Last season, Washington was the favorite to win the Southeast Division. But injuries down the stretch put them against the wall and they were surpassed by a young, talented Miami team. The Wizards still made the playoffs as the eight seed and now have the best odds at -140 to return to the top of the division where they were in 2016-17.
Washington Wizards (-140)
The Wizards were 26-22 when John Wall was injured and was forced to undergo knee surgery that caused him to miss six weeks of the season. Many wrote Washington off for its playoff hopes, but Bradley Beal stepped up to the plate and the club finished 43-39, one game less than it was on pace for. Washington failed to win the division, falling just one game back of Miami. Wall did return for the final seven games of the year but the Wizards went 2-5 SU over that span and they were taken out in six games by the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.
During the offseason, the Wizards addressed a weak spot in their lineup, signing Dwight Howard to be their man under the rim. In 2016-17, the squad won the division by six games finishing with a 49-33 record and Wall played 78 games that year. With a healthy Wall, Beal taking another step forward and the addition of Howard, there’s a reason the Wizards are poised to contend for the division.
Miami Heat (+170)
The Heat went 44-38 last season to win the division title and now have the second-best odds to return to the top. Miami is definitely a competitive team and surely a playoff team. But I think, much like last year, it will need some help to get past Washington in the division. The Heat have a well-rounded team with plenty of depth, and although nobody really blows you away with talent, they play well as a team. The bright spot for the organization is their bench and there’s a good possibility they could package a few players to land a starter to push them up the ladder.
Charlotte Hornets (+1400)
The biggest storyline heading into Charlotte’s season is its all-star guard Kemba Walker. The 28-year-old is entering the final year of his four-year deal and there’s a good chance he will be dealt at some point in the season. This trade is more likely if the Hornets are hanging around outside of a playoff spot and there’s a team willing to make a deal (looking at you Lakers) it would be hard to see Charlotte not pull the trigger. All wouldn’t be lost if Walker is traded, though, as the club signed veteran Tony Parker in the offseason. Last year, the Hornets went 36-46 and finished third place in the division, which is right around where I expect them to be again this year all pending a Kemba trade.
Orlando Magic (+1400)
Orlando came out of the gate hot last season, winning eight of its first 12 games and looked like a real competitor. Then, the Magic hit the wall – HARD. The squad went from an 8-4 record in early November, to finishing the season 25-57, meaning they went 17-53 for the remainder of the season. Outside of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, there isn’t much to talk about with the Magic. The only way they can move up in the division this year is if the Hornets deal Kemba for picks and they fall off.
Atlanta Hawks (+7500)
The Hawks are in the midst of a rebuild, holding onto just one player that has more than eight years of experience and that is the 20-year veteran, Vince Carter. Atlanta seems to be moving in the right direction, though, trading for Trae Young at the 2018 NBA draft and also secured the Dallas Maverick’s first-round pick for the 2019 NBA draft. Additionally, Atlanta has a couple strong young players in Taurean Prince and John Collins heading into their third and second years respectably. The Hawks went 24-58 last year, sitting dead last in the Eastern Conference, they should be more competitive in 2018-19 but not in the conversation of winning the division.
Odds as of September 13 at Bovada