Back again to see who could dethrone the Milwaukee Bucks after starting with the Central division Tuesday. I will be looking around the East, with part two consisting of the Southeast Division today, and seeing who has a real chance to stop the Bucks, and why. For the rest, I will be creating best case (sometimes beyond best case) scenarios to see if they even have a realistic chance of stopping them. The Southeast Division has polarity, with some very strong teams, and some very bad teams. Let’s dive in and see what it would take these five teams to stop the Bucks.
Orlando, I think obviously, has the worst chance of any team to overtake the Bucks. I’m not going to waste much time here, but with arguably their two best players injury prone (plus Markelle Fultz injured currently), it will be tough for Orlando. Still, here is how they could overtake the Bucks (please don’t laugh at me).
Rookie Jalen Suggs wins Rookie of the Year, and is basically the best rookie since LeBron James. Rookie Franz Wagner gets a close second in voting. Gary Harris lives up to his potential, as does Markelle Fultz who only misses the first month of the season with his knee injury. Jonathan Isaac shows he can slow down Giannis effectively. Terrence Ross wins 6th Man of the Year. Massive development from Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba also occur, and the Magic have a 9-10 deep roster. They then move two of those four players for another star (remember, we are assuming Suggs will be one) like Bradley Beal, and all of a sudden the Magic are formidable.
Even with all of that happening, which means everything has to go beyond perfection for Orlando, it will still be hard for them to beat the Bucks. I would say their likelihood is almost impossible. The likelier scenario is more tanking, which they need to do.
My Odds: 25,000/1
Washington is already without Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, so this is not going to be as easy. But, I do like what they have done in the post-Westbrook/Wall era, and they are going to still be a good offense. Here’s how they stop the Bucks.
For one, Bradley Beal needs to keep being Bradley Beal, and stay on the Wizards. Spencer Dinwiddie needs to show he is healthy, and Hachimura and Bryant can’t be out for long. When they do get back, they need to team up with Montrezl Harrell to form a very talented and underrated frontcourt. Speaking of Harrell, he needs to win sixth man, and if not, Kyle Kuzma does. Davis Bertans needs to play defense. Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert and Aaron Holiday need to take steps forward. Someone else needs to show that they are a star alongside Beal.
This team is only going to be able to stop the Bucks with offense, and that gives them a chance. Imagine if the Bucks go cold like they did against Brooklyn, this team could put them away.
My Odds: 500/1
Unlike the Bulls from my Central Division post, I really believe in the Charlotte Hornets, which may sound odd to many of you. It will especially seem odd that they have the same “odds” according to me, but they match up due to high expectations for the Bulls from most of the community, and low expectations from Charlotte. This might be the best team they have ever had, and let me tell you why they have a small chance of being really good and stopping the Bucks.
LaMelo Ball will need to become the best point guard, or at least top five, in basketball. Gordon Hayward needs to continue to show he is worth his $30 million as well as Nic Batum’s contract. Terry Rozier needs to be a scoring machine when on the court. Kelly Oubre needs to be a positive addition, and either Mason Plumlee or rookie Kai Jones needs to show they have upgraded at center. PJ Washington needs to forget about Brittany Renner, and continue his upward trend. James Bouknight needs to be a dark horse ROY candidate. LaMelo and/or Gordon Hayward must make the All-Star team.
Rozier being a scoring machine? Doable. Plumlee/Jones better than Zeller/Biyombo? Definitely possible. PJ getting better? Yes. Bouknight being a dark horse ROY candidate? Depends on his minutes, but doable if he gets them. Aside from having Ball and Hayward among the best players in basketball, this is all doable, and that is why they have a small but visible chance of stopping the Bucks.
My Odds: 50/1
The Heat are another team I’m not really big on like everyone else. Without Victor Oladipo, they really only have seven proven NBA players, and with the age of some of these players, that can cause wear and tear. But, I will show you how the Heat could defy Father Time and stop the Bucks.
The main thing the Heat need to do is stay healthy, and also play like they are in their primes. Jimmy Butler will be Jimmy, and Bam will be Bam, but the rest of the team needs to wind back the clock or push it forward. Kyle Lowry needs to continue to play like an All-Star. PJ Tucker needs to be productive and not just provide intangibles. Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson will need to show they can do much more than shoot three’s. And they also will need some of their deep bench to step up, like KZ Okpala or Gabe Vincent, and get meaningful, quality minutes.
I just don’t see the Heat being able to do this, but they still are the Heat, and I have to give them some benefit of the doubt. Most people would put them at 5/1 odds or better.
My Odds: 10/1
I won’t spend much time with the Hawks, as they had a lead on the Bucks in the postseason last year. Trae Young playing like an MVP will be a good start, and the team playing like they did with Nate McMillan as coach all season will help. Having steps forward by players like DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish will be big, and no step backs by veterans like Danilo Gallinari or Clint Capela will also help. In reality, they don’t need to do much, they just need slight internal improvement. I just believe the Bucks are ultimately better.
My Odds: 3/1
So as you can see, the Southeast Division is much more viable than the Central, and the two main threats here are the Hawks and the Heat, with the Hornets in a relatively distant third. But, if you combine the odds of the Heat and Hawks, you get approximately 43-44% chance, which is definitely a concern. If you throw in the fact that many “buy” the Heat more than I do, that number likely jumps to over 50%. Still, we know here in the smart state of Wisconsin that the Bucks are the better team in these matchups, and they proved it last year. Can they prove it again? We’ll have to see.