The NBA’s Southeast Division has no legitimate Eastern Conference contenders and features two teams that will likely challenge for the league’s worst record.
But there’s still intrigue in the NBA’s weakest division. The Washington Wizards brought in Dwight Howard and are a boom-or-bust team, the Heat are a fun, balanced team and the Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks all have at least one entertaining rookie on their roster.
How do the teams in this grouping stack up with each other? We will break down each squad’s situation before deciding how you should bet, based on 5Dimes’ odds, with our Southeast Division predictions and picks.
Washington Wizards (-135 at 5Dimes)
The Wizards rolled the dice this offseason, signing center Dwight Howard to replace traded center Marcin Gortat. Howard is still an effective player, but he posts up far too much and has clashed with teammates at his last few stops around the league. Team chemistry will be a big area to watch with the Wizards.
Washington is certainly talented. John Wall and Bradley Beal still comprise one of the better backcourts in the game and Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are the role players you want on winning teams. The bench will be better this year with Austin Rivers and Jeff Green joining the team.
However, it’s tough to look past all the potential chemistry issues. Consider the Wizards as one of those teams with a lot of upside, but also a lot of downside.
- Projected record: 44-38 (43-39 in 2017-18)
Miami Heat (+180 at 5Dimes)
Led by head coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have found their identity as a deep squad with a bunch of B-level players and no stars.
Guys like Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo are all mostly helpful. But should a team be happy with any of them as a first or second-best guy on a good team? No.
Because of how even his players are in terms of impact, Spoelstra needs to change up his rotations every game based on which guys are having good nights. The Heat will be a decent squad, but they have a clear ceiling until one or more of their players take their game to the next level.
- Projected record: 43-39 (44-38 in 2017-18)
Charlotte Hornets (+1500 at 5Dimes)
Of all the teams in the NBA, the Hornets might have the bleakest future outlook. They are slated to pay Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tony Parker a combined $90.3 million next season. Considering the 2019-20 salary cap is currently projected at $109 million, Charlotte has a lot of money dedicated to players who are not really moving the needle for the team.
The Hornets have a mediocre roster at the moment. Point guard Kemba Walker is the star holding everything together on offense, and many of the aforementioned guys plus Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky form a ho-hum supporting cast. The jury is out on whether first-year head coach James Borrego can lead the team effectively.
The reason I have the Hornets doing poorly this season is because I think they will unload some bad contracts during the year. To end the campaign, I think they will focus more on developing their young prospects (mainly Malik Monk and rookie Miles Bridges) as opposed to purely going for wins.
- Projected record: 31-51 (36-46 in 2017-18)
Orlando Magic (+2000 at 5Dimes)
The Magic’s best future prospects are big men. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba are 22, 20 and 20 years old, respectively. All three have loads of athleticism and potential.
Unfortunately, all three of them (especially Isaac and Bamba) need more time to develop. And in the meantime, Orlando has some of the least talented perimeter players in the NBA. The Magic’s guard rotation will likely be D.J. Augustin, Jerian Grant, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Wesley Iwundu and Terrence Ross. Fournier is the only guy in that group who is a better-than-average NBA rotation player.
Orlando needs time for its young guys to develop and it also needs time to draft or acquire better perimeter players.
- Projected record: 25-57 (25-57 in 2017-18)
Atlanta Hawks (+10000 at 5Dimes)
The Hawks are not going to be good. Chances are, they will try to work their offense around rookie guard Trae Young. Young, if he reaches his full potential, can be a Stephen Curry type whose amazing shooting abilities can carry an elite offense. In his first year, though, there will be a whole lot of struggles, as Young’s Summer League performance showed.
Atlanta has some decent players. John Collins and Taurean Prince are two up-and-coming forwards. Jeremy Lin, Dewayne Dedmon and Kent Bazemore will give great effort as role players.
But, like last season, we will see a lot of no-name players get significant minutes on the Hawks after the All-Star break. Atlanta is going to tank in 2018-19 in hopes of improving its young core with a high pick in the 2019 draft.
- Projected record: 21-61 (24-58 in 2017-18)
Our Preview’s Southeast Division Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
Put your money on the Heat. The Wizards are favorites with my top rated United States’ bookies and could be really good, but there is a pretty decent chance that they crash and burn with either injury or chemistry problems. Miami is a safer choice and has considerably longer odds.
The Hornets would actually be a solid bet, also. Their current roster is better than the record I’ve projected for them, but if they get off to a decent start, they might not gut the roster like I am predicting. Their odds are not that different from the Magic, but they are clearly the better squad with more depth.
I don’t anticipate Orlando or Atlanta to be trying very hard for wins by the second half of the season. Don’t waste your money on either of those squads.
So to summarize, the one Southeast Division prediction and pick this preview recommend is:
- Bet on Miami Heat to win the division at +180 with 5Dimes.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.