By James Burbridge

Miami Heat
2007-08 Record:
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Team Needs: PG, PF depth, C

The Heat’s ideal summer would be landing a top 2 pick, Shawn Marion opting out, or finding a sign and trade partner, and dealing Marcus Banks.

The Heat’s It shouldn’t take long for this team to rebound considering they already have a superstar in place with Dwayne Wade.

The Heat’s The PG position needs to be addressed unless they think Jason Williams can stay healthy for an entire season or Marcus Banks can give them something in the very near future. That, of course, is also contingent on the Heat resigning Williams to a much more appropriate salary. They are set at SG and (possibly) SF with all-stars Wade and Marion. Both Ricky Davis and Dorell Wright come off the books this year, so a decision needs to be made whether or not to bring them back. It will probably hinge on the development of Dorell Wright and his semi-emergence this past season. Look for Davis in a new uniform next season.

The Heat’s Marion has an Early Termination Option this year, but I don’t expect him to exercise it given the amount of money he is making with his current contract (17 million for one year). Expect him to play it out and sign one more big contract next summer.

The Heat’s Udonis Haslem has proven himself as a reliable low post sidekick, but is certainly not a go-to player. After him depth is a concern on the blocks. The C position is something that needs to be addressed as well. Alonzo Mourning is all but done, and any team starting Mark Blount deserves to be realigned to the Sun Belt conference.

The Heat’s Earl Barron should be resigned based upon his youth, size and affordability. Going into the offseason, the main questions surround what to do with their potentially high draft pick.

Riley seemed gung ho on taking Michael Beasley 1st as of a month ago, assuming the ping pong balls fell his way, but the word on the street has Mr. GQ going back on his previous intuitions. DWade has also intimated that he would prefer to play with a point guard such as Rose.

PG is a position of need for the Heat and I can’t imagine a likely scenario where Rose doesn’t go first overall to be perfectly honest.

And call it a hunch, but I can’t imagine the Heat stick with Spoelstra as head coach. There has got to be someone out there that tickles their fancy. Maybe Avery Johnson if the Bulls don’t snag him up. Defensive guru Tom Thibodeau seems to be a hot name throughout the league. Or maybe Knicks golden child Mark Jackson? Wouldn’t that be poetic justice for the Knicks to opt for Mike D’Antoni, only to watch Mark Jackson leave for sunny South Beach, the antithesis of gritty NYC? If there were a way to make Knicks fans begrudge the D’Antoni hiring, that would surely be it.

The Heat are sitting pretty heading into the lottery with the best chance of winning a top pick, but karma is certainly working against them after tanking so egregiously toward the end of the season.


Charlotte Bobcats
2007-2008 Record:
Head Coach: Larry Brown
Team Needs: C, Depth, PG

With Larry Brown now in place, it looks as though this team may finally take on an identity. Since their inception into the league this has been a team that has lacked any sort of identifiable persona. Larry Brown, when he has stuck around, has always imposed himself upon his teams and those teams have generally been very successful.

With that said, Brown has got quite a challenge ahead of him. Hopefully he is given some sort of say about whom the Bobcats draft because their track record has been woefully inadequate. As of right now they have four lottery picks on their roster, of whom there is one solid defensive starter, an inconsistent PG, an oft-injured sluggish PF, and a volume shooter ill-equipped for the NBA game.

Going down the line, the PG position seems to be quite murky. Raymond Felton, while physically gifted and quite exceptional at times, is inconsistent and may not be the floor general Larry Brown needs. Earl Boykins is a serviceable backup who can hit shots but doesn’t get the team involved like a PG should, but is quite affordable and should be retained.

At SG Jason Richardson should fit in Brown’s scheme and Matt Carroll off the bench, while not ideal, will get the job done and stretch out the defense. Gerald Wallace and Jared Dudley are two more players that should do well under Larry Brown.

