As we cross the midway point of the offseason, we're taking a week-long look at the biggest offseason move by each team. Up next? The Southeast Division.
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The 2017-18 season was somewhat of a down year for the teams of the Southeast. The 44-win Miami Heat earned the division title despite having the sixth-best record in the conference while the eighth-seed Washington Wizards were the only other Southeast team that advanced to compete in the playoffs. Both teams fell in the first round.
Elsewhere, the Charlotte Hornets (36-46), Orlando Magic (25-57) and Atlanta Hawks (24-58) all failed to qualify for the postseason and looked to improve through lottery picks in this year's draft and new coaching hires.
From Atlanta's mid-summer dealings to Washington's acquisition of Austin Rivers, here is what each Southeast team has done to improve this summer...
MORE BEST MOVES: Pacific Division | Southwest Division | Northwest Division | Central Division | Atlantic Division
Biggest move: Trading Dennis Schröder
Schröder had a great tenure in Atlanta. The Hawks qualified for the playoffs four out of the five years and the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 18.6 points and 6.3 assists per game in his two years as the full-time starter. It was just time for a change.
Early in the offseason, the point guard went on record saying that he would like to be traded. When the team granted his wishes, the deal wound up being beneficial for all parties involved. The Hawks were able to shed Schröder's salary, facilitate Carmelo Anthony's move to the Rockets and, most importantly, officially hand the keys to No. 5 overall pick Trae Young.
Atlanta made it clear that Young, who will be 20 on opening night, is the team's point guard of the present and future. In a separate move, the Hawks acquired guard Jeremy Lin, who can be a great mentor for Young. Along with 2016 lottery pick Taurean Prince and 2017 first-round pick John Collins, the Hawks are shifting towards an exciting new brand of basketball under new coach Lloyd Pierce.
Biggest move: Holding on to Kemba Walker
Walker is much more than the Hornets' lone All-Star. The seven-year vet is the heart and soul of the team, the franchise's leading scorer and arguably the best player to ever don the purple and teal.
Entering the offseason, numerous rumours involving Walker began to surface, but he responded by telling Michael Scotto of The Athletic he plans to be with the Hornets for a "long time." This is great news for the Hornets, as Walker was the team's leading scorer (22.1 ppg) and assist man (5.6 apg) in 2017-18. His scoring numbers were good for 16th league-wide.
As long as Walker is in Charlotte, the Hornets have the makings of a playoff team. With him on the court last season, they outscored opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions. When Walker was on the bench, that number fell to -7.8.
Biggest move: Re-signing Wayne Ellington
It was essential for the Heat, who did not own a pick in the 2018 draft and are over the salary cap, to keep last year's team intact.
Ellington developed into one of the league's premier 3-point shooters, sinking a career-high 247 triples in the 2017-18 season. His total figure was the sixth-highest total in the league and the most ever made by a reserve. In the 28 games in which Ellington connected on four or more 3-pointers, the Heat had a record of 20-8.
With the imminent return of Dion Waiters, who missed 52 games and the playoffs after ankle surgery, the potential return of Dwyane Wade and the re-signing of Ellington, Miami will essentially roll out a deeper version of the squad that won the Southeast crown in 2017-18. Assuming tensions between management and centre Hassan Whiteside have subsided, the Heat will contend to win the division once again in 2018-19.
Biggest move: Re-signing Aaron Gordon
In a league where length and athleticism rules, Aaron Gordon leads a frontcourt that will soon also feature Jonathan Isaac and 2018 draft pick Mo Bamba.
Gordon entered the offseason as a restricted free agent set to garner plenty of interest on the market, but less than 24 hours into free agency, he announced that he would remain in Orlando. The swiftness with which contract terms were agreed upon speaks volumes about Gordon's commitment to Orlando, and the Magic's belief that the franchise's future begins with him.
When healthy, the 22-year-old was the bright spot in Orlando's 25-win season, averaging career-highs in points (17.6 ppg), rebounds (7.9 ppg) and assists (2.3 apg) over 58 games. Gordon has also developed as a 3-point shooter, knocking down two 3s per game at a respectable 33.6 percent clip in 2017-18. With Gordon's game trending upwards, an influx of youth and a new head coach in Steve Clifford, things are looking a bit brighter in the Sunshine State.
Biggest move: Acquiring Austin Rivers
From a 38-year-old Andre Miller in 2015 to Ty Lawson in 2018, Washington has constantly been in search of a guard to lead its second unit when All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal sit down. While not necessary a point guard in the traditional sense, Rivers automatically moves to the top of the list of Wizards reserve guards since drafting Wall.
Last season with the Clippers, Rivers averaged 15.1 points and 4.0 assists while starting in 59 of the 61 games he appeared in. In Washington, Rivers will likely lead the second unit but also see time alongside Beal, Wall or both in a three-guard lineup.
Rivers is just one of a number of more under-the-radar offseason splashes the Wizards have made that could very well pay dividends. After losing Wall for half the season due to a knee injury, the Wizards will likely be cautious with their franchise player. Expect Rivers to see time in the starting unit if Wall or Beal miss any time.