The NBA’s Southeast Division has been a fascinating piece of the NBA puzzle this season. This features three teams battling for play-in positioning while the other two are scouting who could be in the top half of the draft lottery. This is an example of why the NBA removed the rule of a division winner getting a top 3 seed in the playoffs. Heading into the unofficial second half of the season let’s check in on the progression and expectations for these teams moving forward. Here are the Southeast Division first-half report cards

Miami Heat, 30-25, 7th in Eastern Conference

The Miami Heat have been a contender in the Eastern Conference since Jimmy Butler joined the team in 2019. They have made two NBA Finals and another Eastern Conference Finals in this time. Butler along with Bam Adebayo have been the cornerstones of this franchise. Just like any contenders, the fringes of this team will make the difference come springtime. Tyler Herro is back after breaking his hand in round 1 against Milwaukee. The Heat have added Terry Rozier via trade and Delon Wright from the buyout market to replace Kyle Lowry and Gabe Vincent. Jaime Jaquez has stepped in and added another reliable wing with Caleb Martin in their rotation. There will need to be a combination of Kevin Love, Josh Richardson, Orlando Robinson, or Nikola Jović to add depth to their rotation. Miami was the 8 seed and could put together a similar run this playoffs.

Grade: B-

Orlando Magic, 30-25, 8th in Eastern Conference

Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner Continue to Earn Big Praise From NBA  Universe |

One of the pleasant surprises of this NBA season has been the Orlando Magic. Paolo Banchero played in the All-Star game at 21 years old. Franz Wagner looks like a foundational franchise piece alongside Banchero. Jalen Suggs has evolved into a reliable 3-and-D player. Leading the team with 1.4 steals per game and making 38.4% of his 3-pointers. This young core is bound for at minimum a play-in appearance. Any experience will help put this team on the map and allow veteran players to see their potential. They may be ahead of schedule but this season has been a glimpse of a possible contender for years to come. 

Grade: A

Atlanta Hawks, 24-31, 10th in Eastern Conference

The Atlanta Hawks sat in the position at the NBA Trade Deadline where it looked like they might trade Dejounte Murray and recoup assets from the trade in 2022. They held on to Murray and looked to hold on to their spot in the play-in tournament. The Hawks have secured the 8 seed via the play-in tournament the last two seasons. The core of Trae Young, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and De’Andre Hunter remain from the team that made the Eastern Conference Finals. Jalen Johnson has emerged averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds this season. Under Quin Snyder Atlanta has underachieved but still has potential. The Hawks and Chicago Bulls feel destined for an underachieving play-in game with elimination on the line. 

Grade: C

Charlotte Hornets, 13-41, 13th in Eastern Conference

The Charlotte Hornets have impressive vibes for a team that has barely won double-digit games this year. Brandon Miller has been the bright spot as he’s averaged 16.6 points on 38.6% 3-point shooting. LaMelo Ball has been out since January 26th but has participated in practice and looks close to a return. Miles Bridges has returned from last year and averaged 21.5 points and 3.4 assists. Grant Williams has brought a new life to a team after leaving a play-in contending Mavericks squad. This team has no track record of developing many players through the draft but they will get another kick at the can this June.

Grade: D-

Washington Wizards, 9-45, 14th in Eastern Conference

Thanks to the Detroit Pistons the Washington Wizards aren’t the only team battling to win double-digit games this season. At the trade deadline, they sold off pieces like Daniel Gafford and Danilo Gallinari to teams that are contending for more than a draft pick. The pair of Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole remain but they don’t appear to be franchise-altering players. There are pieces like Tyus Jones, Denis Avdijia, Corey Kispert, and Bilal Coulibaly that can make an impact as rotational pieces. There is a clearer direction for this franchise since trading Bradley Beal. But this is just the beginning of the rebuild in Washington.

Grade: F

The Southeast Division might not be a juggernaut but the one thing it has for sure is intrigue. Three teams battling just to secure a chance for a chance to make the playoffs. While the two bottom feeders do have intriguing prospects whether current or future. Is there a chance we see an NBA Finals representative from this division? That’s a question for the Miami Heat but the Orlando Magic are just scratching the surface. Check out Area 51 Sports Network’s NBA coverage during the stretch run of the season.