Friday, October 31, 2008

2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Southwest

1. Orlando Magic: I'm not sold on Orlando being a title contender, but I think they will finish at the top of this lackluster division. This team can score with the best of them, and they have Superman who is one of the best big men in the game. My main gripes with this team is their lack of depth/bench, their lack of a reliable point guard, and their lack of a secondary big man to play alongside Dwight Howard. I just don't like the idea of playing Rashard Lewis at PF full-time. Also Lewis and Turkoglu are basically redundant players. While I like the addition of Pietrus, who gives them a rugged defender and another outside shooter, it doesn't solve any of the above problems. It will be interesting to see if Reddick gets significant minutes off the bench. Can Battie provide a solid lift off of the bench? And can Nelson be a leader for this team; their only backup point guard is Anthony Johnson.

2. Atlanta Hawks: In my opinion, the next 3 teams are pretty interchangeable. None of them will really challenge in the East, but could be borderline playoff teams. The lose of Childress will hurt this team. Evans and Murray will try to fill the void left behind by Childress. Similar to Orlando, they only have one reliable big man in Al Horford. I like this guy's upside, and think that the more touches he gets on offense, the better this team will be. Josh Smith is a freakish athlete who puts up ridiculous numbers. But I mainly see him as a complimentary player. Johnson is a stud as their #1 scorer and leader. It'll be interesting to see how Bibby performs in his first full (and perhaps) last year with the Hawks. He could be the difference-maker. Him taking on the point guard role, allows Johnson to concentrate more on scoring. Will Acie Law be able to step up and be a reliable backup point guard? This needs to be the year that Marvin Williams steps up and shows Atlanta why they passed on Paul and Deron Williams.

3. Miami Heat: Any team with D-Whistle has a good chance to make the playoffs. This team's success will pend on the play of their rookies: Beasley and Chalmers. I'm happy to see that they decided to hand Chalmers the keys and let him run this offense. They aren't going anywhere with Quinn or Banks. Beasley and Marion are somewhat redundant talent, so I think they may hurt each other's value. It's not clear which of them will play the SF spot and which is the PF. Haslem playing the C is undersized and will struggle against Western teams. The alternative, Blount, is a bum, however. An injury to any of their main players will cripple this team severely. They have little to no depth. I don't see this team as being very good defensively, but they have nice scoring potential. I say this team will get better as the season progresses. And it's impossible for them to perform as badly as they did last year, right? Also Tinsley/Marbury = bad idea!

4. Washington Wizards: This team can never stay healthy. I don't think we'll get a chance to see what this team can really do this year. Arenas is out until December or January, and Jamison already gave the team an injury scare. Haywood will miss probably the whole season also. Butler is quickly becoming the franchise face and their best player. But he also is injury-prone. When healthy, however, their big 3 is tough to beat. They have some interesting pieces on the bench with Nick Young and Andray Blatche. But any team that has to start Antonio Daniels is not going to go very far in the playoffs. Will McGee get any playing time? He looked pretty solid in preseason. Etan Thomas with his recent heart problems is iffy at C. As you can see this team has a lot of question marks, and they really haven't made any significant changes since last season. As such, I foresee another first round lose to Cleveland. Jay-Z > Soulja Boy.

5. Charlotte Bobcats: Ugh. This team is just awful. The signing of Larry Brown as their head coach is not going to change that. I think they made a huge mistake in passing on Brook Lopez to pickup DJ Augustine. This team desperately needs an inside scorer to complement Okafor. Sean May is injury prone and out of shape and Mohammed is not the answers at C. Gerald Wallace is a freak of nature who will put up huge numbers when he is healthy. J-Rich was surprising efficient last year, but I don't think he'll match those numbers this year. Felton is an X-Factor at the PG situation. His jump shot is horrible, but his passing and leadership are key. Augustine to me looks like a replacement for Earl Boykins. It'll be interesting to see if Adam Morrison can bounce back and be productive this year. But as you can see, their roster is not really exciting. This team is lottery bound, for sure.

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