Charlotte Hornets: How the Southeast Division stacks up

Charlotte Hornets Devonte' Graham. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Devonte' Graham. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Charlotte has made some big splashes this offseason, drafting LaMelo Ball and signing Gordon Hayward, but the Southeast Division got tougher as well.

The regular season is less than a month away and the schedule hasn’t been released. So far, all we know is the Charlotte Hornets will face the teams in its division four times each, twice at home and twice on the road.

Miami Heat

Highlighted by Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and the newly paid Bam Adebayo, Miami will be the favorite to run the Southeast Division again this season.

Charlotte Hornets, Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Adebayo established himself as one of the best bigs in the game through the Heat’s bubble run. He’s a double-double almost every time he steps on the floor. His rebounding and rim protection jump off the page, but his offense is sneakily impressive. Miami doesn’t have to run anything for him to get his buckets. He’s an active screener with good hands and finishes strong. Collapse on him if you dare. He’s surrounded by an impressive array of shooters in Robinson, Herro and Dragic.

The emergence of Tyler Herro in his rookie year was one of the biggest surprises of the season. He’s more than a spot-up shooter. In fact, he is already one of the better shooters coming off the dribble in the league. His length and quickness will make him a nightmare to guard moving forward. Typically a player of his type struggles with physical defenders, but he’s held his own when things get tough.

Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless are great additions to this team’s depth. Bradley will provide spot defense and plenty of experience while Harkless gives you a rotational piece upfront. I wouldn’t rule out the Heat as buyers throughout the season either.

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks are certainly the biggest mover in the division. Highlighted by Trae Young and the criminally underrated John Collins, Atlanta is primed to make a playoff push. It seems the free-agent class agreed. Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondo fill almost every need this team had.

Charlotte Hornets
Trae Young (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Atlanta was last in the league in three-point shooting last season, despite the improved shooting of Young. Adding Gallinari and Bogdanovic will open the floor for young and make perimeter defenders hesitate digging on Collins and Clint Capela. You can imagine Young’s impressive 9.3 APG getting even better.

The additions of Dunn and Rondo to the backcourt is big in taking some of the load off Young, Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish. Dunn is one of the top perimeter defenders in the game and Rondo can still contribute on both ends.

The Hawks will definitely finish far better than their 20-47 record last season. Young posted a 29.6 point average shooting 43 percent from the field. Collins averaged a double-double averaging 21.6 points on a team-high 58 percent shooting. He’s capable of big scoring games and dominating the boards. Adding Capela alongside Collins should lead to second-chance opportunities and leak outs. The Hawks were already one of the fastest-paced teams, averaging 103 possessions per 48 minutes. They’re not just going to run and gun; they’re going to fly.

Washington Wizards

Charlotte Hornets
Bradley Beal (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The Wizards might be the most mysterious team in the whole Eastern Conference. First, Bradley Beal’s name was one of the hottest in trade talks this offseason. Then word started to swirl of a John Wall for Russell Westbrook trade. To make things even trickier, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons said on The Bill Simmons Podcast Beal was pushing for the Wall/Westbrook trade. Whether Simmons has any credibility is a different discussion, but undoubtedly these rumors will impact Washington’s dynamic backcourt duo.

If Washington goes into the season with Beal and Wall, the offseason was more or less a lateral move. Re-signing Davis Bertans is the biggest immediate positive. He was one of a bevy of three-point specialists on the market this season and the need for his skillset is reflected by his new $80 million contract. It’s probably a bit high for a role player that isn’t an everyday starter.

The Wizards are hoping to hit big on their first-round draft pick Deni Avdija. The 19-year-old forward has been playing pro in the Israeli Basketball Premier League since 2017 and was a rising name in pre-draft buzz. Hoping he’s going to be Luka Doncic is a bit much, but Avdija has solid handles and can handle defensive pressure pushing the ball. He’s a decent shooter and seems to have a knack for making plays. I wouldn’t write off Rui Hachimura quite yet either. Hachimura has shown flashes with his length and versatility. The Avdija pick doesn’t mean it has to be one or the other between him and last year’s pick.

I don’t think Washington is out of the news quite yet. Depending on how the season starts out you can expect a piece or two still being shifted around.

Orlando Magic

Charlotte Hornets
Nikola Vucevic (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

Orlando is another team that surprisingly stood pat this offseason. Evan Fournier decided to forego free agency and opt-in for the final year of his deal. Aaron Gordon was talked about in some trades but nothing has come of it yet. They’re holding onto a couple of rotational pieces in  Michael Carter-Williams and James Ennis III. It appears, for now, Steve Clifford and the front office believe in what they have.

What they had last season was good enough for a 33-40 record and the eighth seed in the East. What they had was one of the better defenses in the league, ranking fifth in points allowed. It’s an average offense but there’s no reason Orlando shouldn’t be in the mix to sneak into the playoffs again.

The Magic will again go the way of their best player: Nikola Vucevic. The Swedish center averaged more than 19 points, 10 rebounds on 47 percent shooting. He’s become a problem for teams in the division, including Charlotte. He shot better than 50 percent against the Hornets in four of their last five meetings.

Orlando is likely to see its most improvement in the backcourt. Markelle Fultz seems to be thriving with his new scenery. He averaged a career-high 12 points, 5 assists last season but had a couple of bigger outings sprinkled in throughout the season. It’s still not the consistently high output you expect from the former top pick, but it’s time to forgive Fultz for his pre-draft hype. Adding rookie Cole Anthony could be a significant piece to fill the loss of D.J. Augustine as well.


A great outcome for Charlotte would be finishing in the top three of the division behind Miami and either Orlando or Atlanta. It would take a lot of things going right, including a healthy season, progression from its young players and Ball and Hayward finding their fit early.

The less optimistic and more likely outcome sees the Hornets finish behind Miami, Orlando and Atlanta. This would also put them outside of the playoff picture. As exciting as the last couple of weeks have been for Hornets fans, it’s important to remember the rebuilding process is a long and arduous one.

How do you think Charlotte will fare this season. Let us know in the comments.

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