The NBA is a pretty wacky league once you come right down to it. In an offseason you can see entire divisions crumble and rebuild with teams rising from the bottom (Cleveland) all the way to the top. A team that has gone to the Finals 4 seasons in a row (Miami) can fall to the point of not making the playoffs. With so much oddness going around in the NBA in terms of team churning it is worth taking a closer look at one of the most interesting divisions in the entire league: The Southeast Division.
Last season we saw the Atlanta Hawks roll out to the second best record in the entire NBA with a 60 – 22 mark. Atlanta dominated their division, going 12 – 4 on the year, and they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Bruce Levenson, the owner of the Hawks since 2002, helped to craft this team by building an identity that focused on sharing the ball. Bruce Levenson’s Hawks went on to sit near the top of the league in offense and defense thanks to their unselfish play on the court. Levenson sold his share of the team and now Atlanta is looking to push forward with their new owner. The Hawks will be hard pressed to repeat last seasons performance.
Orlando, who finished at 25 – 57, is our favorite team to make a huge jump this coming season. The Magic are full of young studs and they have two burgeoning superstars in Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. Add in the 20/10 threat that is Nikola Vucevic, the offensive threat that is Tobias Harris, and defensive youngster Aaron Gordon and there is a ton of reason to be hopeful going forward. In fact, were we to pick a dark horse to come and steal the division we would have to point to the Orlando Magic.
Orlando is not alone in their presumed ascent, however, as the Miami heat have once more shown that they can retool with the best of them. Miami made it a priority to resign their stars so when they locked in Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic we weren’t surprised. Chris Bosh should be back healthy for the start of the year and alongside him we will see newcomers Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire. The Heat are a deep team this season and they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
However, until someone dethrones the Atlanta Hawks we have a hard time thinking that Coach Budenholzers team will be relinquishing the position any time soon. The Hawks have added depth to their bench and have had another year to gel together in the offseason.