Atlanta Hawks: Activate the weak side of the floor for your stars
Even with a pair of All-Stars caliber players in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, the Hawks still can’t seem to produce quality offense. Currently, Atlanta posts a 112.9 ORTG, which ranks 21st in the NBA and is 1.8 points per 100 possessions behind league average. Part of the reason for the low number is the “your turn my turn” nature of the Hawks offense. When Young and Murray are on the floor together, one of them will operate the offense (usually Young) while the other stays stagnant along the wing or nearside corner.
The process from the Hawks is flawed. As we near 2023, most NBA teams have to get their stars going off the ball but Atlanta fails to do just that with each game. The Hawks are dead last in off-ball PPP at 0.98, a pathetic figure that has to be improved if the Hawks want to climb above .500 and into the playoffs. Ideally, Atlanta could activate Young away from the ball when Murray is initiating the offense. Young has the quickness, shooting ability and passing prowess to be a weapon coming off of off-ball screening action. If Nate McMillan is to last long term in Atlanta, he has to build in an off-ball playbook for his stars.
Charlotte Hornets: Phase out of the “older starting big man” era
Over the last two seasons, the Hornets have been blown out in the play-in tournament by the Hawks and Pacers. Heading into 2023 with a 10-26 record, Charlotte is choosing to rebuild the roster piece by piece before rising back up into the ranks of playoff contending teams. One piece of the Hornets back to back postseason failures was starting or giving heavy minutes to a center who was typically an older role player. Charlotte should be phasing out of this dynamic and into one where they can position young talent at the four/five position for future success.
From the likes of Cody Zeller to Montrezl Harrell for a brief stint and now still to Mason Plumlee, the Hornets always seem to have athletic run and dunk bigs on hand. This is a wise choice given LaMelo Ball is your franchise centerpiece. However, the Hornets must allow their young talent the opportunity to replace these kinds of bigs so they can grow chemistry with Ball. The 21-year old first round pick from Duke, Mark Williams should see a minutes increase from 11.3 into the 20’s. Additionally, boost the minutes of Nick Richards, as the third-year man has made the strides necessary to see more action.
Miami Heat: Re-establish what made them a force
After coming one game away from the NBA Finals for the second time in three years, this year’s version of the Heat have lost a lot of their luster. Big parts of the Heat’s runs were built off an elite defense, deep bench, and hot three point shooting. However, this season all of those numbers are down. Starting with the defense, Miami used to post top five defenses regularly but in 2022 they’re producing a 112.4 DRTG, good for eighth in the NBA. That’s still a strong figure for the Heat but a slip in defense without an uptick in offense signals overall regression. When watching the Heat, it’s clear their on-ball pressure and off-ball rotations have declined which has to change in some fashion heading into the New Year.
Miami’s offense is usually an average to above average one when their stars play up to par in addition to the bench shining. Since Erik Spoelstra made the move to fully integrate Tyler Herro into the starting lineup, the Heat’s bench production has fallen off a cliff. In 2021, the Heat were first in bench points, scoring over 40 PPG. But in 2022, Miami only scores 26.7 PPG from their bench, the second worst figure in basketball. Additionally, the Heat are shooting 34.2% from three which ranks 24th in the NBA and is way down from their usual top three ranking the last three years. The solution seems two-fold for Miami. First, Spoelstra must declutter the rotation and identify who out of their bench unit like Strus, Vincent, or Oladipo will step up. Once that’s figured out then maybe the Heat can make a second half surge.
Orlando Magic: Make this Paolo Banchero’s and Franz Wagner’s team
Of all the lottery bound teams, the Magic seemed like the squad most primed for a breakthrough year. After all, Orlando drafted rookie sensation Paolo Banchero and were ready to unleash year two of Franz Wagner. Both Banchero and Wagner have played great in 2022 but the Magic haven’t produced much to show for it. Orlando is 13-24 and in 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Maybe this isn’t the year for the Magic to rise in the East but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a massively productive season for their rebuild.
The way for the Magic to maximize 2023 to the fullest is to give Wagner and Banchero the keys to the franchise. Wagner ranks in the 75th percentile for offensive load this year while Banchero sits even higher up in the 82nd percentile in offensive load. This signals that the Magic already allow Banchero and Wagner to create a lot on the offensive end. However, heading into the New Year, they should ramp up the number of on-ball reps for both future All-Stars even more. Banchero and Wagner look like the two primary gems of this rebuild for the Magic. Therefore, it’s critical they get the lionshare of the touches so their potential is maximized.
Washington Wizards: Stop trying to contend and go into a rebuild already
It’s never been as widely accepted across the NBA landscape than it is today to tank for better talent. Even with the treasure chest of young talent available on draft boards expanding with every passing season, the Wizards are content to sit where they are and twiddle Bradley Beal’s prime years away. Despite the ugly 16-21 record, the Wizards are in fact still attempting to compete for playoff spots rather than rebuild. That much was evident when the Wizards were happy to give Beal a lucrative super-max contract this past offseason. Or when the Wizards traded for Kristaps Porzingus at last year’s trade deadline.
Washington’s duo of Beal and Porzingis, surrounded by an odd complexion of role players ranging from the flamboyant Kyle Kuzma to the steady Monte Morris, doesn’t seem too bad at first glance. The idea of a versatile team with a top half of the league offense led by two stars is there. However, as is the case for the Wizards franchise over the last decade, the execution is rarely smooth enough to see the vision through. It’s time for the Wizards to stop kidding themselves and follow what their fellow DC counterpart, the Washington Nationals did. Start over and rebuild the team from top to bottom by acquiring the pristine young talent future drafts will offer.