I’m going to be doing brief previews on each division leading up to the start of the NBA season where I will write my prediction for the upcoming season, plus a couple of little tidbits here and there as well. Today, the Southeast division, so I can get it over with quick, like ripping off a band-aid. And away we go…
2018-19 Season Finish: 4th in division, 11th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 5th in division, 15th in conference
Ceiling: Let’s be honest. If they win anything above their mark last season (32 games) then they’ll be surprising a lot of people
Realistic Target: I think the Wiz should be trying to lose as many games as possible but if they want to set a realistic target for wins, I think 22-25 is achievable, but of course, that is if they trade Beal like they really should.
Star In The Making: Maybe star is a little bit of a stretch, but Thomas Bryant looked really good last season, averaging 10.5 points and 6 boards in only 20 minutes a game, all with a solid 21 PER as well. With his minutes looking to increase, those numbers should improve drastically and maybe Bryant is an outside shot at MIP.
Under The Radar: Yeah, he may look like a guy who would carry a Tiki torch at a “rally” in North Carolina, but Davis Bertans was a sneaky good pickup for the Wiz. If Rui struggles out the gate, look for Bertans to start at the 4 and provide excellent 3-point shooting and underrated hustle. He would fit nicely next to Bryant as well.
Make Or Break: Isaiah Thomas has a huge chip on his shoulder, which is ironic cos his shoulders are tiny, and many haters to prove wrong. Either Thomas bounces back or he is probably done in the league.
Anything Else?: If Pat Riley is really serious about being willing to take John Wall’s contract in exchange for Bradley Beal, the Wiz HAVE to do that, right? That Wall contract could be the worst in the league as early as next season so if they can dump it, they need to.
2018-19 Season Finish: 2nd in division, 9th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 4th in division, 13th in conference
Ceiling: I mean, if Rozier is the player that MJ and Kupchak think he is (he’s not) then this team should be pushing for the 8th seed, no? But back in reality, I think 35-38 wins is the absolute best these guys can hope for.
Realistic Finish: I think 30 wins is realistic. We were good defensively last season and should continue to be this season. The problem is we have nobody to score for us.
Star In The Making: Miles Bridges. C’mon man, you knew I was gonna choose him. Dude was a highlight reel last season and really, I think this should be his show now. He came on after the all-star break so hopefully he can continue it.
Under The Radar: I think Dwayne Bacon has a real chance to be a solid 3-and-D guy this season. He shot nearly 44% from 3 last season and should have more opportunities to this season. He doesn’t do anything else exceptionally well offensively but if nothing else, he will have plenty of playing time to prove himself.
Make Or Break: I mean, I guess it isn’t really make or break for him considering he got PAID, but Terry Rozier has a lot of doubters and he is going to have to really, really work to prove them wrong. He is a CAREER 38% shooter from the field and boasts low assist rates so that doesn’t bode well.
Anything Else?: Lemme just use this space to rant for a minute. Jordan and Kupchak decided they didn’t want to pay Kemba, and in a weird way, that’s fine. I get it. Well, not really, but I kinda get it. However, then they went and chucked $58m AT A FUCKING BENCH PLAYER! MJ and Mitch both said they loved Kemba’s leadership and think that Rozier can provide that as well. The guy that, after the season, threw his teammates under the bus on a televised interview…that’s the potential leader…okay then…
2018-19 Season Finish: 5th in division, 12th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 3rd in division, 9th in conference
Ceiling: I genuinely believe this team has the potential to be .500 or better but it requires a lot of young guys to reach their full potential so maybe not this season.
Realistic Finish: I think 39-40 wins, just under .500 is entirely realistic for this squad.
Star In The Making: I’m going to cheat and choose both Trae Young and John Collins here. Seriously, Hawks fans need to be excited for this duo as they have the potential to be very good for a very long time. Trae proved to be more than just a shooter last season, finishing 7th in assists per game and showing some great court vision and bball IQ. He just needs to be more efficient on that 3-ball. Collins has 20-10 potential and should reach that this season. He is also a good 3-point shooter and just needs to be a little better defensively as he will probably be playing a bit of C this season.
Under The Radar: When he was drafted, Kevin Huerter was compared mostly to Kyle Korver, probably because he was white, played for ATL and can shoot…fair enough. However, Huerter has shown that he is not only comfortable both shooting off the dribble or in a catch-and-shoot situation, but also driving to the hoop and using backdoor cuts without the ball to get open layups. His offensive game is much more varied than people give him credit for, he just needs to work on his defense, which is total pants.
Make Or Break: I truly think the Hawks bailed out Jabari Parker by giving him a contract. It looked like Parker was about to be hooping in China with Lance Stephenson until they came along. That’s how far his star has fallen since being drafted 2nd overall just a few short years ago. And offensively, Parker is nice, when he wants to be. But his attitude, especially defensively, stinks. If he doesn’t make a lasting impression this season, I see a Chinese League MVP in his future.
Anything Else?: I think the Hawks have one of, if not THE best young core in the entire NBA. Especially considering I didn’t even mention their two top 10 picks from this years draft. The future is bright in the Dirty Dirty.
