Only two NBA teams had better records than the Miami Heat at the end of the 2022 season. Neither of those teams, the Phoenix Suns and the Memphis Grizzlies, played in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The Heat finished the 2022 NBA season with a 53-29 record, which was good enough to put them 10 games ahead of the second-place team in the Southeast Division, the Atlanta Hawks. Expectations are high that the Heat will finish the 2022-23 NBA season as the best team in the Southeast.
Miami’s success during the 2022 regular season continued into the 2022 NBA playoffs, where the Heat made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics beat Miami in that series, but Miami extended Boston to seven games, losing 100-96 in the final game of the series.
With the 2022-23 NBA regular season opener fast approaching. It’s time to look at how the NBA’s Southeast division will play out for the upcoming season.
2023 NBA Southeast Division picks
|To Win 2022 NBA Southeast Dvision|
The Miami Heat have a good mix of veterans and younger players in their core five. Jimmy Butler, who averaged a team-high 21.4 points per game on 33.9 minutes, is 33 years old. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry, who led the team in assists (7.5) and steals (1.1), is 36. Lowry played an average of 33.9 minutes per game as well. Meanwhile, Tyler Herro, who had career highs in minutes (32.6), field goal percentage (44.7), three-point percentage (39.9), free throw percentage (86.8), rebounds (5), assists (4), steals (0.7) and points (20.7), is just 22. The team’s other young star, Bam Adebayo, who had a career-high 19.1 points per game, turned 25 in July.
Miami should be able to cruise to a Southeast Division title, but the team is going to need to balance the workload of its top veterans and figure out a way for them to peak in the playoffs.
The Atlanta Hawks look like the only team in the Southeast who might give the Heat some difficulty. The Hawks have a star in 24-year-old Trae Young, who was tied for fifth in points-per-game in the NBA last year with 28.4, which was an improvement from his 25.3 in 2021, but shy of his career-high of 29.6 in 2020. However, Young played in 76 games last year so his overall points total of 2,155 was a career high.
Atlanta brought in Dejounte Murray from San Antonio Spurs in a trade that cost the team three first-round picks and all-star Danilo Gallinari. With Murray joining Young, the Hawks have the first pair of teammates in NBA history who each averaged 20 points and 8 assists per game the year before. The 26-year-old Murray had a career-high 21.1 points per game last year on 34.8 minutes per game. He led the Spurs in both those categories, as well as assists (9.2) and steals (2.0).
The Hawks paid a big future price for Murray, so the expectation is that he will make the team better from the first game of the season and also make the club more competitive with the Heat.
I don’t think the Miami Heat will finish the 2023 season 10 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks, but I think the best bet for the NBA’s Southeast Division in 2023 is that the Miami Heat will finish at the top of the division.
Pick: Miami Heat to win the Southeast Division for the 2023 NBA season.
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