Next up on my offseason grading series, is the Southeast Division which includes the Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Magic, and Wizards. Let's get it started.
Grade : A
First up we have the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks finished last season 20-47, 14th in the Eastern Conference, and ended up with the 6th pick. Trae Young broke out and averaged 29.6 PPG with 9.4 assists, both top 5 in the NBA. The Hawks did have 2 rookies last season that were expected to play well, but instead both struggled offensively, those 2 being Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter.
With the 6th pick, the Hawks took USC C Onyeka Okongwu. Okongwu is a 6'9 C, that averaged 3 blocks in his lone season with the Trojans. He posses very good athleticism, and has the potential to be a lob threat. We could see a second coming of LOB City, with Trae Young, John Collins, and Onyeka Okongwu.
The Hawks needed help in order to become a playoff level team, and went out and had a HUGE free agency period, arguably the biggest and the best. The team did lose players like G Jeff Teague, G DeAndre Bembry and C Damian Jones. But to make up for it, they brought in G Bogdan Bogdanovic, F Danilo Gallinari, and G's Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn. Bogdanovic will likely be the team's 3rd scoring option, behind Trae and John Collins, and should work well alongside Trae offensively. Gallinari and Rondo will run the bench unit, and should run it very well with the playmaking ability of Rondo and the scoring ability from Galo, should make their bench unit lethal. Dunn plays ELITE defense, and averaged 2 steals last season in limited playing time.
The Hawks went out and made themselves playoff contenders this offseason. They brought in a bench unit, a 3rd scorer, and added a future C in Okongwu. This team has all the pieces to be a playoff team with their stars, Young and Collins, and their supporting cast of Bogi, Galo, Rondo and Capela.
I already made an article about the Hawks earlier, check that out if you haven't already :).
Grade : B-
Next up we have the surprise team from 2020, the Miami Heat. The Heat made a surprise run to the NBA Finals last season, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The Heat upset the Bucks and Celtics on their way to a Finals matchup against the Lakers, where they lost in 6 games.
The Heat did keep their first from last season, and drafted F Precious Achiuwa from Memphis. Achiuwa played on a very talented Memphis team that underperformed last season but was the teams best player as he averaged 16&11, with 2 blocks a game. Achiuwa is a long athletic F at 6'9, that works very well around the rim, and could be used as a small ball 5 man. Achiuwa isn't a great shooter, has he shot 32% in just 1.3 attempts a game last season which could hurt his role with the Heat.
The Heat in free agency didn't make any huge signings, but did lose Jae Crowder who was a big part of their success last season in the bubble. In addition to losing Crowder, they also lost Derrick Jones Jr. who is nothing more than an athletic guy who does flashy dunks. However they did sign veteran G Avery Bradley, who fits the mold of what the Heat are trying to build. Bradley is a gritty defender, that also has the ability to shoot the 3 ball which makes him perfect in their system.
The Heat are rolling the dice and are going to run it back with basically the same team, which could be good and could be bad. They didn't get better when it seems like all the teams around them did like the Nets, Bucks, Celtics, and 76ers. However, this is the team that went to the Finals just a few months ago, so may be they can recreate the magic again.
Grade : C+
Now we have the Hornets. The Hornets finished 23-42, which was 9th in the Eastern Conference, and got VERY lucky in the draft as they jumped up to pick 2.
And with pick 2 they selected G LaMelo Ball. Ball played overseas and was very very good, where he averaged 17-7-7 in 12 games. LaMelo is also the younger brother of Pelicans G Lonzo Ball. LaMelo didn't have the opportunity to play against some of the best NCAA players last season, which does leave some questions about if he will be able to compete and play at a high level.
With the addition of LaMelo, the team needed a wing and went out and signed Gordon Hayward for 4 years, 120 million dollars. A HUGE overpay in my opinion. Hayward will be the best player on this team, but has been injury prone and isn't the player he once was in Utah.
This team does have playoff potential, adding Hayward and LaMelo with Devonte Graham, who took a big step last season averaging 18 ppg, as well as P.J. Washington who played very well in his rookie season. If all comes together and goes as planned, the Hornets could be in the playoffs.
Grade : C-
The Orlando Magic have been stuck in the land of mediocrity for quite some time now, never being able to get over the hump of being true championship contenders, and last season was nothing new as they finished 8th in the East, and played the Bucks in round 1 and lost in 5 games.
The Magic drafted PG Cole Anthony from UNC with the 15th pick. Anthony was one of the most hyped up prospects coming into his freshman season before UNC was horrible and he got hurt. Anthony didn't impress me last season when he was healthy, averaging 18.5 PPG, but shot 38% from the field with 3.5 TO to 4 assists. Due to his poor play and his injury, he dropped to 15. I think Anthony will play well for the Magic, and that he fits in as a replacement for D.J. Augustin who the team lost in free agency. Cole will fight for the starting PG role with former #1 pick Markelle Fultz.
The Magic, didn't have the money to make a big splash because they are overpaying guys like Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier that eat up their cap space. They managed to bring in G Dwayne Bacon who played for the Hornets last season as well as resign F Gary Clark, F James Ennis III and former ROTY G Michael Carter-Williams.
The Magic are going to be mediocre, and win too many games for a top pick, but not enough to be a high seed if they make playoffs. They got worse, but Cole Anthony does have potential for the future, and if Aaron Gordon can FINALLY make the jump that everyone has been waiting for, the Magic might find themselves in the playoffs again.
Grade : B+
The Washington Wizards finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 25-47 record last season, and ended up with the 9th pick in the draft. The Wizards were led by All Star snub, Bradley Beal who had the best season of his career averaging 30.5 PPG. Along with Beal, rookie Rui Hachimura had a solid season, averaging 13.5 PPG and 6 rebounds a game.
With the 9th pick the Wizards got blessed with G/F Deni Avdija from Israel. I had Deni going 4 to the Bulls, but then he fell all the way to 9 for the Wizards to scoop up. Deni is all around a very talented player. Very competitive and has the potential to be a point forward in the future with his elite court vision and playmaking abilities for his size.
The biggest move of the offseason came when the Wizards traded PG John Wall to the Rockets for PG Russell Westbrook. Wall, a guy who had been in Washington his entire career hasn't played in the last 2 seasons due to injuries. The Wizards didn't want to take a chance on him not being the player he was before his injury, and flipped him for former MVP Westbrook. Westbrook, coming from a Houston team where he was the 2nd option to James Harden, averaged 27//8/7 while shooting 47% from the field, but a very poor 25% from 3. With getting Westbrook, the Wizards know what they are getting from him, whereas they didn't know what they'd get from Wall. In addition to bringing in Westbrook, the Wizards resigned F Davis Bertans who averaged 15 PPG while shooting 42% from 3. They also brought in C Robin Lopez on a 1 year deal to be the backup C to Thomas Bryant.
The Wizards made moves that bettered their team, and put them in the conversation for the playoffs, and make some noise and have a potential upset. Westbrook adds the 2nd star that the Wizards needed last season in order to push them over the top off the East to make the playoffs, and should be there this season.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to drop a follow ! I will be taking a break from this series and will be announcing my Eastern Conference Standings predictions that will be out either tomorrow or Sunday.