After a thrilling season, the NBA is officially over for another year. So, the team at SportsTips thought it would be a good idea to go through every team in the Southeast Division, and have a look at the year that was!
When looking at the current state of the Atlanta Hawks we have to go way back to the 2020-21 season when they replaced head coach Lloyd Pierce with Nate McMillan. The Hawks went from going nowhere as a borderline playoff team to ending that season on a 27-11 run and making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
That playoff run set expectations high for the 2021-22 season but Trae Young and the guys could not handle the pressure of now having a target on their back and got off to a slow start. They struggled early on to win games and ultimately finished the season at 43-39 and had to win both of their play-in games to make it into the real field of the postseason as the 8 seed.
Officially official 🔥
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) June 30, 2022
That earned them a meeting with the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round where they were taken care of pretty easily, only winning one game. Trae Young struggled severely against Miami in the regular season and that just carried over right into the postseason where he only averaged 15 points a game on 31% shooting.
Their depth was an issue in 2021-2022 but they made a huge splash during free agency, trading for All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to pair with Trae. This gives them a superstar backcourt that has a great balance of playmaking and scoring ability, along with the rebounding and defense Murray brings to the table.
This team showed their potential two years ago and I think with the new energy surrounding them, now they can once again reach that ceiling if the chips fall in their favor. Definitely will be one of the teams to watch out for as they are in for a big improvement.
The vibes surrounding the Charlotte Hornets following the 2020-21 season were positive and they had a little bit of expectations coming into the next year. LaMelo Ball was coming off winning Rookie of the Year and the team was ahead of schedule by making the play-in tournament.
It was assumed another year in the system of head coach James Borrego was surely going to have them in the real postseason and being a threat to contenders but it wasn’t meant to be. There was instead a bit of friction within the team about playing time and their roles under Borrego, and it impacted the team’s success.
Instead of leveling up, it was a stagnation and the team found themselves right back in the play-in tournament with a record of 43-39. The Atlanta Hawks ended their season by beating them 103-132 in the play-in and it resulted in the firing of Borrego, who did a good job developing LaMelo in his first couple years.
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) July 7, 2022
Ball went from Rookie of the Year to All-Star in just one year and it’ll be interesting to see how he does in a whole new system going forward. There’s also a lot going on off the court with Hornets promising star Miles Bridges who is facing charges off the court for domestic violence issues.
If everything works itself out and they can have their full squad back, then they will once again be one of the best offenses in the NBA, but they need to figure out the defensive side of the ball.
That held the Hornets back the most along with a head coach that the players did not like. If they can buy into new head coach Steve Clifford’s plan and execute then this is a team with a lot of potential and a very bright future.
The Miami Heat had a huge bounce back year in 2021-22 which resulted in them finishing as the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 53-29. The team was led by stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo and coached by one of the best in the game, Erik Spolestra.
Butler was rock-solid in the regular season averaging 21.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 5.5 apg but really took his game to another level in the postseason. His points per game average jumped to 27.4 a game in the playoffs, where he helped lead them on a run all the way to the Conference Finals.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) July 7, 2022
In the first round the Heat took on the Atlanta Hawks and were able to wrap that series up in five due to a great defensive gameplan on superstar Trae Young. That then set them up with a meeting with Joel Embiid, James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was another impressive series by them, winning in 6 games thanks to Jimmy Butler dropping 30 points in half of the games. Next up was the Boston Celtics, who would eventually knock out Miami at home in Game 7 to move on to the NBA Finals.
There were a lot of injuries the Heat had to deal with going through that playoff run, most notably to Tyler Herro in the Celtics series, so to make it as far as they did was still a success. Their main core will return again to run it back and they will once again be one of the top teams in the league and on the short list of legit contenders for the championship.
There was a bit of mild optimism for the Orlando Magic heading into the 2021-22 season with their new head coach Jamahl Mosley along with the two first round picks Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner. Not optimism to compete this year, as everyone still expected them to be one of the worst teams in the league, but for a bright future as they put the right young pieces together.
Wagner ended up turning in a solid rookie season, averaging over 15 points a game and finishing 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting. Suggs had an injury-filled year and even when he was able to play, it wasn’t super encouraging but the jump from college to the NBA is tougher for some than others.
Bol Bol back 🪄 pic.twitter.com/EcQTgjgGYm
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) July 7, 2022
He was a super talented prospect and it’s far too early to write off his career just because of one bad season. The rest of their young core is rounded out by Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba who all had solid seasons during this rebuilding year. Former #5 pick Jonathan Issac missed the entire year with an ACL injury and former #1 pick Markelle Fultz is also struggling with injury and consistency in his young career.
Add on this year’s #1 pick Paolo Banchero from Duke and this team will continue to be one of the youngest in the league, but with a lot of young exciting prospects. They are going to be a team that once again loses a lot of games but if they stick with the development, the process could lead to some success in the near future.
Following a loss in the play-in tournament in 2021-22, the Washington Wizards swung a big trade in the offseason to part with Russell Westbrook. The former MVP was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for depth acquiring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell.
The trade was working out to start the year as the Wizards were one of the surprises of the season, but then the injury bug hit them. Halfway through the year their best player Bradley Beal went down with a wrist injury and without him the team struggled to put wins together, and slowly continued to fall in the standings.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) July 6, 2022
They were able to make a deal with the Dallas Mavericks at the trade deadline and acquire Kristaps Porzingis, but it was more of a move for the future than a deal to salvage the season. It was the first season as head coach for Wes Unseld Jr. but with the roster being turned upside down and injuries, it’s hard to really grade his performance fairly.
Kyle Kuzma was a bright spot for them, as he showed his potential with an expanded role, averaging 17.1 points a game and 8.5 rebounds. The core of him, Beal, and Porzingis can be a very solid one to build around for years to come, and I expect them to be more like the team that started the year hot and be one of the teams making a run for the playoffs next season in the East.
Even though the season has finished, we’ve got you covered with all the latest information on the NBA! We keep you as up to date as possible, so you don’t miss any of the action this off-season.