Today we wrap up our Previews Review series by looking at the Southeast & Pacific Divisions.
We have the Celtics next opponent, the Hawks. Not to mention the longtime rival Lakers. Oh yeah, and the shortest review of the Miami Heat that you'll ever see.
Special thanks to all the bloggers who took part in this series. Let's do it again next year.
For review, here's the list of Previews from the preseason.
Third Quarter Collapse - Ben Q. Rock
During the preseason, I wrote the Magic's biggest strengths would be three-point shooting and defensive rebounding. That much has held true throughout the season, as Orlando ranks first in three-pointers made per game and seventh in defensive rebound percentage. I wrote the Magic's biggest weaknesses would be leadership and depth. True enough, coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith had to have a chat with Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson regarding the youngsters' unpolished leadership skills. Depth has also been an issue, as the starting frontcourt of Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu all rate in the top-thirteen in total minutes played. Backup point guard Keyon Dooling is the Magic's steadiest bench player and provides defense and energy, but the Magic's second unit overall packs a very weak punch.
Additionally, I wrote the Magic were "probably" a 50-win team, which looks to be accurate. However, I downgraded to 46 due to concerns about injuries and an adjustment period to Van Gundy's offense.
Overall, I'm satisfied with all my predictions, save that the new system would "make a star" of Nelson. Although he's played fairly well, he's also been injured and has not broken through like I hoped he would.
Believing in Magic - Brendan Sonnone
Before the season began, I put together a formula called "Magic Math" that would help determine Orlando’s record depending on what you though individual players would do. I projected 48 wins, while Damien got around 51 and it appears that Orlando might finish somewhere between 48-52 wins, so props to Believing in Magic.
Strengths, I said Orlando’s was clearly Dwight Howard, who I predicted to become the best center in the game this season (debatable but I don’t sound crazy now) and the versatility of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, and it appears that I was correct on there too. Weaknesses, I said the 2 and 4 spots. Maurice Evans came in via trade and has really solidified the position, but power forward is still a huge hole. Under team goals, I said win the Southeast Division (check) and get to the second round of the playoffs (home court advantage should help.)
I had a lot of "rights" in my preview, but I had some "wrongs" too. I honestly though J.J Redick would be a bigger factor and I didn’t foresee Trevor Ariza not fitting in with Stan Van Gundy’s offense. Aside from that though, the season has gone as expected.
SportsAgentBlog.com - Darren Heitner
200 words or less: Last place. Heat suck. Shaq is loyal? Chris Quinn! Michael Beasley?
Crazy From The Heat - Vivek Wallace
If there was an appropriate question to serve as a prelude to this article it would be: "What a difference a year makes"?
Last season things started to fall off track for the Miami Heat but that mountain we were asked to climb this year suddenly appeared to be covered with ice because we never quite got our footing right. It seems as if everything we did in the offseason back-fired. In hindsight, we should've saw this coming. We had such a hard time finding quality players to join the team in the free agency period that we couldn't even seem to land any guys with a real name - instead settling for a player named 'Smush' and an old veteran named 'Penny' who didn't appear to be worth one when it counted. After setting NBA records for fewest field goals in a game, and lowest point total in a game, needless to say there's a ton of things to fix. What did I learn throughout this whole experience? Never say that "it can't get any worst" without crossing your fingers, and never take a blog job for a horrible team without having a thesaurus near by. There's only so many words you can use to paint an ugly picture, and I was prompted to use all 17,000 of them - by the Allstar break! Better luck for my guys next season but one thing for sure, if I'm ever asked why I'm superstitious again, I'll point to this experience and remind the person why I simply don't predict ANYTHING! The only logical explination for this meltdown is that I jinxed the team by actually predicting that we would win it all. Sounds crazy but check out my logic...Riley and Shaq are busy pointing fingers at each other, so I thought I'd just man up and point the finger at myself since no one else on the team seems to be looking in the mirror. Hint, hint!
Impending Firestorm - Chase Kuech
Well, for once optimism in a Hawks fan paid off this year, as it looks right now like Atlanta just may make the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Last season I was hoping the team would get to 30 wins and they did it. This season I was hoping for 40, and while it doesn’t look like they’ll quite get that far, they did at least improve their win total and they are going to be heavily involved in playoff chat. So while folks laughed at me for a 40-42 record, Atlanta just may come very close to that mark. My wrong prediction was that Law would be the better rookie than Horford. Horford has turned out to be a great player and Law not so much. I severely underestimated Horford as well as the Hawks having the guts to go get Bibby from Sacramento. It has been a good year to be a Hawks fan finally, and I’d love to see this team win a game in the playoffs this year.
Los Angeles Clippers
Clips Nation - ClipperSteve
I suppose I should be happy. I predicted 35 wins, missing the playoffs and getting a bad draft pick - I called it the worst of both worlds. Instead, the Clippers are stuck at 23 wins, which means they'll at least get a decent pick. But there's just no way anyone could have predicted all of the injuries. Brand and Livingston we knew about - but the Clippers have had one or two or more key players in addition to those two hurt almost the entire season. There's actually loads of good news: Chris Kaman emerged as a force, Al Thornton should be first team all rookie, Corey Maggette had a career year, Elton Brand returned and appears to want to remain a Clipper, and Shaun Livingston's recovery is going well. With a healthy roster (and I'm including Livingston, which is still a question mark to be sure) the 08-09 Clippers will bear little or no resemblance to this team. Will it be enough in the 11-deep West? Will Corey be back, or perhaps a decent guard in his place in a sign-and-trade. I won't try to predict what will happen. Who could have predicted this disaster?
Los Angeles Lakers
Forum Blue & Gold - Kurt
I look back on that preview as if it were written a decade ago — it feels that far removed from the mindset of Lakers fans right now. I’d kind of forgotten how gloomy the "will Kobe be traded" cloud made everything feel.
I feel vindicated about one thing — I said the key to the Lakers season was defense. And it was, right now the Lakers are seventh in the NBA in defensive ratings (points per possession, the Lakers are middle of the pack in points per game, but that is a bit deceiving because they play at a fast pace). A lot of that had to do with Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar being such an upgrade over Smush Parker, plus the emergence of Andrew Bynum as a shot blocker/changer in the paint.
But nobody could have foreseen how good the Lakers became with Bynum’s emergence. Or that they could have traded essentially a rack of shoot-around basketballs for Pau Gasol (no offense intended to Javaris Crittenton, who could be good). Now the window of potential championship over the next few years makes the cloudy vision of that preview a happily distant memory.
A lot of the younger guys stepped up a notch or seven this year, and the emergence of Andrew Bynum as one of the Association's top young centers has been a pleasant surprise.
The Gasol trade not only meant the acquisition of an All-Star calibre power forward, but it helped the Lakers cope with the injury Bynum suffered. Cope? The Lakers have thrived since Gasol joined. Additionally, the trade meant that Kwame Brown was out of a Lakers jersey. Bonus.
The addition of Trevor Ariza really fleshed out an already emerging bench.
Still, if I'm totally honest - I feel a lot better… a lot more confident about next season than I do about this one… but it's been a good building block.
In all, this season has vindicated the decision making processes of Mitch Kupchak. Reality check: both Kobe & I should be eating humble pie over that one. Not that Kobe ever will.Pass me a fork.