NBA Southeast Division Sees Three Teams in Title Contention

Posted on: March 9, 2023, 11:07h. 

Last updated on: March 9, 2023, 12:11h.

With a month remaining in the NBA regular season, one division is still wide open. The Miami Heat are the consensus favorite to win the Southeast Division at -500 odds, and they’re ahead of the Atlanta Hawks (+350) and Washington Wizards (+2000) at DraftKings. If the season ended today, all three teams would be headed to the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament to determine the #7 and #8 seed in the playoffs.

Southeast Division NBA odds Jimmy Butler Miami Heat Trae Young Atlanta Hawks
Point guard Jimmy Butler (right) from the Miami Heat defends point guard Trae Young (left) from the Atlanta Hawks in a Southeast Division game at American Airlines Arena in Miami. (Image: Getty)

The Southeast is the weakest division in the NBA this season and the actual odds don’t reflect the tight nature of this divisional race. The Heat (35-32) hold a 1.5-game lead over the Hawks (33-33), and are only ahead of the Wizards (31-35) by 3.5 games.

The Hawks and Wizards each have 16 games remaining on their schedule while the Heat only have 15 games left.

The Heat are currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and trail the sixth-place Brooklyn Nets by three games, which means they’re most likely headed to the Play-In Tournament. The Hawks occupy eighth place while the Wizards are in 10th place.

FiveThirtyEight predicts the Heat will win the division and finish the regular season with 43 wins, followed by the Hawks with 42 wins, and the Wizards with only 39 victories.

Not Exactly a Lock: Heat -500

The Heat are the defending Southeast Division champions and have won the divisional crown eight times in the last 12 seasons.

After last year’s success with the #1 seed, the Heat were the team to beat, according to the preseason narrative. The Heat were installed as the betting favorite to win the Southeast Division at -165 odds while the Hawks were their closest competition at +170 odds. The Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, and Orlando Magic were afterthoughts as long shots.

The Heat stumbled out of the gate with a 2-5 record, which set the tone for the first quarter of the season. It took until December 17 before they had a winning record (16-15) for the first time this season.

The Heat found their groove in January. They ascended as high as fourth place in the conference standings before they hit a wall prior to the All-Star break and began a four-game losing streak. In their last 10 games, the Heat are 3-7 and have slipped to seventh place.

The front office didn’t make any major moves at the trade deadline, despite rumors the Heat was courting Bradley Beal from the Wizards. The Heat acquired power forward Kevin Love after the deadline in the buyout market. Love joined the starting lineup, but hasn’t made much of an impact by averaging only 7.6 points per game.

With 15 games to go, the Heat have a slightly easier schedule than the Hawks and Wizards, which is why they’re -500 odds to win the Southeast Division.

The Heat’s opponents have a .484 combined winning percentage. They play four games against the worst teams in the conference, with two games each against the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic.

Value Town: Hawks +350

It’s never a dull day in Atlanta with the Hawks. The franchise switched coaches in the middle of the season for the second time in the last three years. After Nate McMillian took over in the middle of the 2020-21 season, the Hawks won the Southeast crown and got hot in the playoffs thanks to several sensational performances from guard Trae Young. McMillian guided the Hawks to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals, but that would be the apex of his tenure.

McMillian and Young had a well-publicized falling out this season and the front office sided with Young. The Hawks didn’t wait until the end of the season to fire McMillian and brought in Quin Snyder for the rest of the season. The Hawks hope history can repeat itself and that a new coach will inspire the team and conjure up another deep postseason run.

The Hawks earned the #8 seed last year through the Play-In Tournament but made a first-round exit in the playoffs. The top-ranked Heat knocked out the Hawks in five games.

This year, the Hawks and Heat are on course to meet in the Play-In Tournament to determine the #7 seed. The Heat beat the Hawks to win the regular-season series 3-1 and they don’t face each other in the final month of the season.

The Hawks have 15 games remaining and the most difficult schedule out of their divisional foes. Their opponents have a .510 winning percentage, and the Hawks have to play the Boston Celtics (twice), Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, and the surging Golden State Warriors.

Despite a tough schedule, the Hawks offer value to win the division at +450 odds because they’re only 1.5 games behind the Heat and have an additional game to catch them.

Live Long Shot: Wizards +2000

The Wizards are on the right side of the playoff bubble but are still in a dangerous position. They’re only a half-game behind the Toronto Raptors (32-35) in ninth place. However, the Chicago Bulls (30-36) and Indiana Pacers (29-37) are still in the hunt for a spot in the Play-In Tournament. The Wizards have a one-game lead over the Bulls and hold a two-game lead over the Pacers.

The Wizards lost a close game against the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night by two points. That meeting had playoff vibes and the two teams will square off twice more this season. The Hawks host the Wizards again on Friday in another must-win game for Washington.

With 16 games to go, the Wizards’ opponents have a .506 winning percentage. The Wiz will play three games against the worst teams in the NBA, including the San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, and Houston Rockets.

The Wizards have several tough games ahead of them, including matchups against the 76ers, Cavs, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Denver Nuggets. Two of their final three games of the season are against the Hawks and Heat, which could determine the Southeast Division title and the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Wizards have a 28% chance to qualify for the playoffs.

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