Catching Up on the 2017-18 NBA Offseason: The Southeast Division

Between the Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, and Wizards, who got better this offseason?

Last week, we began recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division. So far, we've covered the Atlantic, the Northwest, the Central, and the Pacific. Today, we shift our gaze to the Southeast Division.

The goal is for this series to serve as a helpful guide for catching up on the numerous changes that went on in the Association this summer, while comparing how each team's moves stack up against those made by their most direct competition.

For said comparison, we'll be using our proprietary metric, nERD.

If you're not familiar with nERD, it combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to win shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past).

For our purposes, we'll use last season's nERD scores for every player on the move, focusing on total nERD in and nERD out for each of the NBA's 30 teams (leaving out rookies, overseas imports, and G League players with two-way contracts, since we have no idea how much they'll contribute).

Now, let's see how things shook out in the Southeast Division this summer.

Atlanta Hawks

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Dewayne DedmonFA5.1Dwight HowardTrade7.8
Quinn CookFA-0.4Paul MillsapFA3.5
Luke BabbittFA-0.8Tim Hardaway Jr.FA1.1
Marco BelinelliTrade-0.8Thabo SefoloshaFA-0.1
Miles PlumleeTrade-1.1Ryan KellyTrade-0.4
Nicolas BrussinoWaiver-1.1Mike DunleavyWaived-0.5
Jose CalderonFA-1.8

nERD in:
nERD out: 9.6
Net nERD: -8.7

The Atlanta Hawks signaled their intentions to start a complete rebuild this summer and signaled them hard, Apart from trading Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets for scraps, they also let All-Star Paul Millsap and decent rotation pieces like Thabo Sefolosha (-0.1 nERD) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (1.1 nERD) walk in free agency for nothing. What they're left with is basically Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, and a roster filled with guys that would be eighth or ninth men on a playoff team.

Say what you will about Dwight Howard's decline and offcourt tomfoolery, but the guy still ranked 24th in our NBA Player Power Rankings last year with a nERD of 7.8 (seventh among centers). The loss of Paul Millsap was the headline, but losing both their bigs leaves the Hawks completely devoid of any past or present star talent. Dewayne Dedmon is a nERD darling (5.1 nERD) and he's a solid addition, but he isn't much more than an efficient role player and is not someone around whom you can build.

Don't let the somewhat conservative net nERD of -8.7 fool you -- the Hawks got a lot worse this offseason.

Charlotte Hornets

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Dwight HowardTrade7.8Christian WoodFA0.1
Julyan StoneFA-0.2Briante WeberWaived-0.4
Michael Carter-WilliamsFA-3.3Marco BelinelliTrade-0.8
Miles PlumleeTrade-1.1
Brain RobertsFA-1.3
Ramon SessionsFA-1.7

nERD in:
nERD out: -5.2
Net nERD: 9.5

The Hawks' loss is the Charlotte Hornets' gain. With a nERD of 7,8, Dwight Howard is the biggest difference maker acquired by any team in the Southeast Division this offseason. He's certainly past his prime, but Howard's still an efficient player who can contribute wins when he's healthy.

Meanwhile, five of the six players that the Hornets waived, traded, or let walk this summer registered a negative nERD last season. Even with the addition of an inefficient player like Michael Carter-Williams, the Hornets come out of the summer with a net nERD of 9.5, and could be poised to make a return to the playoffs after missing out a year ago.

Miami Heat

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Kelly OlynykFA1.9Willie ReedFA3.0
Jordan MickeyFA-0.4Luke BabbittFA-0.8
A.J. HammonsTrade-0.7Josh McRobertsTrade-1.1

nERD in:
nERD out: 1.1
Net nERD: -0.3

The Miami Heat were an inspiring story in 2016-17, going 30-11 in the second half of the season after a dismal first act in which they went 11-30. They made that turnaround with second-tier stars like Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, and a ragtag band of misfits and castoffs like Dion Waiters and James Johnson (both of which the Heat re-signed this summer).

Considering the unlikelihood of their turnaround and meteoric rise, it makes sense that the Heat would run it back again this year without messing around too much with the formula, just in case they managed to capture lightning in a bottle. They did make some minor moves -- like signing Kelly Olynyk -- but their net nERD of -0.3 suggests that this year's Heat will closely resemble last year's Heat in terms of their ability to win basketball games. Whether that means we'll be seeing the first half bottom-feeders or the second half playoff contenders (or somewhere in between) remains to be seen.

Orlando Magic

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Marreese SpeightsFA3.4Marcus Georges-HuntWaived0.0
Adreian PayneFA-0.1Stephen ZimmermanWaived-0.5
Jonathon SimmonsFA-1.9Patricio GarinoWaived-0.7
Shelvin MackFA-2.4Jodie MeeksFA-0.8
Arron AfflaloFA-3.9C.J. WatsonWaived-2.7
Jeff GreenFA-5.4

nERD in:
nERD out: -10.1
Net nERD: 5.2

The post-Dwight Howard Orlando Magic have been stuck in a five-year cycle of mediocrity. They've oscillated between stockpiling young talent and bringing in playoff-ready veterans, but none of the prospects has truly hit and they've never really gotten the best version of either of their vets. Whether the direction of the team during this recent span has been to fully rebuild or to make a push for the playoffs has never been truly clear, but they've failed to accomplish either up to this point.

This offseason certainly won't put them any closer to realizing either possibility. They added yet another player near the top of the draft in Jonathan Isaac, but most of their other transactions ranged from underwhelming to unnecessary.

They did manage to shed efficiency problems like Jeff Green (-5.4 nERD) and C.J. Watson (-2.7 nERD), but they brought in equally inefficient substitutes in Arron Afflalo (-3.9) and Shelvin Mack (-2.4) to replace them. The signing of former Spur Jonathon Simmons is somewhat intriguing, but that's literally the only thing worthwhile that happened for a team that desperately needs to make a splash.

The bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket is more wide-open than it's been in years, yet the Magic still might be on the outside looking in.

Washington Wizards

Player InHow?nERDPlayer OutHow?nERD
Jodie MeeksFA-0.8Bojan BogdanovicFA-2.8
Donald SloanFA-1.8Brandon JenningsFA-4.5
Tim FrazierTrade-1.9

nERD in:
nERD out: -7.3
Net nERD: 2.8

The Eastern Conference had a clear and obvious top four last season in the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics the, Toronto Raptors, and the Washington Wizards. While the Cavs, Celts, and Raps shuffled the deck this offseason (for better or worse), the Wizards barely changed in the slightest.

And that's a problem.

Washington boasted one of the best starting lineups in all of basketball last year with a net rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) of 8.1, but were sorely lacking in the depth department. Considering the fact that they lost arguably their best bench player in Bojan Bogdanovic, this summer and only managed to replace him and Brandon Jennings with three other below average role players, this season should be more of the same for Washington -- good enough to hang near the top of the conference with Cleveland and a re-loaded Boston squad, but not great enough to beat them.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Atlanta Hawks0.99.6-8.7
Charlotte Hornets4.3-5.29.5
Miami Heat0.81.1-0.3
Orlando Magic-4.9-10.15.2
Washington Wizards-4.5-7.32.8

As far as the Southeast Division is concerned, the Charlotte Hornets look to be the most improved team this offseason, since the Hawks got a lot worse and everyone else went with the status quo.

The Wizards are likely still the better overall squad, and the Heat are right there in their wheelhouse, but the Hornets are the only ones who got appreciably better this summer in adding Dwight Howard and discarding the most inefficient parts of their roster. Buzz on.