By Paul M. Banks, David Kay, Peter Christian
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2. Trevor or Lamar? – Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom were both integral parts in the Lakers title run. However, both are unrestricted free agents and should garner a lot of attention from other teams this off-season. I don’t think the Lakers will be able to afford re-signing both players meaning one is likely to leave. But which player do they pursue because they each bring something different to the table. Odom is a veteran who can handle the ball offensively and play multiple spots on the floor. Ariza is the type of defensive stopper that every championship team needs, is six years younger than Odom, and should come at a cheaper cost. Decisions, decisions…
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1. Sell your soul to keep LeBron – LeBron will be to the 2010 off-season what Lil Wayne has been to hip-hop the past year; the hottest commodity in the game. The King can’t blink without someone mentioning the possibility of him leaving Cleveland for the bright lights of NYC. The Cavs need to do any and everything in their power to not let LeBron hit the free agency market in 2010 when any team with the cap space will do whatever it takes to sign him. Re-name Cleveland, “LeBronland” or call Quicken Loans Arena, “King James Arena.” Hire Jack Bauer to kidnap LeBron’s family and make him sign a contract before they are safely released. ANYTHING!
2. Sure up the inside game – With Anderson Varajeo likely opting out of his contract and rumors that Ben Wallace will contemplate retirement this off-season, the Cavs need to sure up their depth down low. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also has a player option, but will almost certainly return. Outside of Z, Cleveland is pretty thin up-front and needs to find another scoring option down low since Wallace is pretty worthless on the offensive end. Re-signing Varajeo would be a must since the Cavs don’t have the cap space to find his replacement, unless a player like Rasheed Wallace takes the mid-level exception.
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This past season was a magical one in Orlando, as the Magic emerged as one of the elite teams in the league, advancing to the NBA Finals for just the second time in the franchise’s brief history. Despite the fact that Orlando was defeated by the Lakers in five games, the team cannot be disappointed with their ’08-’09 campaign.
The success of the Magic directly correlates with Dwight Howard continuing to develop into one of the most dominant big men in the NBA. What put Orlando over the top though was the effectiveness of the players around Superman. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu came up clutch in late-game situations, providing outside threats to compliment Howard’s presence inside. Even though Jameer Nelson missed the final two-plus months of the regular season, and pretty much the entire playoffs, the Magic didn’t miss much of a beat as the trade deadline acquisition of Rafer Alston helped fill the void. Courtney Lee seems like he will prove to be a steal of a late first round draft pick and should be an important piece of the puzzle for years to come. If Orlando can keep this core together, they should remain in the upper tier of the Eastern Conference.
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