2022-23 Southeast Division Preview

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Key Offseason Additions – Nikola Jovic (R)

Key Offseason Subtractions – PJ Tucker, Markieff Morris

It was a season of exceeding expectations for this Miami squad. No, the trade for a star player like Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, never materialized, but the Heat finished as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and tied for the 3rd most wins in the league. The acquisition of Kyle Lowry went swimmingly. He fit in well with the roster and gave the team a true point guard. Jimmy Butler defied aging again with one of his better seasons in his 13 year career. Bam Adebayo may have been the Defensive Player of the Year without his injury absence. Tyler Herro won 6th Man of the Year by a large margin. The Heat made it all way to the Eastern Conference finals, but couldn’t get past Boston even with game 7 being in Miami. It’s never good to finish the season on a loss, but the Heat had a great, albeit championshipless, season in 2020-21.

What if that was the last ride? Butler is 33, Lowry is 36, Oladipo is 30 with several surgeries the past few years, and Bam Adebayo may have hit his ceiling. You can see above that the team made no significant changes. Nikola Jovic should grow into a good player, especially in the Miami organization. The Heat under Pat Riley have gotten the most out of players, but unless Jovic is more talented than a late first round pick, he’s not going to be enough to improve this team. Bam could break through the ceiling he’s set for himself, but with every passing season it appears more likely that we’ve seen everything he’s capable of doing. Of course, no improvement over a 53 win season could still leave a good team, but things look very fragile. Lowry looked old at the end of last year and small guards rarely, if ever, age well into their late 30s. Butler has aged much more gracefully than I expected, but his poor shooting and physical style of play can’t last forever. If he or Bam miss a few weeks of games and things look bleak for this team. Can they just repeat last season? Maybe, but I’m not counting on Miami being a top seed in the East or even a home playoff series in round 1.

Miami is the biggest variance from my projections to the RSW total market of any team in the NBA. I have them almost 6 wins worse than expected and squarely in the play in tournament. As I mentioned above, if fully healthy, they could be great again, but the rest of the East has improved and this team only got older. Not only am I taking the under on the RSW total, but I’m also betting them to miss the playoffs at +600 or better. That number should be much smaller, closer to +200. They’re likely in the playoffs, but there is a much greater than a 14.3% chance some injuries pile up and the Heat are on the beach during the postseason.

Bets – Under 48.5 Regular Season Wins. To Miss the Playoffs at 6 to 1 or better.

Key Offseason Additions – DeJounte Murray, Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday

Key Offseason Subtractions – Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, Lou Williams

The Hawks made a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2020-21, but were unable to repeat that success last season. John Collins missed time and seemed focused more focused on his contract extension than his play. De’Andre Hunter missed almost 30 games and is averaging just over 46 games played per season in his first 3 years. Trae Young remained an elite offensive player and his pick and roll work with Clint Capela is still one of the best plays in the NBA. Bogdanovic & Gallinari were valuable assets off the bench and involved in several key moments for this team all season. They even won 2 more games in 2021-22 than in 2020-21, but the rest of the conference improved and Atlanta finished in the 8th spot. The Hawks made it through the play in tournament, but only to be dispatched quickly by their division rival, Miami. It was a small step back for Atlanta last season.

The front office responded in the offseason by adding DeJounte Murray, a strong defender and underrated shooter who fits well next to Trae Young. As good as Young is, his defensive shortcomings have held this team back in the postseason. Hunter as supposed to fix that problem, but he can’t stay on the floor. Murray will fill that role while providing scoring and ball handling when Young is on the bench. Onyeka Okongwu showed flashes last year, should get better, and may even push his way into the starting lineup. To the negative, Gallinari is gone and Bogdanovic has not recovered from knee surgery in May. The rest of the league also has another season of Young/Capela on tape to study. All things considered, if the Hawks can be healthy this is a talented, flexible starting five with some fun pieces on the bench. They should compete for a play in spot and maybe even the division title.

My projections like the under here. I have them at the same 43 wins they got last. The roster is improved, but I’m worried that they’ll be unable to add a new dimension to their attack. In the way the Jazz grew stale, I think this Hawks offense could find defenses more prepared to stop them this year. The Eastern Conference remains strong and this team could be good, but I can’t see them being better than the 6th seed this year. My numbers say under, but I’m going to pass. They’re scheduleis brutal in December and January, so I’ll revisit things at the end of November.

Bets – None 🙁

Key Offseason Additions – Mark Williams (R)

Key Offseason Subtractions – None

The Hornets were the worst team with a winning record last year. Charlotte won 43 games, but was the 10th seed in the East earning the final play in tournament spot where they got trashed by the Hawks in the 9-10 game. LaMelo Ball should signs of stardom. He increased his averages in points, assists, and rebounds while also improving his effective field goal percentage. Ball even shot 38% from 3 on a whopping 7.5 attempts a game. Miles Bridges looked like the wing that ever team covets for their defensive abilities and scoring. The rest was a mess. Gordon Hayward played just 48 games and they were less than impressive. Mason Plumlee started 73 games because somehow the Hornets couldn’t think of a better option. Terry Rozier did Terry Rozier things which are mostly good, but occasionally devasting to his team’s success. Charlotte spent almost entire season within a few games of a .500 record. It was very much a season of basketball.

