Saturday, November 1, 2008

NBA Preview; Southeast Division

Orlando Magic
Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Projected Finish: 53-29
Projected Starters
C – Dwight Howard (14.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
PF – Rashard Lewis (4.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
SF – Hedo Turkoglu (30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg)
SG – Mickael Pietrus (11.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PG – Jameer Nelson (17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.3 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Keith Bogans
F/C - Tony Battie
This team proved the critics wrong last year who said that they could not play with both Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu in the starting lineup. Neither player is close to being a power forward, and in may ways have the same skill set. But when you have arguably the best center currently playing in the Association in that same lineup in Howard, one can get away from a traditional lineup. Two big questions remain; Does "The Batman" veteran power forward Tony Battie have anything left in the tank? The other question is have Cleveland and Philadelphia now surpassed Orlando in the Eastern Conference pecking order?

Atlanta Hawks
Coach: Mike Woodson
Projected Finish: 50-32
Projected Starters
C – Al Horford (10.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
PF – Josh Smith (17.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg)
SF – Marvin Williams (14.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.7 apg)
SG – Joe Johnson (21.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.8 apg)
PG – Mike Bibby (13.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 6.0 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Acie Law
G/F - Maurice Evans
There are a certain group of teams, I have always referred to as "Toxic Franchises." These teams find themselves most often in the NBA Draft Lottery, and usually ending up with the eleventh or twelfth selection. They may for a time period make the playoffs, but they are usually eliminated in the first round. They are never close to winning anything. You know the teams I am referring to; the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, (sorry to our buddies at 3 Shades of Blue but unfortunately true) Charlotte Bobcats.

Every once in a while a team gets to climb out of that primordial ooze, and become legitimate contenders. I covered the Cleveland Cavaliers in both phases. Before the arrival of the "Chosen One" you could hear the squeak of the players' sneakers in the nose bleed seats. When providence shined down on the Cavaliers, and they drafted LeBron James they had instant credibility. The Hawks have gone around the task in another way, building around a free agent young star in Joe Johnson and then augmenting him with the NBA Draft, and trades. Still not sure whether Bibby is a good fit for this team, short or long term. The Hawks did not deserve to make the playoffs with their horrible season record. But they showed they belonged by taking the eventual NBA Champions Boston Celtics to seven games. The Hawks have arrived!

Miami Heat
Coach: Erik Spoelestra
Projected Finish: 46-36
Projected Starters
C – Udonis Haslem (12.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
PF – Michael Beasley (Rookie)
SF – Shawn Marion (15.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SG – Dwyane Wade (24.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.9 apg)
PG – Mario Chalmers (Rookie)
Key Reserves
G - Chris Quinn
G- Shaun Livingston
C - Mark Blount
Yes, I am well aware of how the Miami Heat played last season. Yes, I realize that a lot of NBA prediction columns are putting the Heat dead last. Yes, I realize that outside of Mark Blount, they have no true center, and their starting lineup is unconventional to say the least. But look at the talent! D-Wade being back healthy will add easily another 10-15 wins from last season's "lost season." Watch out for Miami, they will surprise a lot of folks.

Washington Wizards
Coach: Eddie Jordan
Projected Finish: 44-38
Projected Starters
C – Etan Thomas (6.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
PF – Antawn Jamison (21.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SF – Caron Butler (20.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG – DeShawn Stevenson (11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.1 apg)
PG – Antonio Daniels (8.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.8 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Juan Dixon
G - Nick Young
The greatest team that almost was? The Washington Wizards should have at least made the Eastern Conference Finals by now with all that talent. Injuries, however have made the team a first round victim three years straight. Agent Zero again has problems with the knee that has plagued him for the last two seasons. The window of opportunity is closing quickly.

Charlotte Bobcats
Coach: Larry Brown
Projected Finish: 37-45
Projected Starters
C – Emeka Okafor (13.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg)
PF – Sean May (11.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg)
SF – Gerald Wallace (19.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG – Jason Richardson (21.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg)
PG – Raymond Felton (14.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.4 apg)
Key Reserves
C - Nazr Mohammed
F - Adam Morrison
The question now becomes will Brown turn the Bobcats around and get them into the post season, before his insecurities, and ego have him looking for a new home? No one will ever deny at Larry Brown is one of the best game day coaches of his generation. However because of those inner demons, he keeps on running. Brown has the goods with the Bobcats to make the team a contender. Two young stars in Wallace and J-Rich, a more than serviceable point guard in Felton. And a player who has truly never lived up to his potential in Okafor. Does Brown make him a power forward instead of a center, something Emeka is probably more suited for? One thing for sure with Brown, you will never be bored!

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