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NBA team profiles for 2015/16 season: Southeast Division

| 23.10.2015
CORAL ENHANCED ACCAS

Daniel Coyle, American Sports Correspondent | October 23, 2015

2015/16 Southeast Division NBA team profiles

Atlanta Hawks ran away with the Southeast crown a year ago, winning 60 contests, and leading the pack by 14 games.

But with Miami Heat rebounding from the loss of LeBron James, and Washington Wizards looking to be a fixture in the postseason, the Hawks will be hard-pressed to repeat.

It is another year, another rebuild for Charlotte Hornets, while Orlando Magic’s youth movement may begin to bear fruit sometime this season.

Atlanta Hawks

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 28/1
  • Southeast Division futures betting odds: 6/4
  • 2014/15 record: 60-22

Wizards Hawks Basketball

The Hawks are coming off a spectacular season in 2014/15, winning a franchise-record 60 regular season games to capture the Southeast Division crown by a 14-game margin. With Miami and Washington both expected to have improved teams on the court, though, repeating as champions will be a tall order.

But, aside from the departure of DeMarre Carroll for Toronto during the offseason, the Hawks’ roster returns largely intact. The loss of Carroll hurts the squad that sported the second-best defense in the Eastern Conference, while the development of Dennis Schroder could see him challenge Jeff Teague for playing time at point guard.

Back-to-back 60-win seasons are a tall order for any team. But while their win total may fall off, the Hawks should once again command home court in next spring’s playoffs.

Miami Heat

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 33/1
  • Southeast Division futures betting odds: 7/4
  • 2014/15 record: 37-45

Hornets Heat Basketball

The Heat’s fortunes plummeted last season, following the departure of LeBron for Cleveland, tumbling from 54 wins and favoured status to win the NBA title to 37 wins and out of playoff contention. Chris Bosh’s absence for 44 games did not help Miami’s cause, while Dwyane Wade missed significant time to injury for a fourth straight year.

A post-LeBron Heat will remain a formidable force with the addition of guard Goran Dragic, and first-round pick Justise Winslow, joining Bosh, Wade, Luol Deng, and the much-improved Hassan Whiteside.

The club showed marked improvement in the second half, going on an 11-7 run during February and March to stay in playoff contention before losing nine of 15 down the stretch. This season should bring a return to playoff action and a challenge for top spot in the division.

Washington Wizards

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 25/1
  • Southeast Division futures betting odds: 9/4
  • 2014/15 record: 46-36

Wizards 76ers Basketball

After opening the season on a torrid 19-6 pace, the Wizards cooled down considerably after Christmas, including a 4-13 stretch in February and March that threatened to undo their season and playoff hopes. But led by veteran Paul Pierce, Washington rebounded down the stretch, winning 12 of their last 20 before upsetting the Toronto Raptors in the first round to reach the conference semi-finals for a second straight year.

The departure of Pierce leaves a leadership void that rising stars Bradley Beal and John Wall, who was spectacular during the playoffs, will be expected to fill. However, aside from the signing of veterans Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, and Gary Neal, the Wizards were quiet on the free agent market, which likely means they have not done enough to keep pace with Atlanta and Miami in an increasingly competitive Southeast Division.

Charlotte Hornets

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 200/1
  • Southeast Division futures betting odds: 25/1
  • 2014/15 record: 33-49

Bulls Hornets Basketball

After returning to the playoffs in 2013 for the first time in four years, there was reason for optimism in the rebranded Hornets a year ago. But with big-ticket free agent Lance Stephenson’s struggles highlighting a disastrous season, which included a brutal 4-15 start and 5-16 finish, Charlotte returned to the drawing board yet again this summer.

While Stephenson is gone, in a trade with the Clippers, Al Jefferson returns at center, and will be joined by veteran newcomers Jeremy Lamb and Jeremy Lin, and top draft pick Frank Kaminsky. It will be challenging to find fast chemistry among this retooled lineup, which hopes to improve on the club’s 28th ranked offense and league-worst shooting percentage of a year ago.

Charlotte was a respectable 39-41-2 ATS last season, and with expectations low entering the new season, opportunities may exist to ride the Hornets as big underdogs early in the campaign.

Orlando Magic

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 250/1
  • Southeast Division futures betting odds: 66/1
  • 2014/15 record: 25-57

Heat Magic Basketball

It was another lost season for the Magic, who have won just 68 total games over the last three years. But while it has been painful for their fans, Orlando has taken the steps to patiently develop their youth, building around second-year point guard Elfrid Payton, rookie Mario Hezonja, shooting guard Victor Oladipo, and forward Tobias Harris.

However, the Magic have done little to address deficiencies that saddled them with the worst defense in the Eastern Conference last season. As the youngsters mature, so will their offensive gifts, but without more attention to defensive fundamentals, this club will struggle to show improvement, despite covering the spread 41 times last year.

After losing by six or fewer points on seven occasions after February 1st last season, a little defensive responsibility could go a long way for this young team.

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Author

Daniel Coyle