The Eastern Conference is a barren wasteland compared to the West. Despite this, the Southeast division has a team that will be a surprise where they end up in the rankings come playoff time. If you missed the Atlantic division preview be sure to check it out. http://www.ratpacksports.com/single-post/2017/07/27/Atlantic-Division-Preview.
Atlanta Hawks: This season will have the look of a different team, Atlanta’s front office made big moves starting with trading Dwight Howard to Charlotte in a head scratching move that didn’t net a real rotation player and upgraded their second-round pick. Saying goodbye to Paul Millsap stings, it was time for him to move on and be on a playoff team with Denver. The only things to look forward to as a Hawks fan this season is the continued development of both Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Both players will be sleeper picks in fantasy due to racking up unlimited minutes due to no depth and not enough talent. Atlanta’s record will be poultry 22-60 with their sights set on a high lottery pick and developing an average young core.
Orlando Magic: The October 31st deadline for Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon to ink a new deal or go to restricted free agency will be big for the Magic. Orlando has middle of the road talent and is not the most attractive place in free agency for players to sign. So, you’re left with a dilemma to re-sign okay talent to big money or let them walk. When the Magic drafted Jonathan Issacs with the sixth overall pick instead of Malik Monk, the team is saying they are not looking to win this season and would rather develop Issacs who has the potential to be the next Antony Davis. Upgrading Jeff Green into a reasonable contract of free agent Jonathan Simmons from the Spurs was a big win and will dramatically improve their perimeter defense. Expect Orlando to have a losing record of 27-55 and will miss the playoffs for yet another season.
Charlotte Hornets: This season is playoffs or bust for the Hornets, Nicolas Batum is getting paid about as much as LeBron that is a sign this team must get to the postseason or else. Amazingly enough, Charlotte somehow got Malik Monk with the tenth pick which will boost a stagnate offense with an infusion of shooting and playmaking. Acquiring Dwight Howard for the price they gave up was an excellent move that will help their interior rebounding and control the tempo late in games. His defense might not be good anymore, but he is still an elite rebounder and can muscle opposing undersized centers in the paint giving Charlotte some toughness it desperately needed. Head Coach Steve Clifford will get Howard back on track, Batum will bounce back from a subpar year and Kemba Walker will receive a second all-star selection. With a record of 40-42 Charlotte will barely get in the playoffs as a #8 seed losing to Boston 4-1 in the first round.
Washington Wizards: Coming off the best season in over 20 years. The Wizards have locked their core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr for the long term and are ready to contend with the likes of Cleveland and Boston. Washington’s major weakness is the lack of depth, with no real big additions due to their cap being tied into their core players. The Wizards will have to rely on Kelly Oubre Jr, Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks to give quality minutes. That is asking too much for players that are not ready to be in that role for a contending team. This problem will not end well and will give Washington a record of 47-35 the fifth seed in the East and a second-round exit in the playoffs.
Miami Heat: With as many ball handlers and shooters that other teams can dream of the Heat have the look of a killer offense. This team goes at least nine to ten players deep on the depth chart with the likes of Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson and rookie Bam Adebayo. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra will have fun mixing and matching the different lineups to create with as much versatility you can get in the league. The addition of Kelly Olynyk will help unclog the paint for Whiteside to continue to dominate and provides yet another shooter on the perimeter to stretch the defense to its maximum. With a record of 50-32 and a division title Miami will be the three seed in East and will proceed to lose in the second round of the playoffs to either Boston or Cleveland in a hard-fought series that will go seven games.