Adam Morrison, while there’s still hope, his chances of filling expectations appear to be quickly fading. The slow-footed forward, coming off a season ending injury, lacks the athleticism necessary to play meaningful minutes under Brown, which is a shame given how enjoyable he was to watch at Gonzaga with his fiery offensive game.

Emeka Okafor, the franchise’s first ever draft pick, will start at either PF or C, depending upon how some of the other young players progress over the summer, most noticeably Ryan Hollins. He possesses a great deal of athleticism, but lacks the polish and skill to be a role player in the NBA just yet. Both are restricted free agents this summer and should all be retained.

With all the said, the draft isn’t as important to Larry Brown, since he hardly ever plays rookies, as it is to the franchise who is still looking to land its first home run in the draft.

Look for the Bobcats to take the best player available regardless of position. Two players to keep an eye on are Anthony Randolph, the athletic freshman out of LSU or Eric Gordon the explosive scorer out of Indiana if either is available when the Bobcats go on the clock.


Atlanta Hawks
2007-08 Record:
Head Coach: Mike Woodson
Team Needs: Depth, C (no picks)

After years of ineptitude and bungled lottery picks, the Atlanta Hawks have finally turned the corner. For
now. But it can all be lost with a few simple missteps.

Priority number one going into this summer must be to sign Josh Smith to a long-term deal. Teams are going to throw a lot of money at him, dare I say he plucks a max contract deal out of some panicked team’s pockets. Regardless, the Atlanta Hawks MUST keep J. Smith. To lose him now would be to give him up in his prime and resign one’s self to lottery misery for another half decade. He is a restricted free agent this summer, which should help the Hawks in keeping him.

Priority number two is to re-sign Josh Childress. Childress and Smith were drafted in the same class, only Childress was the lottery pick while Smith went in the high teens. Regardless where they went, they are both indispensible at this point in my estimation. Childress gives the Hawks some breathing room at the SG and SF positions. While he may not put up mind-blowing numbers, the chemistry of this team is built in the nucleus of Smith, Joe Johnson, Childress, and now Al Horford.

While not as detrimental as the Smith signing, keeping this core intact needs to be at the top of the list if the Hawks are interested in making the playoffs two years in a row. Childress is also a restricted free agent.

As for the rest of the lineup, another year of Mike Bibby should help this young team while also giving Acie Law more time to develop as he comes off the bench. For a four-year player taken in the lottery, one would expect more production out of a rookie year, but it is still too early to call Law a bust.

Speedy Claxton and his over-inflated contract are back next year. Let’s hope they can get some burn out of him next season and see some kind of return on their ill-advised investment.

Marvin Williams, the player forever linked to the passing over of Chris Paul AND Deron Williams, while solid at the PF spot, just doesn’t produce like his talent suggests he should. His development has been slow, and while he has crept along, the Hawks would be better served with Al Horford at the 4 and another true big body at the 5, with Williams coming off the bench as a change of pace SF/PF.

Solomon Jones seems to have plenty of upside, but is going to need some more time to season on the bench before he is expected to play meaningful minutes. Zaza Pachulia gives the Hawks a badly needed big body with a decent amount of skill.

As for the offseason, the Hawks can focus on re-signings and free agents as they have no draft picks as of right now. An area of focus should be getting another big body to play the blocks with Horford. Their pick at 15 goes to the Suns, but knowing Phoenix’s recent history with first rounders, they might be willing to give the pick back if the Hawks ask nicely.


Washington Wizards
2007-08 Record: 43-39
Head Coach: Eddie Jordan
Team Needs: BPA, C, depth

The Wizards were ravaged by injuries during the 2007-08 season. Gilbert Arenas, Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and Etan Thomas all spent significant time in their league mandated dress clothes. Regardless of their bad injury luck, the Wizards still managed to stay above .500 and make the playoffs.

All in all, this is a very talented team that runs about two deep at every position. The PG spot is locked down by Arenas, when he’s healthy, and backed-up by veteran Antonio Daniels. Arenas is expected to exercise his Early Termination Option this summer and resign with the Wizards for a max contract deal.

