The Heat have won 11 Southeast Division titles since 2004-05, more than the Hawks, Hornets, and Magic Wizards combined (seven). Miami escaped from the First Division last season, finishing with a record best in the Eastern Conference and 10 games ahead of Atlanta and Charlotte.
Will The Heat continue to dominate? Or can another team beat Miami in the top flight?
Below is a breakdown of what to expect from the teams in the Southeast Division this season.
NBA Player Ratings:
PG | SG | sixth | PF | c | seat | Top 30
The Heat came a few points away from advancing to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons. They couldn’t cross the finish line to beat the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals.
Returning to that round will be a huge challenge for this Miami team, not only because of the competition in the conference but also because the front office failed to make any meaningful promotions in the offseason last season.
Outside the selection of Nikola Jovic in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Heat team has been very quiet. They lost out to PJ Tucker, who signed a three-year contract with the 76ers, and never found a good replacement for their old core power forward.
While he may not be the favorite to win the NBA championship, Miami should still be considered the favorite in the Southeast. As long as they’re healthy, Jimmy Butler and Pam Adebayo will be part of the All-Star and All-Defence talks. Tyler Hero can take a leap as a start. Eric Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Put it all together, and you have the team to beat in the Southeast Division.
Jimmy Butler, Heat
Hawks star Trae Young argues here. He was Atlanta’s attacking drive last season, landing in the top six on both points (28.4) and assists (9.7) in every game.
However, Butler’s two-way dominance gives him the advantage. Young doesn’t impact the game in many ways as Butler, who was the captain of the Heat unit that closed Young in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs.
The 33-year-old earned his sixth All-Star pick in 2021-22, averaging 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He is comfortable with or without the ball offensively and is always a threat to steal and score at the defensive end.
There are concerns about how old Butler is, as he’s played so many minutes and can’t hold back from a reliable 3-point shot. Currently, his incredible talent and work ethic put him above Young.
Paolo Banchero, Magic
Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, was an electrician during his short stint in the Summer League. He possesses the size (6-10, 250 lbs.) and the skills to become Orlando’s offensive center for years to come.
The former Duke star can score in all three levels, but his desire to find the open man makes him special. As TSN’s Kyle Irving points out, Banchero has been throwing accurate passes from all over the ground in his two summer league appearances.
It’s only been a couple of games in the Summer League and Paulo Panchero has already shown how strong he is as a creative with all the different passes he can make.
It reads in transition, through narrow windows with a zip, from lively dribbling on attack, and back to the basket. Elite playmaker at age 6-10. pic.twitter.com/xVeqFJqeMo
– Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_) 10 July 2022
“There’s such a dynamic ability to not only play from one to five, there is variety in the way he can play offensively,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said of Banchero (via Athletic’s Kelly Echo). “But then you look at the defensive side of the ball where he can switch from one to five. Then obviously his physique, he’s 6 to 10 and he’s able to handle basketball and move around.
“These things are the key traits that will help him become successful.”
As with every newbie, Banchero will encounter some tough stretches. Sometimes, he will flip the ball, be ineffective off the field and miss defensive tasks.
But he will learn from those mistakes and add to his game as he gains more experience. The future looks bright in Orlando.
Best new addition
Degonte Murray, Hawks
Atlanta definitely had a big say in Murray, sending three first-round picks and a selective swap to San Antonio in order to get the 26-year-old goalkeeper.
Murray is coming off a season in which he averaged almost a triple-double (21.1 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds per game) and earned his first All-Star pick. He also led the league with 138 steals.
The Hawks needed a roster change after a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, and Murray gives them a clear talent upgrade. He is only entering his prime and has not yet reached the roof of his house.
However, there is one big question regarding Murray…
The heaviest X-factor
Will the Dejounte Murray-Trae Young backyard work for the Hawks?
In theory, Murray and Young are a perfect fit. Murray is not a great three-point shooter. Young people have unlimited scope. Young people are often targeted defensively. Murray is one of the best ocean stoppers in the NBA.
This sounds like a perfect pairing, but on paper it’s different than on the floor.
Young had the fourth-highest usage in the league last season (34.4) behind Luka Doncic (37.4), Joel Embiid (37.2) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (34.9). He will have to do Something outside the ball. He must also make a better defensive effort.
Murray doesn’t need to be a sniper, but he’s only made 32.3 percent of his 3-point attempts over the past two seasons. Can he push that number close to 35 percent to open up the driving lanes for Leung and others?
It would be great to watch how the posterior region relationship develops.
Over/under winning predictions
Miami Heat – 48.5 / under
Atlanta Hawks – 46.5 / under
Washington Wizards – 35.5 / on me
Orlando Magic – 26.5 / on me
Charlotte Hornets – TBD / Total off the board
The biggest unanswered questions
- Can Jimmy Butler and Pam Adebayo stay healthy?
- How long did Kyle Lowry stay in the tank?
- Is Tyler Herro ready for breakout season?
- Will the Dejounte Murray-Trae Young backyard work for the Hawks?
- Could De’Andre Hunter be the two-way winger the Hawks need?
- Could Onyeka Okongwu take a bigger role in spinning?
- Has Bradley Bell returned to the all-star level?
- How will Roy Hatchimura perform in the year of the contract?
- Will an insect bite an infestation of Kristaps porsingis again?
- Will Paulo Banchero be the best rookie of the 2022 class?
- Can Jalen Suggs return to normal after a rough 2021-22 campaign?
- What is the stature of Jonathan Isaac?
- Can LaMelo Ball Build Its First All-Star Season?
- Will the Hornets trade any of their veteran players before the deadline?
- What is the identity of this privilege going forward?