We continue our division-by-division look at the best moves each team has made here on Basketball Insiders by taking a glance at the third and final group of five in the Eastern Conference.
One blockbuster trade, two returning faces and a couple of new veterans highlighted the summer of the Southeast.
Here are six moves that should impact the direction of the division.
John Wall signs extension with Washington Wizards
While one of the East’s top point guards is unsatisfied with his situation and asking for a trade, another just got paid a lot of money to stay with the team that drafted him.
One week ago, it was reported that Wall agreed to a four-year, $170 million supermax contract extension to remain with the Wizards as the face of their franchise. The deal includes a player option for the final season (2023-24) and a 15-percent trade kicker. Washington confirmed the agreement Wednesday.
By locking up Wall, the Wizards have kept together a dynamic backcourt between himself and Bradley Beal for years to come. As you’ll read later in this piece, they were able to bring back another key piece of their young core for the long haul as well.
Aside from a head coaching change last summer, Washington has been one of the most stable organizations in basketball. Teams around them have made dramatic changes to bolster their respective rosters, but the Wizards have gone with the approach of sticking with their guys that have been with them from the start.
Entering his eighth year as a pro at the young age of 26, Wall hasn’t even come close to reaching his ceiling yet. He’s about to hit his prime. For the first time in his career, the All-Star point guard averaged over 20 points and more than 10 assists per game last season. He did this on a career-high 54.1 true shooting percentage to boot. If Wall can get a little more consistent from deep, it’ll be very difficult to exploit a weakness in his game.
Following years of mediocrity after the Gilbert Arenas era, Wall was the one to start the renaissance in D.C. It’s only right that he gets to continue that with a team that is certain to be a contender this upcoming season and beyond it.
Charlotte Hornets acquire Dwight Howard and No. 31 overall draft pick from Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and No. 41 overall draft pick.
Talk about a trade that was a complete heist for Rich Cho.
Knowing that the Hawks were going into a rebuilding stage with the loss of Paul Millsap, Charlotte jumped in and pounced on the first opportunity they saw to land Howard.
It was a steal for the Hornets, who will be the big man’s fifth team in his career, but the trade made sense even if Atlanta’s return wasn’t the best. With a slew of promising young talent about to gain meaningful experience in their development, Howard was no longer a fit. The homecoming only lasted one year, but this next opportunity should excite him.
Joining forces with Kemba Walker and Nic Batum might take some getting used to, however, the transition might not be so hard. Steve Clifford, who previously worked with Howard for six years when he was an assistant with both the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, will reunite with him as the head coach of the Hornets.
Howard doesn’t have the same legs as he did when the two were last together, but he’s a perfect fit for the style Clifford wants to play. Charlotte is a team that hangs its hat on hard-nosed defense and toughness, and the 31-year-old veteran can bring that. He still crashes the glass with aggressiveness (ranked fifth with 12.7 rebounds per game) and can finish inside like he always has.
The Hornets have been looking for a true center for a while now. It’s understandable to be a little skeptical considering Howard’s bounced from team-to-team over the last few years, but something about this situation seems too ideal for it to flop.
Washington Wizards match Brooklyn Nets offer sheet and re-sign Otto Porter
The Georgetown alum stays true to his city’s roots and earns a huge payday in the process. $106 million over four years to be exact.
Just like Wall and Beal, the 24-year-old Porter is going to be a part of something special in D.C. For the first time since the mid-2000s, the Wizards have an established trio with a ton of talent.
Last season was a breakout one for Porter, speaking from every aspect of his game. The most eye-opening improvement was his confidence shooting the basketball from three, which leaped from 36.7 to 43 percent in just one year. His assertiveness and discipline on both ends of the floor were vital to Washington’s success during the season and in the playoffs.
In his fourth year in the league, Porter placed fourth among those playing over 30 minutes per game in true shooting percentage (62.8). That ranks above superstars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden.
Furthermore, Porter was the best catch shooter in the NBA with a 47 percent clip on five or more attempts per game. He also had the fourth-highest catch-and-shoot three-point percentage (44.4) amid players taking four or more shots from the perimeter per contest.
If this past season is any indication of where Porter can go in his career, the Wizards will have themselves a special player to pair with a star-studded backcourt, and it won’t be long before they’re the elite of the East.
Orlando Magic sign Jonathon Simmons
Based on value alone, this was an excellent addition made by the new front office duo of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond.
Simmons is one of the up-and-coming two-way wings in this league, regardless of being older than most players with as little experience as he has.
His athleticism is off the charts and he’s proven he can be a solid scorer with a bulldog mentality. When Kawhi Leonard went down for the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, Simmons showed multiple times that he wasn’t afraid of the spotlight.
The championship DNA he’ll bring to Orlando for Frank Vogel will prove to be beneficial for a young Magic team searching for success. He’ll be a great mentor for Jonathan Isaac and will lead by example.
The chase-down blocks are fun to watch, but Simmons is a consistent energetic defender that will help on that side of the floor tremendously. He’ll give you some memorable highlight dunks to pair with Aaron Gordon’s flash as well.
Miami Heat re-sign James Johnson
A deal like this has been a long time coming for Johnson, who has matured immensely as a person and as a ball player.
In an expanded role under Erik Spoelstra, Johnson flourished as one of the toughest and most important members of the Heat. His veteran leadership and on-court contributions were one of the main reasons Miami didn’t throw in the white towel after an 11-30 start to the season.
After a career-year as an offensive threat, the 30-year-old’s defensive prowess has only gotten better as the years have gone on. Look for his success to continue.
Orlando Magic sign Marresse Speights
Similar to signing Simmons on the cheap, the Magic got Speights on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum. As talented as he is as a scorer in bunches, the addition makes a ton of sense.
Speights has played a bench role for the majority of his career, but there’s no doubt how quickly he puts points on the board and gets those rebounds, too. That’s without mentioning his willingness to shoot the three nowadays.
There are three franchises that can realistically compete for first place in the Southeast division. The entire trio may even find a way to make the playoffs in a declining Eastern Conference.
There’s a lot of potential in this division and it’s only going to get better from here.
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