In Hoops Prospects’ continuing series of NBA previews, I take a look at the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference, summarizing each teams’ key additions, key departures, and other developments. The teams are listed based on my predicted order of finish within the division.
The projected depth charts come directly from Hoops Prospects, and are based on who is likely to play the most minutes this season. We update the depth charts regularly throughout the year. Click here for an explanation of the various depth-chart notations.
1. Atlanta Hawks
- Record last season: 43-39 (9th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 115.4 (2nd)
- Defensive Rating: 113.7 (26th)
- Net Rating: 1.6 (14th)
Key Departures: Danilo Gallinari, Delon Wright, Kevin Hueter, Lou Williams, Gorgu Dieng, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
Key Additions: Dejounte Murray, Justin Holiday, Aaron Holiday, Frank Kaminsky, Vit Krejci
Key Rookies: AJ Griffin (pick 16), Tyrese Martin (pick 51)
Projected Depth Chart
|Trae Young||Dejounte Murray||De’Andre Hunter||John Collins||Clint Capela|
|Aaron Holiday||Bogdan Bogdanovic||Justin Holiday||Jalen Johnson||Onyeka Okongwu|
|Trent Forrest **||Tyrese Martin||Vit Krejci||AJ Griffin||Frank Kaminsky|
|Jarrett Culver **|
The powerhouse offense of the Atlanta Hawks, led by one of the best offensive guards in the NBA, Trae Young, needed to fill holes with wing defenders and a secondary ball handler. On June 29th, the Hawks acquired a player to help both, San Antonio Spurs All-Star guard Dejonte Murray.
Young and Murray are a great fit on paper. Murray is a lockdown defender, who takes on the challenge of the opposing team’s best guards and can create offense in spot-up and on-ball situations, while Young is an offensive genius who helped lead the Hawks to the second-best offensive rating in the league last year. Both players will need to learn how to coexist to be successful. Young posted the fourth highest usage rate (34.4) and Murray the 25th (27.3) in the 2022 NBA season. The dynamic duo seemed to be successful in the preseason, as Young averaged 21 points while Murray averaged 20 points. Players such as John Collins have had issues with the offense in the past, but during the preseason, Collins was incredibly active, shooting an impressive 44 percent from three. The Hawks’ starting lineup is one of the best in the NBA, having a fantastic mix of defensive versatility and offensive firepower. Many NBA teams face issues with egos after big-time trades, but so far, Coach Nate McMillian seems to be doing a great job handling everything.
The Hawks also added 3-and-D wing Justin Holiday to replace the traded Kevin Huerter (Kings), and they are hoping that talented forward Jalen Johnson will develop into an adequate replacement for Danilo Gallinari (Celtics). Another option at wing/forward is rookie A.J. Griffin, but he doesn’t look ready for prime time. With Young and Murray in the backcourt, Collins, Clint Capela, and Onyeka Okongwu in the frontcourt, plus the continued development of forward Deandre Hunter, the Hawks look poised to be a solid playoff team in the East this year. Young was able to lead the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2021 season, and with an improved roster around him, a return this season is within reach.
2. Miami Heat
- Record last season: 53-29 (1st in East)
- Offensive Rating: 113.0 (12th)
- Defensive Rating: 108.4 (4th)
- Net Rating: 4.5 (6th)
Key Departures: Markieef Morris, P.J. Tucker
Key Additions: None
Key Rookies: Nikola Jovic (pick 27)
Projected Depth Chart
|Kyle Lowry||Tyler Herro||Jimmy Butler||Caleb Martin||Bam Adebayo|
|Gabe Vincent||Max Strus||Victor Oladipo||Duncan Robinson||Dewayne Dedmon|
|Dru Smith **||Jamal Cain **||Haywood Highsmith||Nikola Jovic||Omer Yurtseven|
The Miami Heat were one win away from the NBA Finals; they suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Questions were quickly noted entering their offseason, including the team’s age and overall lackluster playoff performance. The Heat became one of the favorites to land the Nets’ Kevin Durant when he surprisingly demanded a trade from Brooklyn, and the team was also considered a possible destination for Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. Miami failed to acquire both stars, and the last year’s squad basically returns, minus free agent P.J. Tucker (Sixers). Tyler Herro received a contract extension, and signed a four-year, 130-million dollar extension, and may finally get the starting role that he desires.
