Southeast Division Preview

by

ORLANDO MAGIC

Offseason Summary – Major changes for an NBA Finalist. They traded their primary playoff playmaker and their two best perimeter defenders, Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee. They also lost their part-time starting point guard, Rafer Alston, and short minutes back up big man, Tony Battie. That said, this team is stacked. They picked up Vince Carter to give them their first elite swingman since McGrady left and picked up Matt Barnes, increasing their overall athleticism. They got Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson, and kept Marcin Gortat for great front court depth.

Probable Starters

PG Jameer Nelson
SG Vince Carter
SF Mickael Pietrus
PF Rashard Lewis
C Dwight Howard

Key Reserves

C Marcin Gortat
PF Brandon Bass
G/F Matt Barnes
PG Anthony Johnson

It looks like the EC Champs got better over the summer. They will miss Hedo. They will miss Lee. If Nelson is back to his best though, they should be improved. Carter is still a great player when healthy. They have crazy depth all over the place. Dwight, Marcin, and Foyle at center. Rashard, Bass, and Anderson at power forward. Carter, Pietrus, Barnes, and Redick at the swing positions. Nelson, Johnson, Jason Williams, and Tyrone Lue at the point. They can score from everywhere. They can defend everywhere. No significant weaknesses and enough help behind the stars to survive a few minor injuries. They could easily break the 60 win mark and find themselves back in the NBA Finals.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Offseason Summary – The Hawks made some fairly minor changes this summer. They kept the core of their 4th place team together. Back up point guard Acie Law was lost, and rookie point guard Jeff Teague was drafted. The let Flip Muray go and picked up Jamal Crawford. Mike Bibby had a good season last year, and as long as he doesn’t have much of a drop off, the team looks to be much the same as last year.

Probable Starters

PG Mike Bibby
SG Joe Johnson
SF Marvin Williams
PF Josh Smith
C Al Horford

Key Reserves

C Zaza Pachulia
G/F Maurice Evans
SG Jamal Crawford
SG Juan Dixon
PG Jeff Teague

The Hawks have strong continuity. They have athletic wings, a steady point guard, good size up front, and Joe Johnson gives them terrific versatility on the perimeter. Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Marvin Williams all have room for growth. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they have little hope of breaking into the top three or making the EC Finals barring a significant injury to the Cavs, Celts, or Magic. Jeff Teague could add a little extra playmaking and maybe help to push the pace a little and get some of those athletic wings involved in the offense. Most of the team remains young, so the future is still bright. Probably.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Offseason Summary – The Wizards stand to improve dramatically. Essentially they added Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Fabricio Umberto, and head coach Flip Saunders. They MAY actually be the most talented team in the division. But that’s a big “MAY.” Is Gilbert Arenas still the Gilbert Arenas he was pre-injury? Can he stay on the court and out of the trainer’s room? They lost Etan Thomas, Antonio Daniels, and Juan Dixon, but what they have now looks like a great mix. On paper.

Probable Starters

PG Gilbert Arenas
SG Mike Miller
SF Caron Butler
PF Antawn Jamison
C Brendan Haywood

Key Reserves

G/F DeShawn Stevenson
C JaVale McGee
SG Randy Foye
PG Mike James
PF Andre Blatche
G/F Nick Yong
C Frabricio Omberto

Do you see that depth? If this team’s stars are really stars, if they can all stay healthy and mesh under Flip Saunders, they have the total talent to be among the best in the East. I’m not really sure who they are going to start at the 2 spot. It might make sense to keep the superior defender, Stevenson, on the floor. There are too many question-marks with this team right now to rank them any higher, but they have the potential to surprise everyone and show up in the EC Finals.

MIAMI HEAT

Offseason Summary – A lot of talk but not a lot of results this summer. They did not bring in Carlos Boozer. They did not land Lamar Odom. They lost Luther Head, Shawn Livingston, Jamario Moon, Marcus Banks and Mark Blount. Like several teams this season, the Heat are saving their pennies for the summer of 2010 when it’s time to re-up Dwyane Wade and try to get another top notch player. They have Robert Dozier from Memphis and Patrick Beverley from Arkansas joining as rookies.

Probable Starters

PG Mario Chalmers
SG Dwyane Wade
SF Michael Beasley
PF Udonis Haslem
C Jermaine O’Neal

Key Reserves

SG Daequan Cook
C Joel Anthony
PG Chris Quinn
G/F Quentin Richardson
G/F Yakhouba Diawara

Miami next year promises to be the same as Miami last year. Wade will be called upon to play miraculously. When Beasley plays well, they will look like world-beaters. When Beasley doesn’t play well, they will look like a pretty lousy team. They have a plethora of swingmen who are good but not great in Diawara, Richardson, Cook, James Jones, and Dorrell Wright. They have very little depth at the point, and they have depth but little talent at the center unless Jermaine makes a return to his Indiana Pacers form. It looks like the Heat are in a holding pattern. They ought to be good enough to make the playoffs again, but with the Wiz promising to improve dramatically, they will likely be fighting for the last two spots.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Offseason Summary – The Bobcats swapped former #2 pick Emeka Okafur for former #2 pick Tyson Chandler this summer. Defensively they stand to get a little better with this exchange, but Chandler’s offense isn’t quite as developed as Okafur’s. The Cats drafted Gerald Henderson, a scoring guard out of Duke, and Derrick Brown, a tweener forward out of Xavier. They only have 12 players on the roster right now, but they showed some improvement mid-season last year under Larry Brown. The hope appears to be for internal improvement and to save some money in this new economic landscape.

Probable Starters

PG Raymond Felton
SG Raja Bell
SF Gerald Wallace
PF Boris Diaw
C Tyson Chandler

Key Reserves

PG D.J. Augustin
F Vladimir Radmanovic
C Nazr Mohammed
SG Gerald Henderson

This is a team that’s light in talent and light in depth. They have a nice defensive foundation and a coach to put their skills to use, but their overall team talent is not there. Discipline and teamwork may put them in a lot of games, but they may not have the fire power to actually win many games. If Augustin can make strides he may become the starter before long and could in fact send Bell to the bench in favor of a 2 point guard lineup. I’m a fan of the Cats and the city of Charlotte, but this team looks like it’s treading water, asking too much of too few players and expecting miracles out of its big-named coach. The playoffs look to be out of reach yet again.

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