You'll probably think I'm a dork. In fact, I insist you think of me that way. I don't care. I'm going to share the results of my NBA Fantasy Draft anyway because I LOVE my team. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I did a pretty decent job for my first ever hoops draft.
It lasted 13 rounds, and here's who I wound up with...
I took him way too early and couldn't even find a picture of him as a Magic, but here's my 5th rounder going to work against `Sho.
I think my 8th rounder was the third highest scoring center in the East behind Shaq and Ilgauskas. I may be wrong, but it feels like I'm not.
I assure you that my 9th rounder is not comedian Carlos Mencia. Believe it or not but this pudgy bastard is the starting point for the Jazz.
My 10th rounder will hopefully be "movin' on up" to a full time grip on the starting power forward job for the Celts. If it doesn't make him too wheezy.
MJ has just as much of a chance of making it through a whole season at this point as my 11th rounder going for the swat.
If you don't recognize my my 12th round sleeper here are a couple of hints. Not only is he a Spur, but ESPN.com's John Hollinger calls him the best free agent signing of the offseason.
Finally my 13th rounder is the token Knick, although there's a good chance I will drop him to acquire Tyrus Thomas or Anderson Varejao from the waiver wire.
So yeah, not the greatest starting lineup in the world, but I love my bench and my versatility. If one of my big men breakout, I'm sitting pretty. Doing those links was way too hard. I'm gonna have to ask Matthew how he puts pictures on the site.
Anyway, here's the Southeast preview...
Miami Heat - Not much has changed in the offseason for the weakest championship club since the '94-95 Rockets. Like a typical Pat Riley team the "15 Strong" Heat are really about eight deep, max. On paper you have to give them the division just because of the starting five of DWade, White Chocolate, `Toine, Haslem, and the Diesel, but really how many people on this squad do you really expect to be hungry outside of Flash?
The Glove is done. He was done two years ago. That he outplayed Jason Williams for a couple of key stretches last June didn't impress me then and it doesn't impress me now. Mourning got his much coveted ring so now he's just going to be cashing a check. I'm absolutely in shock that Shaq Daddy came into camp under 400 lbs. I figured the only exercise he'd get the whole summer would've been conceiving more baby Shaqs, and even then he'd probably let Mrs. Shaq be on top doing most of the work lest she get squished the other way. Still even though the big fella doesn't resemble a basketball physically, I still don't think he'll play more than 50 games this year, and even he is on the court, the days of dominating people are long behind him. `Zo was their best center in the Finals last year and it wasn't really close. Meanwhile Walker will continue to play stupid, selfish basketball and Williams will never be more than adequate.
Sorry, I just don't find this club all that frightening. I would've been absolutely thrilled for the Spurs to play them last year and I'll be just as thrilled if it comes to be this spring. A staggering confluence of events conspired to give them a cheap ring last year, (mainly a teamwide mutiny by the Pistons against Flip and David Stern being fed up with Mark Cuban) but there's almost no chance it will happen again.
Orlando Magic - Shaq's first team has a much brighter future ahead of it than his current one. The Magic are poised for a breakthrough in '06-07. They were the hottest team in the East last April but they just ran out of schedule a week or so early to sneak into the playoffs. This time around being one of the top eight should be the absolute minimum for them and advancing to the 2nd round isn't out of the question. It's all a matter of how quickly all the pieces jell and how healthy most of their core guys are.
Consider their point guard situation. St. Joe's Jameer Nelson took a huge step forward in his second season and convinced the higher ups to trade away Stevie Franchise. He's been given the keys to make this team go and he should take the leadership role well. Dwight Howard is too quiet to do it anyway. The Magic also acquired Carlos Arroyo to back Nelson up, so they're set here for years.
Keyon Dooling and Tony Battie are holding the fort at the two guard and center respectively for youngsters J.J. Redick and Darko Milicic who are both nursing injuries right now but should be able to contribute as soon as they're healthy. The potential Darko-Howard tandem at the four and five spots would be quite daunting on the defensive end of the floor and Orlando's gonna need it because they're going to be just so-so checking people on the perimeter.
The two biggest keys for Orlando will be a) Howard's continued development on offense and b) how much production they can get from the Hedo Turkoglu-Grant Hill duo at small forward. If this squad can ever get its veteran leaders to provide anything of value on the floor instead of being glorified assistant coaches on the sidelines, this team can really go places. Big if, I realize.
