We now interrupt your previously scheduled 100 Hotties entertainment to bring you some even more previously scheduled entertainment. This is the second part of the Massive NBA Preview in Pictures: two divisions per week, ten teams every Friday until the season starts at the end of this month. What teams will be good, what teams will do badly, and what hotties you should keep an eye out for: this preview answers all your questions. The divisions are chosen mostly by which teams I have enough pictures for by Friday. This week: the Southeast division, featuring the Heat, the Magic, the and the Wizards, and the Southwest division, featuring the Hornets, Rockets and Spurs.
2007-2008 record: 52-30
The Magic, simply by virtue of Dwight Howard’s vast reserves of manliness, are on the verge of becoming a serious title contender in the East. Note I said on the verge; despite the abilities of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and little Jameer Nelson, the Magic have a very shallow bench. They lost Keyon Dooling’s defense at shooting guard, replacing him with Mickael Pietrus, who still has unknown potential after years in the league. Even with the improvement of maturity (looking at you, Dwight), they can only go so far, particularly with the growing power of the rest of the East. Lest I sound too pessimistic, they’re a playoff lock - but I don’t know how far they’ll go from there. At least they’ll look good while they do it.
2007-2008 record: 43-39
Oh, the Wizards. Those heartbreaking, beloved-of-bloggers Wizards. Their position here is subject to change on a dime; they’ve got a lot of very good players, but they’re never all healthy at the same time. Antwan, Caron, DeShawn, Etan, Gilbert – all have had injury trouble in the recent past, some serious, and it’s always a fear. Brendan Haywood and Gilbert Arenas are out for the start of the season, taking away a lot of their points, and defense/toughness and attitude/silliness, respectively. Depending on how their injuries go, they could be a four- or five-seed in the East, or miss the playoffs entirely. Still, though, they’re an adorable team, and always (okay, usually) fun to watch.
Surprising many, the Hawks made the playoffs last year. It didn’t surprise me. The reason can be summed up in two words: Al Horford. I don’t just like him because he’s beautiful; he’s also an incredibly valuable player, both in his skills and as a locker-room presence. Combined with Mike Bibby – who did nothing last season, but will presumably do more this time – Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and a host of good and improving young players, they shouldn’t do too badly this year. However, they lost the ever-underestimated Josh Childress, and didn’t really replace his scoring. Time will tell, but I see good things in future for this young Hawks team – though maybe no more than an 8-seed again this season.
2007-2008 record: 15-67
Ah, the Heat. They can’t suck as bad as they did last season, can they? Nah, I don’t think so. They’ve got a (presumably) healthy Dwyane Wade and a (presumably) happy Shawn Marion for (presumably) the whole season, Udonis Haslem, unproven-but-awesome Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, and a motley bunch of no-name young players and lower-level free agents. That doesn’t exactly add up to championship – it doesn’t even add up to playoffs, necessarily – but they’re going to win more than fifteen games this season. And an improvement’s an improvement, right?
2007-2008 record: 32-50
The Bobcats are a swirling vortex of suck. They take in good players like Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, and Jason Richardson, and spit them out with a tiny amount of wins in return. Besides, Gerald Wallace has spent so much time giving it his all that he’s a walking eggshell of a man, Emeka Okafor’s good but often injured, and Jason Richardson is beloved but aging. They did draft cutie DJ Augustin, who could be a bright spot on the court for them as early as this season, and Alexis Ajinca, who could be a sleeper pick, and they somehow conned Larry Brown into coaching their team. So maybe they won’t be bad this year…but I doubt it.
New Orleans Hornets
2007-2008 record: 56-26
How do I love the Hornets? Let me count the ways. Chris Paul is quite possibly the best point guard in the league, and he makes everyone around him shine. David West and Tyson Chandler throw it down with aplomb. Peja Stojakovic has both a cool name and skills. Over the summer, they replaced some iffy players with some solid if not spectacular free agents, and, most importantly, did I mention Chris Paul? Because he’s special. Barring catastrophy, the Hornets will be a title contender this season.
San Antonio Spurs
2007-2008 record: 56-26
The Spurs are good. We’re familiar with this. Over the summer, they signed a lot of relatively unknown foreign players that are going to end up as stars in this league. I love Tim Duncan, but when are they going to stop being good? God, it gets tiresome. Title contenders as always.
2007-2008 record: 55-27
They signed Artest. Months later, I still am not quite sure what to make of that. They could win the West; they could be knocked out of the first round in four games. TMac seems, after all this time, to be getting a sense of humor out of his own tragedy, as well as some toughness (see below). Yao might be out for a part of the season. Shane Battier, Rafer Alston, and my boy Aaron Brooks are solid but not spectacular. This team will make some moves, but I doubt that they’ll go very far. Here’s hoping this is their year, though – for T-Mac’s sake.
2007-2008 record: 51-31
The West is the most competitive conference, and the Southwest is the most competitive division. The Mavs are not going to go very far. MVP Dirk may play well, and J-Kidd may get his groove back, and JHow may decide to play as big as his mouth is…it still won’t do them very good. I see them struggling to get into the bottom of the playoffs.
To start, here’s an obvious observation: the Grizzlies have way, way too many guards. They’ve got four or five that could be starting guards for most teams…in about two to three years. And what di dthey do? They drafted OJ Mayo. They do have Marc Gasol, Pau’s younger, slightly more aggressive, slightly less skilled brother, and Hakim Warrick, whom I love. But they lack size, and they’re not going to be a playoff team this season. However: OJ Mayo.
Thank you for your time, ladies and gentlemen! Next week we’ll have the Atlantic division for real this time (the Celtics! the Sixers! the Nets!) and the Northwest Division (the Blazers! the Nuggets! the Jazz!)