For our third installment of the Pre-Draft analysis we will finish the Eastern Conference and look at the Southeast Division.
ORLANDO MAGIC- Coming off a surprising trip to the NBA Finals and the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic have created a great team. But with fans in Orlando now wanting a championship more than ever, they look to build off last season’s success. Their concern is back up center and free agent Marcin Gortat and more important the impending opting out of the final year of his contract in Hedo Turkoglu. Fresh off a great season, Hedo will be cashing in on a fancy new contract. The Magic must keep Turkoglu or risk moving backwards instead of forwards. The top of the Eastern Conference is already tough with Cleveland and Boston, and Orlando would fall from that category if they lose Hedo. This means the Magic will have to let Gortat walk, and he will end up getting a mid level deal, teams like New York and Memphis have expressed interest. Orlando has no first round pick this year, so bolstering their roster will have to be done through free agency and mid level deals.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS- At the end of last season the Bobcats made a strong push for the playoffs but ultimately fell short. The east will be competitive again next year and the current roster in Charlotte just isn’t good enough to crack the post season. One of the Bobcats main problems is picking between D.J. Augustine and free agent Raymond Felton. They also have decisions to make on the disappointing Sean May and Sean Singletary. They have a solid shooting guard in Raja Bell, however he is aging. Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace are strong pieces to build around for the future. They also have another good shooter in Vladimir Radmanovic and a decent low post presence in Nazr Mohammed. These are pricey contracts, which leaves the Bobcats in a tough position. Ideally they would like to move one of these big contracts but with the economy today this might prove hard to do. I see the Bobcats trying to make a run at either Ben Gordon or Allen Iverson, as Iverson has expressed interest in playing for Larry Brown again. This would give them some of the scoring they lost in the Jason Richardson trade. The Bobcats with most likely select Gerald Henderson from Duke with their 12th pick, finding a long term solution to the aging Bell, drafting a guy who can score and play defense. This pick has Larry Brown all over it, as he loves these kinds of players.
MIAMI HEAT- The Heat has a great year despite their youth. Led by superstar Dwayne Wade, they made the postseason and lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. They look to build on this success with maturity from their young players Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, and Daequan Cook. They have an underrated shooter in James Jones, but an aging center in Jermaine O’Neal, but he is better then anything in this year draft. Also they have to decide on what to do with free agents Udonis Haslem, a fan favorite, and Jamario Moon. They need to be wise about the spending, as they look to resign Wade and hopefully add another star to their team. This could either be Carlos Boozer this summer or Chris bosh in 2010. This team has no first round draft picks this year, so they will need to get better by free agency and maturity of their young players.
ATLANTA HAWKS- The Atlanta Hawks had a successful season with home court advantage in beating the Miami Heat. Yet after being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, they still have some work to do. They have restricted free agent Marvin Williams who they would like to resign. They also will want to keep Zaza Pachulia as a great center who can either start or come off the bench depending on if they play a small line-up or not. They have tougher decisions in Flip Murray and Mike Bibby. Murray is a good energy scorer off the bench and Bibby is a good point guard. However, he will look to ask more money then the Hawks are willing to pay. This could lead to Bibby taking a smaller deal, or letting Acie Law run the show down in ATL. In my opinion, they should not resign Bibby. He is aging, expensive, and they have a good backup in Law who can take the team as his own. They traded for Mike Bibby to give them leadership to take them to the next level, and he has done that. They no longer have a use for him at that price. They need to start looking towards the future with youth to go around a good core of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford. The Hawks also need to decide whether to trade Josh Smith or to keep him. The conflicting styles of Smith and Johnson became evident this last season. In regards to this years draft, look for them to take either a point guard to fill Bibby’s spot or a forward to take Smith’s position. They will take a serious look at Jeff Teague, Ty Lawson, and Sam Young depending on which direction the team is heading.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS- The Wizards had a very difficult season with injuries to Gilbert Arena, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, and Antwan Jamison. With everybody healthy, this expensive team needs to win now. This is why many believe they will trade the number 5 pick in this years draft for a veteran. They will look strongly at deals by the Mavericks, Rockets, Knicks, and Celtics. Ultimately, I believe if the Celtics present to them Ray Allen for the number 5 picks and taking back the contracts of Eton Thomas and Mike James, the Wizards will have to accept. With Ray Allen having a finals year of his contract, if it doesn’t workout they will have cap space next summer to sign a free agent in 2010.
This completes our pre-draft coverage of the Eastern Conference. Check back tomorrow for the next installment when we start to breakdown the Western Conference.