Final NBA Off-season Analysis

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By Paul M. Banks, David Kay, Peter Christian

In our final NBA team analysis before the offseason officially begins, we complete the set with the L.A. Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic


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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CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

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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ORLANDO MAGIC

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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NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview

By: Andy Weise

There will be a new NBA champion this summer and that’s a good thing. The Kevin Garnett-less Boston Celtics finally saw the quest to repeat come to an end Sunday night and the Orlando Magic now face LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs haven’t lost a game since April 15th, a game in which LeBron James didn’t even play. The last time they lost with James? A 29-point blowout in Orlando Magic on April 3rd.

The Cavaliers have been unstoppable, winning all eight playoff games so far, all by double digits. If there was a question about how real the Cavaliers are, they’ve definitely been the best team so far this postseason after posting the best record in the regular season. Wingman Maurice Williams has been the missing link for the Cavaliers. Williams is a player who makes you pay if you spend too much time focusing on the King himself. They had players like Daniel Gibson and Delonte West last year to do that but they’re not at the level of Williams.

Orlando’s play against Boston proves that the front line of the Magic might only be second to the Lakers in the NBA. Dwight Howard has established himself a dominant center and Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu provide the shooting that Howard lacks.

The Magic have survived a season that was once thought lost after all-star point guard Jameer Nelson went down for the season. Rafer Alston, acquired in a midseason trade has been serviceable but the backcourt of the Magic will have a hard time matching up with the Cavaliers. Williams, Gibson and West will be a handful for Alston, J.J. Redick, Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus.

The matchup between these two teams is very interesting. The Magic will need Pietrus to help guard James because Turkoglu is not known for his defensive presence. The Cavaliers have good size underneath where the Celtics couldn’t keep up with the Magic.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao will be relieved at times by Ben Wallace and Joe Smith, not bad for a bench. The advantage in this series definitely goes to the Cavaliers once you look at the bench options. Former all-stars Wallace and Wally Szczberiak as well as Smith give them grizzled vets who have played in plenty of playoff games.

X Factor: Hedo Turkoglu. His game seven performance against Boston shows he can be a go-to player for the Magic. Now he must show he can play some defense in this series as well as be consistent on the offensive end. I won’t hold my breath for either.

My prediction: Cavaliers in five. I would say five or six but Cleveland should be able to hold their homecourt as they have done all year. James is destined for the NBA Finals this year and Williams was the sidekick he needed to get over the hump. The Magic will be back next year with Jameer Nelson but they don’t have enough in that backcourt this year to keep up with the Cavs.