2009 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

This year, we’re doing a division-by-division preview with quick-hitting analysis for every team in the league. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff “also-ran,” I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason. At the end of each divisional preview, I’ll provide some (random) thoughts for the fantasy hoopsters out there.

For each division, I’ll pick the order of finish. You’ll also see the team’s league-wide preseason rank in parenthesis. Be sure to check back on Thursday for a preview of the Central Division and on Saturday for the Atlantic Division.

Orlando Magic (4)
The Magic were busy this summer, but did they get better? Only time will tell. Vince Carter, Brandon Bass and Jason Williams are in, and Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston are out. Orlando fended off a strong run from the Mavs for the services of Marcin Gortat, and actually played Mark Cuban and Co. pretty well by stealing the up-and-coming Bass away in the process. It appears that Bass may start at power forward, which would move Rashard Lewis to small forward. Since the mismatches Lewis created at power forward were one of the Magic’s strengths last season, this may not be written in stone. Orlando also has the option of starting Mickael Pietrus at small forward and moving Lewis back to PF. But the biggest change to the lineup is the loss of Turkoglu and the acquisition of the 32 year-old Vince Carter, who will likely take over Turkoglu’s initiation of the offense. But keep in mind that the Magic made their playoff run without the services of All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson, and his return will be a significant boost to an already strong roster. The Magic didn’t just tinker with their Finals roster from last year, they made a pretty major overhaul, so it will be interesting to see how this group gels. Stan Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the NBA, and the regular season should provide plenty of time for the Magic to work the kinks out. A deep playoff run is likely.

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2008 NBA Team-by-Team Preview

Ron Artest is a Rocket, Jermaine O’Neal is a Raptor and Mo Williams is a Cavalier. Richard Jefferson is a Buck and Corey Maggette is a Warrior. Baron Davis signed up to play with Elton Brand in L.A., but Brand bolted for Philly to play with AI2 instead. And Andrew Bynum is back from injury, trying to figure out how to co-exist with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. There, you’re all caught up on most of the big summer news from the NBA.

Want more? We’ve got you covered. Our team-by-team preview breaks down each franchise’s offseason movement and outlook, along with a player (or situation) to keep your eye on. We also ask “The Big Question” that is haunting each team as it enters the season.

For the last two weeks, We’ve been previewing each team from #30 to #1, posting three team previews per business day, starting with the league’s bottom feeders – we’re looking at you, Thunder – and finishing up with the cream of the crop. So who will be #1? The Lakers? The Celtics? Or will there be a surprise at the top of our preseason power rankings?

Click here to see the entire preview.

2008 NBA Preview: #24 Charlotte Bobcats

Offseason Movement: The Bobcats re-signed Emeka Okafor to a big contract, which will keep the big man in Charlotte for the foreseeable future. The team hired Larry Brown to take over as head coach.
Keep Your Eye On: D.J. Augustin, PG
The Ray Felton Era may be over in Charlotte. The team drafted Augustin #9 overall, and it looks like they want him to be the point guard of the future. Brown is notoriously tough on his guards, so it will be interesting to see how this position battle evolves over the course of the season. The team has talked about playing Felton at off guard, but he doesn’t shoot the ball well and Jason Richardson will likely get most of the minutes there, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work.
The Big Question: Does Larry Brown still have it in him?
Brown is known for turning teams around. With the team building around Okafor, Richardson and Gerald Wallace, he does have some talent to work with. Can Brown get something out of Adam Morrison? It’s not a given that the 68 year-old has the energy or the stamina to succeed during the grind of another NBA season.
Outlook: The potential is there for a playoff berth in the East. If Brown can coax good play out of Augustin/Felton at the point, Richardson provides efficient shooting at off guard, and Wallace and Okafor continue to produce on the front line, then the Bobcats might be in business. The bench is a question mark, but that’s true for most of the teams in the league. If the team doesn’t buy in to what Brown is selling, we could be looking at another season of New York Knicks-style griping and complaining, only no one will care because it’s Charlotte.

Check out our NBA Preview page for a look at every team. We’ll be posting three previews per business day, which will take us up to the start of the season on Tuesday, October 28th.

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