The NBA's Southeast division looks more and more like a two-team race for the 2022-23 season. The Heat and the Hawks are expected to be playoff teams and both were part of the 10 in the conference that won at least 43 games last year.
Why should we look at it as just those two teams? Well, the Hornets, Wizards and Magic may find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in, which makes this division most likely a Hawks and Heat chase.
We talking division winners here, not the play-in tournament, so we just have to be realistic.
After winning 51 games last year and taking the No. 1 seed in the East, Miami is once again the favorite to win the Southeast at -180 on FanDuel, with Atlanta coming in at +180. After that, there's a major drop off, with the Hornets (+1400), Wizards (+3000) and Magic (+16000) far behind in both expectations and odds.
Atlanta adding Dejounte Murray signaled a clear desire to win now, while the Heat keep their core together from last year's Eastern Conference Finals squad. Over the last three seasons, it's alternated between the Heat and Hawks sitting at the top, but both bring some major questions into the year.
For one, will Miami start to see age catch up to them? Jimmy Butler is 33, and Kyle Lowry is now 36, and both are vital to this team's success, especially Butler.
Will Atlanta rebound from taking a step back last year? Asking that question tends to first get answered with the addition of Murray helping that growth, but don't think there won't be some adjustments with him and Trae Young in the backcourt together.
In the end, it's better to lean on the team that had the best record in the conference last year, but make no mistake, the Hawks have a chance to overtake the Heat this time around. Leaning Miami here is still the best bet, but Atlanta's value still brings a tempting opportunity.
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