Though they failed to add significant players to build upon their Eastern Conference Championship appearance, the Heat have one of the NBA’s elite coaches in Erik Spoelstra, veteran leadership, and two stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. In the past four years, they have been to the Eastern Conference Finals two times and the NBA finals once. Miami seems to have the making of another great regular season but appears to be missing one or two pieces to be a true championship contender. Be on the lookout for the Heat to make a move on the next disgruntled star in the NBA. Until that player presents themselves, this team currently still has the talent to make the playoffs and should be a lock for a one of the top-two spots in the division.
A player who might step up this season is rookie Nikola Jovic. His per-36 minutes numbers in the preseason were 22.2 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 6.8 APG, 2.3 SPG, and 1.4 BPG while shooting 35 percent from three. Jovic has the skills of a modern day stretch four and could contribute to this Heat roster that desperately needs forward depth.
3. Washington Wizards
- Record last season: 35-47 (12th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 110.2 (21st)
- Defensive Rating: 113.6 (25th)
- Net Rating: -3.4 (23rd)
Key Departures: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith, Raul Neto, Tomas Satoransky
Key Additions: Delon Wright, Taj Gibson, Monte Morris, Will Barton
Key Rookies: Johnny Davis (pick 10), Yannick Nzosa (pick 54, unsigned)
Projected Depth Chart
|Monte Morris||Bradley Beal||Will Barton||Kyle Kuzma||Kristaps Porzingis|
|Delon Wright||Corey Kispert||Deni Avdija||Rui Hachimura||Daniel Gafford|
|Johnny Davis||Jordan Schakel **||Anthony Gill||Isaiah Todd||Taj Gibson|
|Jordan Goodwin **||Vernon Carey Jr.|
Resigning Bradley Beal to a five-year, 251-million contract extension this offseason suggested that the Washington Wizards are eyeing a playoff spot in a much improved East. Their midseason acquisition Kristpas Porzingis added a potential number-two scoring option. While Beal was injured last season, KP put up 22.1 points while shooting 37 percent from three in 17 games with the Wizards. After playing off of the Los Angeles Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma arguably had his best individual season after being traded to the Wizards. Kuzma averaged 17.1 points last season, shooting 45.2 percent from the field. He presented himself as a versatile threat with a larger role, posting career-high averages in rebounds, assists, and blocks. In the offseason, the Wizards also added starting-caliber players, such as Will Barton and Monte Morris, to play solid defense and occasionally help with the scoring load. The big three of Beal, Porzingis, and Kuzma look like an offensive powerhouse, but they have never played a regular-season game together in a Washington uniform.
Despite their continued efforts to win, the Wizards did not add enough to be considered a playoff lock. The team features players who are inconsistent shooters and struggle to stay on the floor due to injuries, which ultimately might be the team’s downfall. One of these players is Kuzma, who after a great individual season, was concerningly bad in the preseason, shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 20 percent from three. Even if the majority are healthy and they play together as a team, the best-case scenario for the Wizards is the play-in tournament.
4. Charlotte Hornets
- Record last season: 43-39 (10th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 113.6 (8th)
- Defensive Rating: 113.1 (22nd)
- Net Rating: .5 (16th)
Key Departures: Montrezel Harrell, Miles Bridges (unsigned restricted free agent)
Key Additions: None
Key Rookies: Mark Williams (pick 15), Bryce McGowens (pick 40)
Projected Depth Chart
|LaMelo Ball||Terry Rozier||Kelly Oubre||PJ Washington||Mason Plumlee|
|Cody Martin||Gordon Hayward||J.T. Thor||Jalen McDaniels||Nick Richards|
|Dennis Smith Jr.||James Bouknight||Bryce McGowens **||Kai Jones||Mark Williams|
|Theo Maledon **||Miles Bridges *|
The Charlotte Hornets should be getting better, but they appear to be headed in the opposite direction, having come up short in the offseason. Last season, players such as LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and Terry Rozier were injured for a significant amount of time. In addition, the Hornets started Mason Plumblee, arguably the worst starting center in the NBA. The Hornets still managed to make the play-in tournament but lost for the second year in a row in decisive fashion. Their offseason focus was an interior presence on defense and a roll man, along with more wing depth to complement their All-Star guard LaMelo Ball. The Hornets drafted Duke big man Mark Williams with the 15th pick in this year’s draft, landing their center for the future, but the club did not make any other significant moves.
