Southeast Division Predictions
1. Washington Wizards
Quite simply, John Wall is committed to taking the Wizards to the next level and this season should allow the Wizards to cruise to an easy division win and contending for a top spot at the end of the season. However, Wall cannot do it alone and will be joined by a supporting cast of Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. The front court of Wall and Beal will create a deadly combination throughout the season, and likely create the confidence to make a deep playoff run. Another key to a deep run in the playoffs will be the ability of the 33 year old Gortat to continue producing at a high level.
2. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are deep, and are poised to compete behind the play of All-Star guard Kemba Walker. The hornets have also given former all-star Dwight Howard another chance to revive his long career. The Hornets will roll With Walker, Nicolas Batum, Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Howard. Off the bench, the Hornets will have the unproven Monk off the bench to show his worth as rookie. Gilchrist will have a key role this year for the Hornets, but has to stay healthy to be a strong contributor after a few shoulder surgeries, and have a large defensive role.
3. Miami Heat
After a disappointing offseason for the Heat, striking out with the big players such as Dwayne Wade and Gordon Hayward they are left with a strong core with no real big name superstars. However this isn't going to be a problem for the heat when it comes to making a run at the Eastern Conference playoffs. The heat will have the starting five of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynk, and Hassan Whitesides. This team will be undoubtedly be led by Whitesides who looks to make a push for a spot in the all-star game come February. The heat will also be led by the second longest tenured coach in the league, Eric Spoelstra. Spoelstra will have a strong grasp on the young core and attempt to lead the team to the playoffs.
4. Orlando Magic
The Magic cleaned house over the summer and brought in a new pair of front office members, Jeff Weltman and John Hammond. The tandem looks to pump in new life into the struggling organization. The Magic are dealing with a playoff drought of five years now and it doesn't look that this season will be the end of that drought. They are left with a core of players left by their former General Manager that just haven't panned out including guard Elfred Payton and center Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has struggled to elevate his play and has never really turned out to be the cornerstone that the Magic thought they were getting when they drafted him 5th overall in 2015. However, Magic fans can look forward to watching the development of rookie Johnathan Isaac throughout the year. The Magic will go with the starting five of Payton, Evan Fournier, Johnathan Simmons, Aaron Gordon, and Vucevic.
5. Atlanta Hawks
Now when I said the Magic cleaned house, the Hawks took that to a whole new level and are destined for the cellar of the Eastern Conference for the upcoming season. Losing Paul Milsapp in free agency to Denver, and trading Howard to Charlotte for next to nothing has left the Hawks in a difficult situation. The main word being thrown around the organization is patience, and the Hawks will need a lot of it. Their leader and star this season will be Dennis Shroeder. Schroeder has shown he has talent and confidence, but will be tasked this year with leading a young team that will struggle. Schroeder will be joined by: Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, and Mike Muscala. In the Summer League the bright spot seemed to be rookie John Collin's impressive play. Hawks fans should focus on him for hope the Hawks can be good in the future.