NBA offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Southeast Division

NBA offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Southeast Division

On the cusp of a new campaign, we’re recapping the summer moves made by each NBA franchise, whether through the draft, trades, or free agency.

The clear class of the Southeast Division, the Miami Heat parlayed a historic NBA Finals run into one of the league’s most interesting offseasons. However, despite a long-standing interest in acquiring Damian Lillard, the Heat ended up with nothing, a decent piece of symbolism for the overall summer of the conference’s worst division last year.

All in all, the only team that added a projected starter in free agency was the Washington Wizards, and that’s in large part due to a complete and dramatic rebuild taking shape. Outside of John Collins being shipped out by the Atlanta Hawks and a handful of lottery picks being selected, the rest of the moves in the Southeast can be classified as under-the-radar, to be polite.

Be sure to check out our breakdowns for all six NBA divisions.

Atlantic | Central | Southeast
Northwest (Oct. 7) | Pacific (Oct. 8) | Southwest (Oct. 9)

Miami Heat

Last season: 44-38 (.537), lost in NBA Finals

Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Miami’s offseason was entirely defined by what it didn’t do rather than what it did. For months, it was seen as a near formality that the Heat were going to sell the farm in a trade for a disgruntled superstar in Lillard, adding him to a core of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo that upset its way to the NBA Finals last season. Instead, Lillard was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks, putting Miami in an unexpected spot.

It’s pretty evident that the Heat got worse this offseason from a personnel standpoint, losing two critical cogs in their playoff push, with Strus and Vincent using strong late-season performances to earn big paydays. In their places comes a veteran in Richardson – a former second-rounder by the Heat who made a name for himself in their development system – and Jaquez. The latter has drawn tons of excitement from the franchise as a perfect culture fit and someone who can play a big role right away.

Still, the objective was to provide this team with a third star to prove that last postseason could be replicated throughout the new campaign. Barring a massive jump in Tyler Herro‘s all-around game, that probably won’t happen, and it puts a damper on a team that had as much momentum as any organization in the league.

Grade: C

Atlanta Hawks

Last season: 41-41 (.500), lost in Eastern Conference first round

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport / Getty

After years of the idea being floated, the Hawks finally dealt away Collins in what was essentially a salary dump. Though his lack of versatility on both ends of the floor hampered Atlanta at times, the athletic swingman’s departure opens up a forward spot that at one point reportedly could’ve been filled by Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam.

Therefore, the big question about Atlanta’s offseason remains what happens at the four with Collins gone and Siakam seemingly not on his way through the door. Jalen Johnson showed enough promise as a rookie that he could step in immediately, or the team could choose to play small ball and start Saddiq Bey alongside De’Andre Hunter. If that unproven position isn’t figured out, it would be easy to look back at the offseason and wonder whether a move for an established forward could’ve made a difference.

On the flipside, the Hawks decided to bet on internal growth in the backcourt by extending last summer’s big-name acquisition, Murray. They also added an impressive rookie in Bufkin, whose ability to play both guard spots makes him a strong fit off the bench when one of Murray or Trae Young sits. Offseason acquisitions Matthews and Mills complement that young backcourt as two of the older players remaining in the NBA.

Grade: B

Washington Wizards

Last season: 35-47 (.427), missed playoffs

Ryan Stetz / National Basketball Association / Getty

With a new front office running the team this summer, the Wizards decided to start from scratch by trading away a longtime franchise icon in Beal along with Porzingis. Going all-in on a direction is a major shift from recent seasons in Washington, where the team finished between second and fourth in the division 11 of the last 12 years. Though it’ll most likely be a rough stretch for the franchise, the teardown is at least the start of a new era.

Washington’s three main pillars for the start of its rebuild were all factors this offseason. The lone key returnee is Kuzma, who’s had a sizeable scoring uptick since joining the franchise. Though it may have made sense to move on from the 28-year-old who doesn’t fit their new timeline, he’ll serve as a bridge between the old squad and the new while keeping them above the cap floor. He’ll be flanked on the wing by a 19-year-old wing in Coulibaly, a super raw prospect who’ll be able to learn through his mistakes in Year 1.

The most intriguing piece of the bunch is Poole, a gifted scorer who served as an enigmatic presence on the Golden State Warriors. While his shotmaking and confidence won his old team a handful of games, his inefficiency and decision-making also cost them plenty. He’ll be on the shortlist of players who could lead the league in points per game next season now that he doesn’t have to share a backcourt with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. But whether he can reel in his game and become a key part of a winning team will truly determine how successful Washington’s offseason was.

Grade: B+

Orlando Magic

Last season: 34-48 (.415), missed playoffs

Candice Ward / Getty Images Sport / Getty

All in all, it was a quiet summer in Orlando, with the team making very few moves in free agency. With one of the NBA’s youngest rosters in tow, the Magic chose to sign an experienced veteran in Ingles while shedding a piece of their youth movement in Bol. While neither the loss of Bol nor the addition of Ingles will have major implications on the team’s success, it’s worth noting that Orlando is seemingly rounding out the edges of a core it expects to compete in the near future.

In lieu of the free-agent market, all of the Magic’s big moves took place in the draft. On the surface, both of their lottery choices could be confusing. By choosing Black at No. 6, the team invested in another big point guard with shooting struggles alongside the developing Markelle Fultz. And by taking Howard at No. 11 to be a floor-spacer on a squad devoid of shooting, they passed on the draft’s presumed best two shooters in Gradey Dick and Jordan Hawkins.

In a small Summer League sample size, both picks showed off why Orlando made its selections. Though Black wasn’t hitting jumpers, he displayed his burgeoning all-around game to the tune of 11 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. And Howard proved his worth as a sniper by knocking down 40% of his 20 long balls across three games. With few other moves to speak of, it’ll be the play of Black and Howard that ends up defining the Magic’s offseason.

Grade: B

Charlotte Hornets

Last season: 27-55 (.329), missed playoffs

Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Much like the Magic, the most notable portion of the Hornets’ offseason was during the draft. While many were in disagreement with Charlotte’s decision to select Miller over now-Portland Trailblazers point guard Scoot Henderson, it’s clear that the organization saw a versatile wing that projects as an elite shooter for his size. Questions remain about the Alabama product’s ceiling due to athletic limitations, but for a franchise that’s struggled to simply remain competitive since moving back to Charlotte in 2004, he offers a high floor as a scorer.

Miller likely slides into the role that Oubre held prior to Charlotte letting him go. The new Philadelphia 76ers forward averaged 20.3 points per game last season, a number Miller can approach as a rookie. Plus, he’ll almost surely top Oubre’s poor 32% mark from deep. In the same vein, Ntilikina will play a similar part as Smith did off the bench last season, combining pesky defense with a slashing offensive game.

Charlotte’s last notable move was more of a formality, but it did retain star Ball on a max extension. Though he was limited to just 23 games last season, it’s clear that the Hornets have one of the game’s great talents at the one-guard spot, a three-level scorer with top-tier vision. With only the additions of Miller and Ntilikina filling key roles from outside sources, the Hornets will hope that simply having Ball healthy for a majority of the campaign will be enough to vault the franchise back out of the division’s basement in 2023-24.

Grade: C+

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