Without even a single game being played of the 2017-18 NBA season, most basketball followers already have a pretty good idea of who’s going to be playing for the title in June.
Go ahead, ask anyone.
The Warriors and Cavaliers will be the two teams that come up, as it’s been for the last three years.
But, as far as the East is concerned, John Wall and the Washington Wizards might have a thing or two to say about that.
They didn’t have a particularly flashy summer, but if they continue the uphill trend they started mid-way though last season, the Wizards might be in store for a fantastic season. In the Southeast Division, they’re the ones that everyone should have their eye on.
But looking behind the Wizards, the other four teams in the Southeast are a bit spread out in terms of current situation. Each team is in a very different stage of thier process, and each will have their own unique story to tell when it’s all over.
Position: 15th in East
Biggest Concern: Can they find their next star?
Make no mistake: the Atlanta Hawks are an absolute disaster.
Just a few seasons ago, this team won 60 games en-route to earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Today, their best player is Dennis Schröder, a fairly decent starting point guard with virtually no All-Star potential. Without Al Horford, Paul Millsap, or Jeff Teague, Schröder is really all that remains from those glory days.
The upcoming season is basically a lottery marathon, as getting the number one pick is the only reason the team has to play.
Position: 10th in East
Biggest Concern: How good is Aaron Gordon?
How is it that nobody can ever figure out what’s going on with the Magic?
Just when it seems they’re rounding a corner, they do something to offset their progress. Just when it looks like they’ve made a good move, it blows up right in their face.
The Orlando Magic aren’t a bad team. They are just not a every good one. The roster is filled with a bunch of young guys and role players that have yet to find their place in the league. It’s like the team is a giant melting pot for players who need to figure out what to do next.
And for the entire franchise, that’s a question they better answer soon. Hopefully, this upcoming season will give the team a hint as to what their future will look like, or it may be time to blow it all up.
Position: 8th in East
Biggest Concern: What’s next?
For a market as big as Miami’s, you’d think they’d find themselves in a better position. The Lakers have Lonzo, the Knicks have Porzingis, but what do the Heat have... Whiteside? Is he really the guy to take Miami basketball to the next level?
The bigger question, perhaps, is why this franchise keeps striking out on all the big Free-Agents. They have Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, sunny beaches, and a rich basketball history. It really is a wonder they haven’t found more elite talent yet.
In any case though, this team needs to figure out what to do next if they want to get things rolling. Whether they wish to rebuild completely, build around Whiteside and Waiters (wahhhh?) or try and lure in big names, the decision on what’s next will not come easy. But with Pat Riley and Spo’ at the helm, the choice will certainly be made by the right minds.
Position: 6th in East
Future: Malik Monk
Biggest Concern: Will Dwight Howard return to form?
Far removed from their miserable “Bobcat” days, the Charlotte Hornets have become a respectable team in the East.
Even with that said, though, it doesn’t mean they are any close to becoming a real threat.
This season, fortunately, brings something new to the table: Dwight Howard.
If Howard can somehow find his Orlando form, Charlotte could turn heads in the East. But if, and much more likely, he continues to play as he has for the last few years, the Hornets are in for another mediocre season.
Besides Howard, the Hornets can also put some hope in their young buck, Malik Monk. Seeing how Monk develops will be one of the keys to Charlotte’s season, and could give them the star they’ve so desperately waited for.
Position: 4th in East
Biggest Concern: How far can they go?
Admittedly, the Wizards aren’t nearly as good as the Cavaliers or Celtics.
But if any team has a chance to beat them for the Eastern Crown, it’s Washington.
With arguably the best backcourt duo in the NBA, the Wizards have the star power. With a heavy lined backcourt ready to defend the paint, they’ve got the role-Players. And with the star studded coach on the sideline, they’ve got enough strategy and locker room leadership to last them a lifetime. This team has really got it all.
But, as is the case with almost every NBA team, they can only go as far as their stars take them. Both John Wall and Bradley Beal will have to elevate thier games if they want to take this team to the next level. And Otto Porter Jr. (who signed for $106 million this summer) will have to prove he is worth that contract.
Of course, if all the stars align, and everyone steps up, this team could be poised for a serious run this post-season. Either way, that success is something they’ll have to earn.
Southeast Division Overview
The Southeast Division is a strange mix of NBA Teams. On one hand, there are some franchises that look completely devastated and hopeless for the future. On the other hand, there are some franchises that look hopeful and ready to compete for the crown. Regardless of the mix, however, the Wizards are in control here. Their recent rise to fame has made them a squad to talk about among the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
The only question now is if the others can catch up.