For this edition of ICYMI for Basketball Insiders, we’re looking at the Southeast Division. This breakdown follows the recent publications of ICYMI on the Atlantic, Pacific, Central and Northwest.
Starting off, this division is the only one in the NBA that has a single franchise above .500, the Atlanta Hawks. This should come as a big surprise as the Miami HEAT are coming off a legendary NBA Finals run, but this year things look very bleak for them thus far.
The Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic make up the second and third seeds in the division and should be in the mix for a play-in berth. Elsewhere, the Washington Wizards sit at the bottom of the standings and do not look like a very capable team this season.
The last NBA Champion to come from this division also happens to be the HEAT, but that was in the 2012-13 season with the Big 3. Looking at the division, there’s no team with realistic title chances this season – although Miami certainly proved everybody wrong last summer.
Anyways, let’s take a look at each team in the Southeast division and some things that you may have missed.
Cole Anthony Taking Over For Markelle Fultz
At the start of the season, Markelle Fultz looked to be the spark that the Magic needed from their point guard. Fultz was a big part of the Magic’s 4-1 start to the new season and looked to have rejuvenated his career with the team. Three games later, he tore his ACL in his left knee. During the eight games Fultz played, he averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 assists per game.
Since the injury to Fultz, Cole Anthony has stepped in as the de facto starting point guard. Heading into the season, many people around the NBA said Anthony could be capable of a starting position eventually but ponded if he could do it efficiently. In the 20 games he has played, this has been the case: Anthony is currently averaging 10.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
The Magic once again looks like a borderline playoff team in the weaker Eastern Conference – but if they want to keep that energy going, the exciting rookie must continue to improve and fast.
The Hawks Back In The Playoff Picture
In the offseason, the Atlanta Hawks went out and added two shooters in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. These guys were brought in to surround third-year star Trae Young while also adding range to a roster that severely lacked it last season. These additions have helped boost the team three-point percentage a little bit from 33.3 to 35.1 percent, so clearly, there is still some work to be done.
One thing that has been working very well for the Hawks is rebounding the basketball. Clint Capela has been a monster on the boards by averaging 14.5 rebounds per game, which is good enough for second in the league.
John Collins has continued to be a presence on the boards too, as well as scoring consistently by averaging 16.7 points per game. Collins and Capela make up a very formidable frontcourt and the core looks poised to be the next league-wide darlings.
The Lamelo Ball Hype Is Real
Leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards was considered to be the unanimous No. 1 overall pick with James Wiseman and Lamelo Ball also in consideration. So far this season, Ball is the clear frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year Award.
He is currently fourth in rookie scoring with 12.2 points per game, but he leads rookies in rebounds (5.9) and assists (6.1) as well. As a very flashy passer, Ball can create shots for anyone on the floor. Crafty too, the youngest Ball knows how to use his handles to get to the rim at ease. Looking ahead, he’ll be the face of the Hornets for years to come and should earn a starting spot sooner than later.
On Jan. 30, Ball had a career night against the Milwaukee Bucks finishing with 27 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists.
Gordon Hayward has also been a very bright spot for the Charlotte Hornets. After an eventful offseason where many thought he would end up playing for the Indiana Pacers, Hayward took his talents to Charlotte. He had previously signed an offer sheet with the Hornets in July 2014, but it was ultimately matched by the Utah Jazz.
This season, Hayward is posting averages of 23.2 points, 5.2 rebound and 3.6 assists per game. As the go-to scorer in Charlotte, he is currently rocking a career-high in points per game this season.
What Happened To The HEAT?
After their run to the NBA Finals in the bubble, the HEAT have not been a good team this season. The team has only had Jimmy Butler for six games this year due to health and safety protocols – and, obviously, it has hurt them. Butler is the clear leader of the team and without his presence on the floor, there is a clear negative effect on the roster.
Bam Adebayo has continued his ascension as a star in the league posting averages of 19.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, per Basketball-Reference. The blossoming stud should easily garner an All-Star nod and, if his play remains steady, maybe even an All-NBA team selection.
The shooting duo of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson has continued to be a lethal long-range tandem by knocking down about five three-pointers a game between the two. Herro has elevated his play from this past season, but there is still more to be desired after such great play in the bubble.
What’s Going On In Washington?
The Wizards have the worst record in the NBA. Yes, they do still have two superstars in Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook and a winning coach in Scott Brooks, but they’re an abysmal 3-12.
The major cause of this is the woes the team has suffered on defense. Right now, the only team who has been worse on defense is the Sacramento Kings with 118.4, followed by the Wizards at 114.7. To win games, this team has to shore up their defensive side of the ball.
The trade of John Wall for Russell Westbrook has not been too helpful for the team as a lot of fingers are being pointed at the latter for any woes. Westbrook has been inefficient in scoring the ball, shooting at 38.1 percent from the floor, and it has hurt the overall product. His numbers might not indicate that he is having an awful season, but he is. The last time he averaged under 20 points per game was with the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2009-10 season, 12 years ago.
Bradley Beal has somehow managed to look happy on the floor with this team falling lower and lower. Beal has molded himself into a relentless scorer and he has taken that to the next level with this struggling roster. He leads the NBA in points this year with 34.7 points per game and would be an immediate contributor to any contender.
The Wizards are the worst team in the NBA right now, but things could change as the season progresses. Looking at this roster outside of the two stars, there are two promising young players in Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura – at this point, Washington must focus their efforts on developing them.
Ultimately, the Wizards need to blow up the team and, even though this has been said for years now, it has yet to be done.
With the addition of the play-in games this year for the ninth and tenth seed, we could see the Hornets or the Magic make a run for it, sadly, the division’s subpar start to the decade will only continue. In the end, this division has promise though and should be more competitive in future seasons.