LA Confidential: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly - Eastern Conference (Southeast Division)
- By Jron Magcale, Day 1, 2026
Atlanta Devils (King-O-Matic Projection: 43 Wins; 6th in the East)
The Good: Everybody in this roster is due for a developmental bump as their oldest player is wing Ruben Wingate and the nest oldest is well Isaac Foster at 27 then Taquan Slattery at 26. That means most of the players here are in the same timeline. They did well last season considering they missed Slatts for 24 days. This time a healthy Slatts a developing backcourt of Kendrick Hill and Dominique Harmon, wing Kenny Robertson and the frontcourt rotating tandem of Derrick Aririguzoh and Connor Maitland will play vital role for the Devils this season. The team will still heavily rely on Slatts but that doesn't mean Hill or Harmon should not use this season to take significant leap.
The Bad: They have been cruising in mediocrity for quite sometime now. Health issues and circumstances plays a factor and they need to push to at least secure homecourt this season or they will need to make a move to make changes in the near future. Questions whether their backcourt fits their system has been asked but with a dominant big such as Slatts they need to go on his direction to maximize his use and potential. Will a system change or personnel change do this team any good? Remains the question.
The Ugly: This team is setup for the next 2-3 seasons with their contracts which secures the team operating on that same core. But rumors are rising that if the Devils still can't escape the bottom playoff seeding purgatory that Slatts may want to ask out of ATL. The reality is there is he hasn't asked anything regarding moving out of ATL but more of projecting. Slatts is in his contract year and being an FA might be enticing for Slattery to at least look at what's out there. Slatts is ambitious and at the end of the day he will decide on what's best for him. That is the reality that ATL is facing. GM OG has made a good job keeping the Devils roster competitive and together but this is a crucial season for him to decide which direction to go for the future of Slattery and the Devils.
Charlotte Drones (King-O-Matic Projection: 42 Wins; 7th in the East)
The Good: The Drones looking good for the 2026 season as they were able to keep their core together and still have room to make moves seeing their cap isn't like the other contending teams. The team looks forward to DeAngelo Tarver to have a better season that the last while the expects to Raefael Williams II to take the leap now that it is his contract year. Veteran forwards Lucas Rush and Devan Carroll are the older statesmen in the team and can still produce at a high quality while center Khalen Anthony is showing signs of what he can do late last season, expect the Drones to still be a factor in the eastern conference despite the strength of teams now in the East.
The Bad: They need to escape the mediocrity purgatory like the Devils. They have the talent and the personnel to take the the team further to the homecourt territory in the playoffs they just need to figure it all out. Tarver and Anthony needs to consistently perform, RWII needs to take the alpha role while Rush and Carroll needs to play their role flawlessly, their bench is still an issue that needs fixing but they aren't short on talent and doesn't have cap problems which means they can make a move or 2 to position the Drones to eastern conference elite status.
The Ugly: They are on a crossroad on what to do next season. Immediate goal is to lock RWII long term which is doable via extension next is do the team thinks both Carroll and Rush can be a long term part of the team at ages 31 and 30? They still have value and they still plays quite well but do they need to move one of them to add asset for the future or ride it out after all they have both players team option which is helpful moving forward. It is unknown what they will do after this season but reality is staying the same can give you same results.
Miami Cyclones (King-O-Matic Projection: 39 Wins; 9th in the East)
The Good: Exciting time to be a fan in Miami as the team is set to have a solid leaders in Ainsley Tucker and Josh Gamble while having youth foundation pieces in Pape Diop, Vacha Alston, Stefan Milosavljevic, Josh Potter, Dallas Kabengele and even Latavius Murray all of them are 21 years old or younger. Gamble is star and Tucker is a perfect compliment to him, Diop's potential is something the team hasn't had since Gamble and can very well develop into one of the elite scoring wings when all said and done. The bottomline is Miami basketball will be fun to watch!
