09-10 Southeastern Division Preview
Here at HoopsVibe, we love the fact that our readers are educated and knowledgeable about basketball, even so much that they challenge many of the things said by our writers. With the NBA season starting this week and Chris Sells making predictions on the order of finish for each division, we don’t expect that to change now. Leave your own predictions in the comments section and you might just earn the right to win a prize at the end of the season. That prize will be a pat on the back. From yourself.
Last year, the Heat were Dwyane Wade and everybody else. This was fine since Wade turned in an MVP-type performance. The question now is Can Wade do it again? Or will the roster offer enough talent that they won’t have to? Jermaine O’Neal claims he can be an All-Star again, Udonis Haslem has vowed to be more aggressive, Quentin Richardson probably hasn’t unpacked his bags yet and Michael Beasley has to prove he can overcome his offcourt demons. While the supporting cast is probably an improvement on last year’s, this team will clearly only go as far as Wade can carry them.
We all thought that this team was poised to surprise some people last season. I’m not willing to assume such things this year. Roster uncertainty and injuries have already set the team back a bit and being in a loaded division and a vastly improved conference won’t make righting the ship an easy task. When your best player (Gerald Wallace) is the type of guy who would be best suited as a third option on another team, you know you’ve got a problem or two.
You’ve no doubt read everywhere else about the team’s roster changes in response to getting rolled by the Lakers in the Finals. The Magic should probably worry about getting out of their own conference. Dwight Howard eschewed practicing post moves this summer in favor of shooting jumpers, Rashard Lewis got himself suspended for the first month of the season and Stan Van Gundy is still their coach. And you can only play with one ball at a time. But should Orlando find a way to work out its chemistry and not shoot itself in the foot, they should be fine.
Were you surprised when Antawn Jamison went down with an injury in the preseason? It was just like old times. Word is that Gilbert Arenas is healthy and he could have a Wade-like reappearance this year. The same thing was said last year, though. They robbed Minnesota for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, which gives them depth they’ve never had before if the team’s main players– Arenas, Jamison and Caron Butler– can get healthy and stay that way til May. The Wiz could surprise some people. However, two factors are working against them, should those things be true: Flip Saunders is their coach and they have a tendency to draw the Cavaliers in the Playoffs.
Joe Johnson is a really good player. We saw this coming years ago when he was ripping and running with the Suns. He’s by far the best player on the Hawks squad, which means the team is just good enough to be mediocre. Mike Bibby’s best years are behind him. Josh Smith has to prove his game involves more than amazing athleticism. Jamal Crawford hasn’t really played for a winning team before. Al Horford is nice, but he spends too much time playing center. I doubt the Hawks will be bad, but they won’t jump out at you either.
Projected Order of Finish
1. Orlando Magic
2. Washington WIzards
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Miami Heat
5. Charlotte Bobcats