Bridges was arrested in June for felony domestic abuse and is currently awaiting trial on 3 felony charges. He is currently a restricted free agent meaning the Hornets can match any contract he is offered or sign him to a new deal. There is currently no deal on the table for Bridges and he will almost certainly be suspended pending the results of his trial. Needless to say, let’s assume there’s not Miles Bridges this season for the Hornets. Lamelo Ball picked up an ankle sprain recently and there are concerns it may be a high ankle sprain which takes much longer to heal. Mason Plumlee is still slotted to start at center. Things look bad and in what should the all time tank season, things could be awful for this Hornets team. They have little chance of making the postseason and if Ball’s injury looks bad, will be without their star for the first month or two. If things start poorly, Charlotte could just shut things down and focus on ping pong ball accumulation.

My projections are 3.5 games lower than the current RSW total and I think my numbers are wrong. It should more like 5.5 or 6.5 games lower than RSW total. It’s a mediocre team with injury issues to start the season the season before a draft with 2 all time draft prospects. The tank is being polished and warmed up as you read this.

Bets – Under 36.5 Regular Season Wins

Key Offseason Additions – Paolo Banchero (R)

Key Offseason Subtractions – Robin Lopez

It was projected to be a bad season in Orlando and the Magic delivered on those expectations landing just half a win shy of their RSW total. Some of their large pool of talented, young players did start to shows their potential on the floor. Cole Anthony improved all his averages and looked comfortable as a starter in 65 games despite limited shooting ability. Jalen Suggs played 27 minutes a night and improved throughout the season. Franz Wagner shot the ball well and lifted the entire offense when on the court. Wendell Carter Jr. enjoyed his first full season out of Chicago playing solid defense while scoring 15 points a game. Again, this team was bad, they lost 60 games, but that was the plan and they were rewarded with the #1 pick in the draft.

They used that pick to bring Paolo Banchero into the fold. Banchero is a great prospect and exactly what this team needs. He slides in as the starting power forward and will provide scoring and playmaking for the Magic. Along with Anthony, Suggs, Wagner, and Carter Jr., Orlando has a talented starting five that could score and defend at above average levels. There’s also strong depth on this roster thanks to years of good draft picks. The Magic also have less incentive to tank than some of the other teams. They already got their #1 pick and now it’s time to see if they can teach these youngsters how to win. Young, motivated teams with depth can be dangerous in the regular season. Other teams often look past Orlando on their schedules, but this young squad should take advantage of those spots this season. I’d be surprised to see them in the playoffs or even the play in, but not that surprised.

I LOVE this team from the perspective of regular season success. While other teams around them are trying to lose, the Magic will be trying to win every night. The talent and depth needed to 30+ games is there and I’ll happily bet the over on the 27 in the RSW market.

Bets – Over 27 Regular Season Wins

Key Offseason Additions – Monte Morris, Johnny Davis (R), Will Barton, Delon Wright

Key Offseason Subtractions – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Thomas Bryant

It was a messy season for the Wizards in 2021-22. They traded Russell Westbrook for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrez Harrel and they signed Spencer Dinwiddie as a free agent. The deal removed a negative piece and filled out the roster with good players that fit with Bradley Beal and it led to a quick start. Washington was a top 3 seed in the East through November, but things fell apart from that point forward. Beal played just 40 games and had season ending wrist surgery at the beginning of February. They swapped Dinwiddie for Porzingis at the trade deadline, but he only played 17 games. They finished with the 12th most wins in the Eastern Conference, 8 games out of the play in tournament.

Things should be better with a healthy Beal and a healthy Porzingis, but there’s little else that changed that will improve the Wizards. Trading Caldwell-Pope for Morris & Barton was odd. The 2 former nuggets are guards, small wings at best, and injury prone. They weren’t bad enough to earn a top draft pick and spent most of their offseason locking up Beal to a 5 year deal instead of adding free agents. Beal is coming off a wrist injury, Porzingis hasn’t played more than 51 games in 4 years, and the rest of the roster is worse. This is another team, similar to Charlotte, that could try to tank if things start slowly or one of their best players get hurt. There is little reason for optimism in Washington this season.

My projections are 3.5 games lower than the current RSW total and I think my model is underestimating the potential for tanking. What’s Beal going to look like off and injury and a huge contract? Is Porzingis the type of player you want in 2022? This is an easy under bet.

Bets – Under 35.5 Regular Season Wins

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