365beat体育 NBA analyst Mike Tuck previews the NBA’s Southeast Division, offers his prediction for division winners and invites you to have your say in our poll.
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Southeast Division: 2018-19 standings
- Orlando Magic – 42-40
- Charlotte Hornets – 39-42
- Miami Heat – 39-42
- Washington Wizards – 32-50
- Atlanta Hawks – 29-53
Jimmy Butler has got a lot to prove as the number one guy in Miami. He was never truly the first option in Minnesota. He was the closer for the Sixers but Embiid was the number one guy.
Now he's in a situation where he is 'the man'. This is what he wanted. He got a big pay-cheque and he has a team fully behind him. The Heat haven't had a superstar like that since the LeBron 'Heatles' era or prime Dwyane Wade.
Butler has his new home, he's the main man, can he lead Miami to 40 wins? I doubt it. Are they going to be a playoff team? Maybe they sneak the eighth seed.
For me, the Orlando Magic win this division, for sure. But I'm not sure I like their team that much.
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They picked up Al-Farouq Aminu when they already had Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. I thought that was weird because they now have three 'tweener' guys vying for minutes.
The Magic are one or two trades away from being very interesting. The biggest piece for them is Markelle Fultz. It's a make or break year for him and, as a consequence, for the team too.
Can Fultz step up and be the guy people projected him to be when he was drafted? Shoulder injuries can be tough to recover from and can be really detrimental to your shooting mechanics. From the videos I've seen of him training, his shot looks much improved from where it was before.
The mental challenge is the toughest thing for him. But he has it in him to meet that challenge. He has the athleticism and quickness to be a solid player in this league.
The Magic have last year's playoff experience behind them now. They had moments in the postseason. They showed they were defensively very solid in the second half of last season. That's a foundation, and if Fultz blossoms… let's see. Everything is set up for him to flourish in Orlando.
The Hawks are kind of similar to the Pelicans. They've got his young, exciting core who could potentially put it all together. They have coaches who will give those young guys the freedom to figure things out on the court. But they don't have a veteran core like backing up that youth like New Orleans, just Vince Carter who, at 42, is worth two veterans!
In the final third of last season, Trae Young really started to come into his own. His confidence was there and the Hawks gave him the green light. They won a lot of games down the stretch.
With the ball in Young's hands, it's going to be exciting for Atlanta over the next two or three seasons. Can they continue to build around their young guys? John Collins is great too, I love his game.