The Bad: Despite having the 28 year old Ainsley Tucker this team is relatively young and still developing. Backup PG Ashley Winters is the oldest player at 31 and as previously mentioned their youth core is 21 years old and below. They will have to show teeth early if they want to compete but there will be a developmental curve that will be evident. They will be fun to watch but they will also struggle at times this season. Will Gamble and Tucker be enough for a playoff berth this season? It will definitely help the young core get playoff XP.
The Ugly: Truth is Miami is still in the middle of building the team, the issue I see is timeline one of their biggest piece Tucker is 28, their franchise player is 24 and everybody else is 21 or younger and timeline is a fair issue look at. Tucker is at peak, Gamble approaching peak and the kids is still figuring it out, will it be an issue that the team will have in the future? Tucker might demand to have more help if they start slow and that could cause problems down the road. Gamble needs to lead this team flawlessly to have a big season.
Nashville Stars (King-O-Matic Projection: 32 Wins; 13th in the East)
The Good: Coming off a solid offseason trading for C James Spencer and signing veterans Rubin Wingfield and Reggie Coleman, the Stars looks to improve from their last season's campaign. Bamba Diouf is ready to start his sophomore campaign with help and mentorship of Wingfield, while Jordan Timberlake hopes to improve shot selection and efficiency, Deon Hellums will split time with Coleman at SF while Colton Gregory at 4 will work better now that James Spencer is at the 5 position. Their depth will be better with Wing, Coleman heading the 2nd unit. This seems to be a promising team to follow, GM Phayd seems to want to develop Diouf fully which means we'll see a pace & space system to be employ in Nashville to maximize his skill set and Spencer is a perfect center for that system.
The Bad: Aside from Spencer, Wing and Coleman this team is young and rely heavily on their youth as we saw last season. If that is the case this season will duplicate what last season was. Diouf needs to learn more under Wing and that means splitting the minutes more with him, we saw what happened when Diouf was forced into major minutes, JT needs to be better shooting and while they brought in Spencer to snag rebounds from their misses they will struggle if their system doesn't fit the personnel.
The Ugly: Truth of the matter is that it will take time for the Stars young core to figure things out. Diouf is 20, Gregory is 20, Hellums is 21 and JT is 22. They have the same issues with Cyclones as Spencer is a piece for teams who wants to win now as he is 28 years old already, right now he will be tasked to be the team's leader while the rest of the young squad matures and develops. It will take time for the Stars to really compete especially in the hardened Eastern conference.
New Orleans Hurricanes (King-O-Matic Projection: 32 Wins; 15th in the East)
The Good: Hurricanes made moves last offseason that landed them the 4th overall pick along with their 2nd overall pick and used that to pick scoring wing Jae Lawson out of Oregon (#2 pick overall) and HS to pro big man Lamont Woodson (#4 pick overall) to be the main part of the team's future core, they traded away former franchise centerpiece Leon Bowen and looks like looking to build their future rather than compete now. With Bowen's departure scoring wing Deron Bentley will take the load as the team's leader he along with rookies Lawson and Woodson will be the team's core. Seems like the team is all set for their future and from this season forward they will focus on development.
The Bad: The team is rather young now, they did sign veteran wing Shandon James but suffered an injury in the offseason that will sideline him for 2 months more, this means that the team will rely heavily on a young forward rotation with Lawson (22), Kiris (23) and Jalan Howard (24). 18 year old center Woodson will likely struggle this season and if that happens their season should go for a rocky start. Youth movement is real in New Orleans now.
The Ugly: Deron Bentley is in contract year, the 6'7" wing will have to decide after this season if he wants to be this team's leader moving forward or join a team that he will play an important role? He has the chance to be this team's franchise player if the management see fits but let's face if he leaves, the Hurricanes will struggle a lot and they can't afford to struggle next season because they moved their own pick to OKC to acquire Woodson. They can't win on pure potential alone, so they need a plan to at least be competitive next season.