2018-19 Season Finish: 3rd in division, 10th in conference
Predicted 2019-20 Finish: 2nd in division, 8th in conference
Ceiling: If they trade for Beal like I think they will, they can probably get as high as 5th and around 50 wins.
Realistic Finish: I think 42-43 wins is realistic. 8th seed…the Pat Riley special.
Star In The Making: There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle brewing in the Heat camp in regards to the starting PG position. Dragic has said that he IS the starting PG but within the last couple of days, Justise Winslow has chucked his name in the ring, and it’s easy enough to see why. While Dragic was injured last season, Winslow started at PG for the Heat and his numbers went up in every major statistic. He was more efficient with his jumpshot, always said to be a weakness of his, his assists and rebounds were both up, as was his scoring, and his defense was still stellar. If Winslow starts at the point, look for his numbers to improve. With Jimmy there now, defenses will be more focused on him, giving Winslow easier looks while also giving him a stud to pass to.
Under The Radar: With a nickname like Airplane Mode, you expect the high-flying dunks from Mr. Derrick Jones Jr. However, he has started to develop a more well-rounded game, increasing his points and rebounds totals at a career-high rate, while also showing potential as a solid help defender, by averaging nearly one steal and block each last season in only 19 minutes a game. This is also the guy that the Heat straight up refused to trade in the Jimmy Butler deal, so it’s clear that Pat Riley and co view him very highly.
Make Or Break: I could’ve gone with Goran Dragic here, a guy who is at real danger of losing his starting job in a contract year, or Dion Waiters who seems like he has been hanging around with too many waiters of late…I’m saying he’s fat…But no, I have decided to go with the Don himself, Pat Riley. Let’s be honest, he isn’t at risk of losing his job or anything, but Pat has this reputation of being a guy that can get ANY player he wants, because he’s that guy. The thing is, he seems to be quite content with playing for the 8th seed every season rather than have the Heat down in the disgusting cesspool of the rebuilding teams. Yes, he did acquire Jimmy Butler but he gave up a very promising wing in Josh Richardson to do it. Now, Pat needs to work his magic and bring in another star or risk losing his reputation forever.
Anything Else?: James Johnson has the worst hair in the entire NBA and that includes Trae Young who looks like he washes his hair with Veet. That is unless of course James Johnson happens to read this, in which case I love everything he has done, is currently doing and will ever do, including that undefeated MMA record.
2018-19 Season Finish: 1st in division, 7th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 1st in division, 6th in conference
Ceiling: They won 42 games last year and didn’t do much in the offseason, only added Aminu, who is a solid 3/4, but wasn’t a position of need. However, the East in general got a lot worse so there is definitely room for the Magic to get to 50-52 wins, but it depends on where Beal ends up
Realistic Finish: I think the Magic will be better than last season, but only a couple of wins better so 44-45 wins seems realistic
Star In The Making: I’ve been saying it for a couple of seasons now but Aaron Gordon really is Blake Griffin lite, right down to the bad luck with injuries. In previous seasons, Gordon would start off hot out the gate, only to be derailed by an injury. Last season, with Vooch having a career year, the pressure was off Gordon and he ended up playing 78 games, while averaging 17, 7 and 4, respectively. Gordon continues to show great all-round ability and has potential to be a 20, 10, 5, 1 and 1 guy (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals if you don’t know) while shooting 35% from 3. He is also only 24 so should continue to get better.
Under The Radar: A lot of people, myself included thought it was hilarious when the Magic drafted another big guy in 2017 in Jonathan Isaac (they did it again last season with Mo Bamba). However Isaac has shown potential to be a very long SF, which can provide the Magic with great switchability, a huge advantage in today’s NBA. He’s a smart defender, averaging 1.3 blocks and just under 1 steal a game while only averaging less than 2 fouls per game. He also is showing improvement on the boards and offensively. His 3P% went down last season but his total attempt numbers quintupled while still remaining at a somewhat respectable percentage. If Isaac can get that % up, maybe I will stop laughing at the Magic’s affinity for bigs.
Make Or Break: There’s only one answer here; Markelle Fultz. The guy obviously has something serious going on, something bigger than basketball and I genuinely hope he gets that sorted out. With that out of the way, his free throw form last season is literally the worst I’ve ever seen…EVER. Who in the fuck told him that was a good idea? Sorry. I lost my cool for a second. I was surprised to see Fultz not participate in Summer League which means his issues are ongoing but the Magic did just pick up his team option so they must see something promising.
Anything Else?: I know the Magic will feel like they’re trading one of their (favourite) children if they do it, but they need to move one of their bigs, and I think Mo Bamba is the right choice. Not only could they get solid value in return for the guy, who has defensive beast potential, but Khem Birch has quietly been a very efficient bench guy when he has played and could quite easily fill that backup big role.
There you have it; my predictions for the Southeast division. Keep an eye out for the rest of my predictions leading up to the season, although I still haven’t decided which division to do next.
Anyway, follow me on Twitter (@onpointayden) and let me know what you think of my picks, even if you think they’re horseshit. I’m always down for the bants!