This Week In The Southeast, the All-Star break has come and gone and each team has reached the midway point of the season. Instead of recapping this week’s action we’ll be recapping how each team has looked for the season, how they project for the playoffs, and what trajectory they’re currently on.
The Hawks started off the season a little slow, and a lot of us were wondering what their ceiling was, but then things started to get interesting. The offense was never a problem, but the defense started off the season struggling. This was likely due to Al Horford shaking off some rust and getting used to this season’s defensive scheme, but when it all came together oh man did it come together. The Hawks set a franchise record with 19 straight wins and some of the best basketball we’ve ever seen. They topped the NBA’s best time and time again, including a victory over the Golden State Warriors, and showed that they’re one of the top contenders in the NBA. However, they went into the All-Star break not playing like themselves, and recently were uncharacteristically blown out by the Raptors. It’s probably just boredom, or a random rough patch, but after all those wins early in the season it’s weird to see this group struggle at all.
The Wizards started off the season as the best team in the East and got a lot of people jumping on to their bandwagon. John Wall was getting early season MVP consideration, Marcin Gortat was an All-Star, and that defense was just suffocating, but there was one problem that’s still showing up to this day. The Wizards started off the season with a very easy schedule, and they still can’t seem to beat a lot of the NBA’s best teams. They limped into the All-Star break falling all the way down to 5th in the East, and it feels like there’s just no chance of them catching the Hawks. Whatever Washington’s problems are they need to get it together, because the rest of the East is starting to put things together and the Wizards are looking outclassed by all of them.
Miami’s had a rough season to say the least. They entered the season with aspirations to make some noise in a down Eastern Conference, and instead they ended up being one of the reasons the East is so down. Injuries and inconsistent point guard play have plagued the Heat all season and missing the playoffs started to look realistic, but then an unexpected savior appeared. Hassan Whiteside, called up from the D-League, had a career renaissance in Miami. The big man once out of the league is now one of the key contributors to an injured group trying to fight their way to the playoffs. However, that might not be so easy with the horrible, and shocking, announcement that Chris Bosh would miss the rest of the season, because of blood clots. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but the news is concerning and his good health is everybody’s wish. While Bosh is out the Heat did manage to grab some talent at the deadline to help them stay afloat. A gigantic deadline deal sending Goran Dragic to the Miami Heat, Norris Cole to New Orleans, and a mish mash of pieces to Phoenix, has Miami hoping they can stay in the playoff race.
The Hornets entered the season with massive expectations and aspirations of a trip to the conference finals. Instead, a slow start to the season, the second worst offense in the NBA, injuries, and Lance Stephenson being a total disaster has led to Charlotte fighting for their playoff lives after the all-star break. They’ve been a streaky team going on a handful of winning and losing streaks, but the key to their success has been Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Without MKG Charlotte has an abysmal record, and with him they actually become a competitive team. It’s unlikely Charlotte will be able to make the conference finals like they hoped, but a trip to the playoffs isn’t out of the question. They’ve managed to get their defense back up to top 10 level, and with Kidd-Gilchirst they’ve had arguably the best in the NBA. However, the second worst offense in the NBA is holding them back from making too much noise in a weak conference.
The Magic’s season has been a complete disaster from day one. Orlando wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs, but they were supposed to show improvement this season, and instead they regressed. General agreement about the Magic is they have talent, but that talent has been playing horribly individually, and together, all season outside of a few bright spots here and there. Things got so bad that the team actually fired head coach Jacque Vaughn mid-season, and they somehow managed to even screw that up by drawing the process out over some hope that he would turn things around. The lone highlight of the season is Victor Oladipo’s 360 dunk in the dunk contest. At this point the Magic are just going through the paces and trying to figure out what pieces they have to work with in future seasons.