Washington Wizards - Whenever one team takes a leap forward it means another has to take a step back, and I fear that the Wizards are the likeliest candidates for such a drop off. Obviously Gilbert gives them a chance to compete night in and night out - outside of BronBron and Flash he's the most driven player in the East- but he just doesn't have much to work with around him. Plus I worry about the mental stability of anyone who spends all of his time on the road watching movies and eating hamburgers. I mean, it's a good thing he's not getting his freak on every night and hitting the clubs like some mimbo, but there is such a thing as being too introverted. The guy is just plain weird. I still remember the time him and some chick were shown on the jumbotron at the Forum, checking out some Laker game. So he licked her across her cheek in front of everybody. Things like that would make me nervous if I were a Wizards fan, but maybe it's just me.
His sidekick Antawn Jamison is another fake star that fools the talking heads and know-nothings. Guys like him have been around in the NBA as long as I've been watching. C-Webb and Juwan Howard are like the senior members of this club now, but when I was a kid it'd be guys like Alex English and Tom Chambers and Chris Mullin; these guys who no matter how much they scored give it right back up on their own end. It's like the classic joke you tell your defensive-challenged friend before the 3-on-3 game starts. You tell him to guard the other team's best scorer and he asks, "Which one's that?" and you reply, "Whoever you're guarding." So no, I'm not a big fan of Jamison and his gigantic mouth. And I don't mean the guy is like some trashtalker or a chatterbox. He just physically has the widest, largest mouth I've ever seen. This whole team is filled with freaks.
Caron Butler is decent at the three, but the Wiz still have gigantic doughnuts at shooting guard and center and no bench to speak of either. Also, they once again project to be a horrid defensive team. I think they'll just miss the postseason party this time around and really, I wouldn't be too shocked if they stumble all the way to 4th place in the division.
Charlotte Bobcats - Now this club on the other hand will be genuinely fun to watch. Really we could be facing a Phoenix: East situation here, right down neon orange unis. Not only was I delighted that Raymond Felton was able to cram it into the faces of the critics who wrote that the drafting of him and Sean May had more to do with their UNC roots than their actual ability but I think it was very fortuitous that Okafor was injured all last year so that the Bobcats were able to lose enough games to draft Adam Morrison.
Now we're in store for a potential starting five of Felton, the underrated Gerald Wallace, Morrison, Okafor, and Primoz Brezec (Nenad Kristic Lite) with a bench of Brevin Knight, May, and Matt Carroll. This means that seven of their top eight will be atrocious defensive players, but the club has the firepower to be involved in plenty of 117-114 ballgames. It should go without saying that eventually Charlotte will have to find another rebounder to help Okafor out and that no team can go anywhere in the East without being able to get a stop when it counts, but at least they'll be fun to watch, in a cheesy 80's music video kind of way.
For the record, I'm a Morrison fan, but the odds of he making anyone on the opposing team cry is roughly 1 in 1,512,985. Maybe if he rubs pepper spray all over his body...
Atlanta Hawks - The good news for the woebegone Hawks is that they finally have some semblance of a point guard in Speedy Claxton. The bad news is that they could have solved this problem last year, in an infinitely more satisfying way, just by drafting Chris Paul in the first place. Now Claxton will be able to effectively quarterback his stable of athletes - Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, and Shelden Williams - to loads of easy buckets against crappy teams. The problem here is that the better teams will sag off Claxton to make him beat them with the jumper, and just generally crowd in everyone around the lane since Johnson is the only one of the bunch with a decent shot.
While the Hawks will be entertaining on most nights, they're certainly not going to be any good for a while. It's just a ridiculously young team that's going to have to get used to the NBA grind all at once and have to figure out how to play together. I don't foresee a lot of effective ball movement from this bunch and the defense should be comically inept. The meatier big men will destroy them inside while the veteran teams will be able to stage game long lay up lines.
The future might get brighter for the Hawks in a couple of years, especially if they find a way to land Oden, but for now their best bet to get wins will be the same as its been for the past decade. Either catch teams at the end of a long road trip and run them out of the gym or hope the opposition wears itself out the night before the game at the Gold Club.