Tuesday 24 October 2017 / 01:04 PM

ALL-STAR BREAK REVIEW: SOUTHEAST DIVISION

We’ve reached the All-Star Break, that wonderful halfway point of the NBA season where teams get over a week off, things get festive, and the trade deadline looms. Teams now have to look at whether they’ll make that playoff push, or head down the tank.

And to get you caught up to speed, we’ll be reviewing how each team has stacked up this season compared to expectations, and where things are heading after the All-Star Break. This time, the Southeast Division.

Washington Wizards (34-21, 3rd in East)
Preseason Pick: 10th in East

Yeah, we whiffed pretty hard on the Wizards. In my defense, the duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall are (1) never healthy and (2) never play well together. They’ve gone scorched earth this season, though. The Wizards duo, along with growing young guys in Otto Porter and some solid play from Morris and Gortat, are putting together a great run after a rough opening month. This is the Wizards team we thought they could be all those years.

Biggest Question of the second Half: Can it sustain? Simply put, this Wizards team has cracked under the pressure many, many times before. From injuries to chemistry, there are many reasons to discount the Wizards going forward. But you can’t discount what they’ve done so far, and thumping the Pacers is great way to go into the break with some confidence.

Better or Worse Than We Thought: Better

Atlanta Hawks (32-24, 5th in East)
Preseason Pick: 7th in East

The Hawks aren’t going to wow anyone, but the unit has performed much better than I would have expected a Horford- and Korver-less Hawks team to. Maybe it’s a testament to the coaching they have in Coach Bud, or maybe it’s just Dwight Howard. Howard has been insane this year, almost as good as he was in Orlando. And the Hawks just keep winning, even though many didn’t think they could. They’re a decently deep team, and pretty solidly competitive.

Biggest Question of the second Half: Is this like every other year? The Hawks have been middling in NBA purgatory for a while. Good enough to be kind of relevant, bad enough to not create buzz. This is the story of this season too. The Hawks aren’t scaring anyone, and is there any way to get this roster more competitive in time for playoff time? Howard can’t will them to a playoff win against a serious challenger.

Better or Worse Than We Thought: Better

Miami Heat (25-32, 10th in East)
Preseason Pick: 12 in East

The Heat have rebounded and are pushing to the postseason. They looked just awful at the start of the year, but have embraced the less-talented players on the roster to start winning again. Dion Waiters has revived his career, Dragic has been otherworldly, and Hassan Whiteside does what he always does. The Heat are a legit playoff contender, and for a team missing its best player and losing the heart of the franchise, that’s not bad.

Biggest Question of the second Half: Is this a good thing? Look, this is getting into some lines that maybe aren’t best touched on here. But is it the best thing that the Heat makes this push? The team needs some more talent, and you aren’t going to find it on the fringe lottery picks. Being bad at least would get them a nice young player, but hanging around 8-10 doesn’t really get you anything other than an early playoff exit.

Better or Worse Than We Thought: Slightly Better

Charlotte Hornets (24-32, 11th in East)
Preseason Pick: 5th in East

The Hornets had everything you wanted in a team ready to take another step: deep, intact roster, top-five in the East point guard, revitalized fan-base, solid coaching, and some added talent. Unfortunately, outside of Kemba Walker, exactly none of that has panned out. Nic Batum has played well, but the large contracts of Marvin Williams and the gamble on Marco Belinelli haven’t yielded great results as the Hornets have bottomed out in the last month and a half. They’ve dealt with injuries to their second best player in Cody Zeller, and they’ve massively underperformed.

Biggest Question of the second Half: Can Zeller get healthy? I’ve never seen a more “meh” player mean more to a team. Cody Zeller is the lifeblood of the Hornets, and his absence has put them 2-12 in games he’s missed. For those doing the math at home, they were 22-20 with him. They need him back to be a playoff team, because they shouldn’t be sitting this far back in the East after last season.

Better or Worse Than We Thought: Worse

Orlando Magic (21-37, 14th in East)
Preseason Pick: 13th in East

Turns out all that big money committed to the front court in Orlando wouldn’t really pan out. Ibaka has been dealt, and the Magic are reportedly shopping some other pieces. Still, the roster is weird, and they don’t have much to show for the talent they were collecting prior to this latest rebuild. They aren’t getting blown out of games, but there just isn’t a lot of talent on the roster.

Biggest Question of the second Half: What’s next? That’s the million-dollar question. If not for the Nets, this team would be sitting at the bottom of the East. Still, they are right there with Philly, and the Sixers are promising. There’s loads of talent on this roster, but we’re deep into year four of this rebuild, and there needs to be some kind of game-plan going forward.

Better or Worse Than We Thought: Same

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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