The Hornets were mediocre last year, and look far worse this upcoming season. Miles Bridges was arrested days before free agency began, and remains unsigned. Worse than that, his NBA future is in doubt due to the severity of the charges. To make matters worse, James Bouknight was looked at as the next Charlotte player to step up, but he was also arrested, and now his status is in question. Additionally, Ball will miss the start of the regular season with an ankle sprain suffered during a preseason game. With the lack of improvements from the Hornets and the East getting better, along with sole reliance on an injured Ball, it is hard to imagine the Hornets participating in the play-in tournament, looking more like a late-lottery team. With all the makings of a down year, the Hornets will likely be a team stocking up draft assets and should be a seller when the trade deadline comes around on February 9, 2023.
5. Orlando Magic
- Record last season: 22-60 (15th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 103.9 (29th)
- Defensive Rating: 112.1 (19th)
- Net Rating: -8.1 (28th)
Key Departures: Robin Lopez
Key Additions: None
Key Rookies: Paolo Banchero (pick 1), Caleb Houstan (pick 32)
Projected Depth Chart
|Jalen Suggs||Cole Anthony||Franz Wagner||Paolo Banchero||Mohamed Bamba|
|Markelle Fultz||Gary Harris||Terrence Ross||Chuma Okeke||Wendell Carter|
|R.J. Hampton||Caleb Houstan||Jonathan Isaac||Moritz Wagner||Bol Bol|
|Admiral Schofield **||Kevon Harris **|
The Magic seem to have plenty of potential, but for the third straight year, they have been bitten by the injury bug. The team will begin this season with Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, and Jonathan Isaac out due to injuries, and there is a good chance that Jalen Suggs will not be 100 percent. Suggs, their star draft pick in 2022, missed significant time with a wrist injury last season and suffered a knee injury in a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks. He was projected to miss the start of the regular season, but reportedly, he now will be available in the Magic’s season opener against the Detroit Pistons. A quick turnaround for this type of injury, in addition to Suggs’ injury history, raises questions if he is coming into the season fully healthy. The oft-injured Isaac and the oft-injured Fultz are recovering from significant injuries, and will not play on opening night. With Harris also out, the team is very thin at guard, but there is plenty of frontcourt depth, especially with the addition of rookie forward Paolo Banchero via the number-one overall pick.
The versatile Franz Wagner is another very encouraging piece on the roster. He almost led Germany to a Eurobasket championship as arguably the number-one option on the national team, averaging 15.2 points while shooting 46.3 percent from three. The development of guard Cole Anthony, All-Rookie wing Wagner, and the hopeful return of Isaac this season gives the Magic length and depth to build around their future All-Star, Banchero.
Though the Magic have one of the better young and upcoming cores in the NBA, it still looks like another year in the lottery for the beleaguered franchise. Coach Jamal Mosley will motivate his team to play hard every night, but eventually, there might be a discussion of too much overlapping young talent, such as Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter, and Isacc. In an already questionable roster in terms of fit, look out for the Magic to perhaps make an early trade this season. Even so, this team will comfortably finish near the bottom of their conference and will likely be in contention for the top overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Statistics used in our scouting reports come from RealGM.com (international and NBA stats), Sports-Reference.com (NCAA and NBA stats), and Synergy Sports Technology (special analytics). Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. Click here to see the statistical abbreviation key.