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2022 NBA offseason grades: Southeast Division

NBA offseason
Can first overall pick Paolo Banchero lead the Magic back to relevancy? (Photo: Getty Images)

2022 NBA offseason grades: Southeast Division

It’s been a tumultuous offseason in the NBA. Now, bar a few moves on the periphery of rosters, the offseason is pretty much set in stone.

We’ve already taken a look at the Atlantic division and the Northwest. Now it’s time to turn our attentions to the south, examining the Southeast division.

Atlanta Hawks: B-

That Hawks have their man in Dejounte Murray. The former Spur will be the perfect defensive foil for Trae Young as well as being the secondary playmaker that should, in theory, take the pressure off Young to be the Hawks offensive everything. There is just one issue, though: will Young give up the ball?

Murray is a marginal threat when he doesn’t have the basketball in his hands and whilst Young has the skill set to be an off-ball threat as a relocation shooter, we’ve never seen him actually do it. So, the Hawks just need for Young to prove that he is a) willing, b) comfortable and c) capable of being an off-ball threat. If he isn’t, then Atlanta paid an awfully high price to acquire the latter-day version of Mookie Blaylock.

This is the sort of trade that could catapult the Hawks into contention or throw them into turmoil. This writer remains skeptical.

Aside from the Murray move, Atlanta moved on from Kevin Huerter who, despite his shooting, would struggle to find court time in the Hawks new backcourt rotation. They brought back some depth pieces in Moe Harkless and Justin Holiday – neither will set pulses racing – alongside a first-round pick from Sacramento (always a valuable asset).

The Hawks will hope for some of Huerter’s shooting to be replaced by rookie AJ Griffin, who’s gorgeous stroke is supplemented by prototypical size for an NBA wing. If he’s through his injury concerns, he could be a steal for the Hawks at pick 16.

Charlotte Hornets: C

The Hornets’ offseason was torpedoed before it really began, with the news that their second-best player in Miles Bridges was charged with various domestic violence felonies. Remember when this writer hoped that Bridges – a restricted free agent – would re-sign in Charlotte because the fans ‘deserve to have nice things‘? Yeah … sorry about that. Turns out that Bridges (allegedly) isn’t all that nice of a thing.

In the meantime, Charlotte haven’t really made any meaningful moves.

Charlotte briefly had Jalen Duren on board as their centre of the future before trading him. They pivoted well to get Mark Williams. Williams is not likely to be better than Duren but is a long and powerful athlete who should pair well with LaMelo Ball.

The team also extended Cody Martin, who should see a significant increase in minutes with Bridges unavailable for the foreseeable future.

It looks an incomplete offseason in Charlotte, who have yet to use their mid-level exception. Is there another move in the offing?

Miami Heat: C+

He’s as old as the hills, but the loss of P.J. Tucker will hurt the Miami Heat. His particular brand of defense can’t be replaced, and his no bulls*** ethos suited the Heat perfectly.

The saving grace for the Heat is that they haven’t panicked. If they had chosen to use their mid-level exception on signing a Tucker replacement, they would have triggered the hard cap, thus limiting their trade options down the road. Instead, they’ve stayed patient. That will allow the Heat to stay in the hunt for any big-ticket items that may become available. If it all goes belly up in Brooklyn, you can bet that Pat Riley will be on the phone in a heartbeat.

Miami re-upped Caleb Martin – who could masquerade in some of those Tucker type roles – and Victor Oladipo, whilst bringing Dewayne Dedmon back after a disappointing campaign last time out.

The team also drafted the highly skilled Nikola Jovic at pick 27. The Serbian isn’t a supreme athlete by any means but is quick enough and string enough to allow his broad skill set to shine once he gets some NBA reps under his belt. He reminds this writer of Hedo Turkoglu but also has a little bit of Billy Owens to him as well. He was projected by some as a lottery pick, so to get him near the end of the first round is a win for the Heat.

Orlando Magic: B+

The Magic have clearly been in asset gathering mode over the pat 18 months. Now, with No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero on board to play alongside the excellent Franz Wagner, the Magic look to have their tent pole stars.

The rest of this roster, though, is a massive pile of question marks.

Both Mo Bamba and Bol Bol were inked to new deals which, with Jonathan Isaac finally returning to action, makes for an extremely crowded frontcourt.

Assuming that Wendell Carter Jr. is Orlando’s starting centre and the Wagner/Banchero pairing get the nod at the forward positions, where does that leave Bamba, who finally looked an NBA level player last season? Isaac hasn’t played in two years, but for all the world looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year when he was last on the court. Where does the enticing Chuma Okeke fit into this? How about Franz’s older brother, Mo, who is a solid rotation player? Poor Bol might be third in the depth chart at centre and fourth at power forward! We haven’t even mentioned another draftee in Caleb Houstan, who’s sweet shooting and excellent size on the wing will allow him to fit into a variety of lineups.

It’s no clearer a picture in the backcourt, where the Magic re-signed veteran Gary Harris, adding to a deep but muddled pool of talent.

After a hugely disappointing rookie year, is Jalen Suggs the starting point guard? Is it the returning Markelle Fultz? Where does that leave fearless shotmaker Cole Anthony? Can Anthony play the two or is he best suited as a microwave sixth man? If he does start, that marginalises Harris as well as youngster RJ Hampton, not to mention the long serving, Terrence Ross.

Coach Jamahl Mosely has a huge task on his hands with all those mouths to feed.

The Magic have the players to build upon. They have multitudes of young talent to compliment them. Now it’s a matter of choosing who is worth keeping and who needs to be moved on. Surely there will be a trade or three in their near future. This writer thought that they may have made those moves this offseason.

How the Magic proceed will be fascinating.

Washington Wizards: B-

You can quite rightly quibble with the overall aims of the Washington Wizards as a franchise, but it’s tough to argue that their not meeting those goals.

The Wizards are clearly not interested in building any team that could be described as a contender. Instead, they want to compete year in and year out for a playoff position. Is that the right way to approach things? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not for us to decide. What can’t be argued though, is that the Wiz have put together a startlingly mediocre team.

Washington locked up their only genuine All-NBA level talent in Bradley Beal, though his $251 million deal is more than likely going to age like cheese in the sun. So much depends on the health of centre Kristaps Porzingis – a famously tenuous strategy.

The team have put some nice pieces around that pair, however. Monte Morris a fine backup point guard who can hold down a starting spot when required. They also added Will Barton in that same trade with the Nuggets to increase their wing scoring. It did cost them Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a solid two-way wing. Delon Wright is a versatile depth piece, capable of playing both guard spots and a little bit of small forward on occasion.

Washington didn’t make any serious moves in the front court, other than letting Thomas Bryant – redundant with Porzingis and Daniel Gafford on board – leave for the Lakers. Rather, they’re betting on some improvement from recent draftees Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert.

Speaking if draftees, Washington reached a little on Johnny Davis. The Wisconsin product projects as a player that can do a little bit of everything, without really excelling at anything. He has the poise of a veteran and isn’t afraid of the big moments. Whilst his absolute best case scenario might be a Malcolm Brogdon type, he’s likely closer to a facsimile of the departed Caldwell-Pope. There were better players on the board at pick 10.

All of those moves point to the ball being in Beal’s hands an awful lot in Washington this season. Whilst Beal will probably put up monster numbers, don’t expect the team to win more than 40 games.

That should get the Wizards into the playoff picture, which is just how they like it.


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