The short answer is:
The Southeast Division has five teams, and they are: the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat, the Charlotte Hornets, the Orlando Magic, and the Washington Wizards.
Though most people refer to the NBA in terms of east and west, it’s actually a league broken up into separate, smaller divisions. All organizations are grouped locally, and teams tend to be with franchises that they have a long history with.
The following article analyzes the reason behind such groupings, and also studies how they shifted over time, by breaking down the Southwest Division. That analysis will go over the teams within the division, their individual rivalries, as well as why they were put there in the first place.
An Old System
Divisions are perhaps one of the most perplexing things about the modern NBA. The Eastern and Western Conferences split up the all star game, affect playoff seeding, and are the way just about every fan and analyst categorizes the league.
Even so, the divisions are a hold over from the days when teams needed to be closer together. By grouping organizations who were geographically near each other, it made it much simpler to plan games, figure out travel accommodations, and create rivalries.
Teams in the same division played each other more, which originally helped generate buzz and build the NBA. It also made it much easier for organizers to keep track of a rapidly growing league. By grouping up teams, they could hold a season without being overwhelmed.
It is that reason why divisions are so useful during a league expansion, and why they almost always come about when the NBA gets new teams.
The NBA has had divisions since its inception, but they do shift around every now and then. The Southeast Division is no exception. Created in 2004-2005, it was part of the restructuring that occurred when the NBA added the Charlotte Bobcats.
That pushed the total number of teams up to 30. To make sure everything stayed fair, the league split the two conferences into three separate divisions. The Southeast was one such grouping.
It started out with five teams: the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans), Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Washington Wizards. All are still there, which makes the Southeast one of the most constant divisions in the sport.
Lower than Most
While the Heat have seen some success throughout their organization’s history, the rest of the teams in the Southeast have not. The Wizards and Hawks both have one ring, but they did so under other names. The Hornets and Magic do not have a championship.
It’s also a turbulent division in terms of individual success. The Heat won it for four straight seasons between 2011 and 2014, but that was the only time any team has won it that many years in a row. The top changes quite a bit.
In that way, there’s a lot of fluctuation when compared to other divisions. Most groupings across the league have one or two winners that are always at the top. For the Southeast, there have been several times where teams have had their chance in the sun.
All five organizations have made the playoffs at some point, and they have all done well while there. Though it has been a while since the Wizards and Magic were strong contenders, history shows that it will only be a matter of time before either of them are back in the fray.
The Southwest Division has seen its ups and downs throughout its long history. It’s one of the more diverse groupings in terms of winners and losers, and that continues to this day. While some teams are at the bottom for a while, they always seem to float back to the top.