DeShawn Stevenson solidified his standing with the team this year with increased playing time and importance on the offensive end. Rookie Nick Young, while very talented, will have to earn any burn he gets next season with the strong play of Stevenson.

Caron Butler established himself as one of the very best “do-everything” players, picking up the slack when Arenas was bitten by the long-term injury bug.

Antawn Jamison just continues to put up excellent numbers year in and year out, and with Darius Songaila coming off the bench, they know his coming out of the game doesn’t doom the Wizards. Jamison enters the season as an unrestricted free agent, so the Wizards must weigh their options at PF and decide whether or not to bring back the talented, although aging, forward.

Lebron impersonations aside, if there is a weak spot on the Wizards lineup, that would be the C position. Brendan Haywood is manning the spot right now, but someone a little tougher, a player who would be able to impose his will upon the other team and score a little more consistently from the blocks would arguably push the Wizards into the next tier of talented teams.

Much of the Wizards frontcourt, and future of Antawn Jamison, is hinged on the development of Oleksiy Pecherov and Andray Blatche. Pecherov is a typical Euro big man (nice handle and shot but not much of a banger,) and much of the same can be said about Blatche, who brings more athleticism to the position and the ability to play the 3,4 and some 5 spot. Blatche seems to have progressed more over the past year, but it will be imperative that the Wizards get something out of Pecherov next year otherwise he will forever be viewed as a bust.

As far as the draft goes, the Wizards just need to play it cool and see who is available. Taking the best player available would seem to suit their needs fairly well, but one player that should be available and will get consideration is Georgetown alum Roy Hibbert. The massive center would be a local favorite and is already familiar with the Princeton-style offense Jordan runs. Or, for a change of pace center, Ohio State C Kosta Koufos would add size and a Mehmet Okur element to the Wizards offense.


Orlando Magic
2007-08 Record:
Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Team Needs: SG, PF, PG

Last summer the Orlando Magic made Rashard Lewis the highest paid player in the NBA. Lewis proceeded to become the Magic’s third option offensively and upstaged by Hedo Turkoglu and despite the Magic finally breaking through and making the playoffs, this is a deal that will haunt them for years to come.

When a potential upgrade at point guard (Chris Paul for instance) is available or a veteren 2-guard in the next 2-3 years, the Magic will be completely helpless to improve their squad. And trading Lewis will be completely impossible. The Magic of today, and the next couple of years, figure to be in good shape with the core of the team locked up with long term deals. The starting five is quite solid, but the bench depth leaves something to be desired.

Starting at the top, Jameer Nelson is an average PG, but you have to wonder if he is what is holding the Magic back at this point. A PG more adept at getting into the lane, penetrating and making plays would seem to favor the rest of the personnel more than Nelson, who likes to stop for pull up jumpers.

Carlos Arroyo is a nice change of pace backup guard, although a little erratic at times. The SG spot is the only real weakness on this team.

J.J. Redick probably will never be a starter in the league, and due to his inability to defend anyone could be headed for the same career as fellow Duke alum Trajan Langdon overseas.

As for the starters, Keyon Dooling and Maurice Evans can get the job done, but someone who provides a little more on the floor would surely give this team a boost.

At SF, Turkoglu, a player that has always teased fans and teams alike with his talents and disappointed with his game performances, finally emerged this year as an impact player, earning Most Improved Player for the 2007-08 season, so that spot seems to be filled in quite nicely.

As for backup Keith Bogans, the Magic would help themselves by finding a player who can effectively back up the SG/SF spot, a Josh Childress type if possible. At PF and C are Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard, respectively. Both players are young and should be the core of this Magic team for a long time coming.

Reserves behind them are thin, with Brian Cook, Pat Garrity and Adonal Foyle sharing most of the time, so finding a reliable backup big man should also be high on the Magic’s wish list.

With the 22nd pick, the Magic should consider two players, Chris Douglas-Roberts, the savvy SG out of Memphis who could also play a little SF, and Jason Thompson, a small school product with good size who really turned it on his senior year.


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