- The Hornets are favored to win the Southeast Division by multiple online sportsbooks
- Charlotte has a 1.5-game lead over the second-place Miami Heat
- The Hornets are 2-0 against the Heat this season
Few teams have embodied mediocrity more this season than the Hornets, who are two games below .500 and have lost five of their last ten games. Every time Charlotte puts together a two-game winning streak, as they did last weekend, they immediately follow it up with a two-game losing streak. It’s just been that kind of year for James Borrego’s thoroughly uninspiring squad.
Despite their many failings, the Hornets are still favored to win the NBA’s Southeast Division. They are as short as even money at some sportsbooks. It’s worth noting that the Hornets and the Heat had identical +175 odds as recently as December 28th.
2019 NBA Southeast Division Odds
|Team||Odds at Sportsbook 1 (02/12/19)||Odds at Sportsbook 2 (02/12/19)|
It may be tempting to snap Charlotte up now given the fact that they have a 1.5 game lead over Miami, but we believe there are three reasons to bet big on the Heat.
1. Dion Waiters Has Returned
Miami’s MASH unit got a little emptier in early January with the long-awaited return of Dion Waiters, who had been recovering from ankle surgery. Downhill Dion gives the Heat a player capable of generating his own shots, as evidenced by his 24-point outburst against the Warriors on February 10th.
Dion Waiters had it clicking last night vs the Warriors, finishing the game with a season-high 24 points (6 3PT FG) & 4 assists.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 11, 2019
Waiters is still rounding into form after months away from the game, but he’s precisely the kind of fearless shot maker Miami had been missing during the first half of the season.
2. Goran Dragic Will Be Back Soon
Miami’s season took a tun for the worse in mid-December when Goran Dragic underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The All-Star point guard was averaging 15.3 points and 4.9 assists at the time and was the fulcrum for the Heat’s offense. Not surprisingly, Miami lost five of its next eight games and failed to break the century mark in three straight outings.
INJURY UPDATE: Goran Dragić underwent successful surgery this morning to clean up his right knee.
Dragić is expected to be out until approximately the NBA All-Star break. https://t.co/egn0fsu8GX
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 19, 2018
The good news for Miami is that Dragic’s rehab has gone well and the 32-year-old is expected to return to the lineup after the All-Star break in late February. The Dragon should help goose Miami’s offensive efficiency and improve the team’s spacing with his frantic dribble-drives.
3. Justise Winslow Has Been Ballin’
The one upside to Dragic’s injury has been the emergence of Justise Winslow, who has taken the reins as the team’s de facto point guard. The 22-year-old Dukie has averaged 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game in Dragic’s absence, scoring 20 or more points on seven occasions. Winslow was especially dynamite on January 25th as he poured in 27 points and 7 rebounds in a 100-94 win over the Cavs.
Is that Justise Winslow? pic.twitter.com/wVgB7mT30A
— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) January 12, 2019
Winslow’s offense has been welcome, but his real value has been on defense, where he’s used his muscular 6’7″, 225 lb. frame to bully smaller guards and prevent them from getting clean looks at the basket. The former first rounder ranks second on the Heat in steals and is among the team leaders in defense rating and defensive box plus/minus.
Udonis Haslem, who has been with the Heat since 2003, believes Winslow is primed to become the team’s next leader. “I see it,” Haslem has said. “I see him stepping up. I see him getting better. I see him being more vocal. I see him putting guys in their spots. I see him holding guys accountable. I see the progression stages with him in that.”
Past Southeast Division Champions
The Heat is On
Miami is far from a perfect team – as their middling 25-30 record clearly indicates – but fortunately they don’t play in a perfect division. The Southeast has been historically bad this season, with all five teams sporting sub .500 records. The Heat will get to beat up on all of ’em before the season is done, and they’ll finally have the benefit of fielding a healthy team when they go into battle.
The return of Waiters and Dragic is all the Heat need to push them ahead of the Hornets for their fourth division title in the past six years. Bank on it.
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