 assists per game. Adebayo can also play defense to go with his other numbers.
Lowry last season with Toronto put up 17.2 points per game on 43.6% shooting and 7.3 assists with 5.4 rebounds per game. Lowry will be 35 when the season starts so it’s fair to wonder what kind of impact he’ll bring. Lowry should still be good but who knows if father time will have other plans. Lowry can bring the Heat the type of point guard they need as long as he doesn’t start declining.
In regards to offensive points per 100, the Heat were 19th at 111.8 and defensively they were 8th at 111.7. Pretty close huh? Hopefully, for the Heat their offense can take that step forward with Lowry. A good thing for the Heat offense was they were 11th in effective field goal percentage at 54.7%. One thing to watch on defense is they were 19th in effective field goal percentage at 54.5 %. The Heat will be right on Atlanta’s ass but the Heat have a couple more question marks.
3. Charlotte Hornets, Last season’s record and division finish: 33-39/4th, Made play-in game
The Hornets are fun because of LaMelo Ball but getting the third spot over Washington won’t be a gimme. Only one game separated the Hornets and Wizards a year ago and another tight race for third in this division should happen. LaMelo Ball is the top-dog on this team and as a rookie last year he averaged 15.7 points per game on 43.6% shooting to go with 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. Terry Rozier is the number two guy but was the lead scorer a year ago averaging 20.4 points per game along with 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
This team still needs more pieces but LaMelo should improve enough mixed with Rozier’s play to get this team to third in the division. In points per 100 offensively the Hornets were 22nd at 111.0 and on defense, they were 20th at 113.5. to make things worse on defense they were 26th in effective field goal percentage. If this team can play better on offense or defense they should be able to pass Washington. The offense is where to expect that improvement.
4. Washington Wizards, Last season’s record and division finish: 34-38/3rd, Lost in the first round of playoffs
The Wizards and Hornets will likely go back and forth for third in this division and the Wizards have a shot because of Bradley Beal. Beal last season put up 31.3 points per game on 48.5% shooting and 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. When you have a player like that the floor is typically pretty good. The rest of the team however isn’t special. It’s pretty much the Bradley Beal show and the fact he only meant a difference in outdoing the Hornets by a game isn’t good. Last season this team was 20th in points per 100 offensively at 111.6 and 16th defensively at 113.2. If the Wizards can give Beal more help on offense they can outdo the Hornets but that shouldn’t be expected. No major moves were made to alleviate that issue and they lost Russell Westbrook.
5. Orlando Magic, Last season’s record and division finish: 21-51/5th, Missed playoffs
The Magic are one of the leagues’ dumpster fires this season just as they were last year. This is a young team but they are without any young stars. The Magic will be looking for incoming rookies Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner to show signs of promise to have anything to be excited about.
Suggs is someone the Magic NEED to see something from and hopefully early just to give themselves a sense of whether or not they even have one piece worth building around. With two top ten picks the Magic better have hit on at least one of them. Last season the Magic were 29th in points per 100 offensively at 105.6 and on defense they were 24th at 114.7. Don’t expect much from the Magic other than for them to be a strong contender for the top pick.