Heat and Wizards

MIAMI HEAT

Record:  52-30, 1st in Southeast Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparison:

Noteable:

5th in ppg differential (+3.9)
2nd in field goal %
1st in rebounding
29th in steals
29th in opponent turnovers

Others:

6th in the league in scoring (99.9ppg)
13th (tie) in opponent scoring (96.0ppg)
8th in opponent field goal %
20th in three-point %
17th in assists
8th (tie) in blocks
19th in turnovers

Additions:  
Mike Gansey (R), Vincent Grier (R), Robert Hite (R), Daniel Horton (R), Chris Quinn (R) (none of which may make the team)

Subtractions:  
Derek Anderson, Shandon Anderson

Key Players

PG:  Jason Williams, Gary Payton
SG:  Dwyane Wade, Jason Kapono
SF:   Antoine Walker, James Posey, Dorell Wright
PF:   Udonis Haslem, Wayne Simien, Earl Barron
C:   Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Michael Doleac

Comments: Miami bucked a recent popular trend by keeping its championship squad intact almost to the man.  Other than an obvious prejudice against anyone named Anderson, you won't find a mote of difference between last year's squad and this year's, even though a few of these players are getting...ancient.  But I suspect a lot of their game plan is simply keeping Shaq non-grumpy.  How mad can the Gigantic Forearm Thrower get if you don't disturb him with any new names to learn?  Besides, who needs young, fresh guys when you play a classic, old-school game:  shoot a high percentage, play solid without taking risks on defense, and rebound the heck out of everything you see.  More to the point, who needs young, fresh guys when you've got Dwyane Wade?  The only thing that keeps him from being Batman is the lack of spandex.  He don't need no stinkin' utility belt to screw you up in a hundred different ways.  Miami might be able to lose a couple starters to freak accidents and still win this division.  The big fella himself going down is the only thing that could keep them from repeating last year's deep run. Unless Chicago learns a whole lot real fast I don't see why the Heat won't represent the East again.  Their other main competitor lost that Big Ben guy, and I think that spells trouble should the two meet in a seven game series. They won't have a ton of years left with this lineup, but it ain't over yet.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Record:  42-40, 2nd in Central Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:

Noteable:

3rd in the league in scoring (101.7ppg)
3rd in steals
2nd in opponent turnovers

Others:

21st in opponent scoring (99.8ppg)
9th (tie) in ppg differential (+1.9ppg)
21st in field goal %
23rd in opponent field goal %
15 in three-point %
15th in rebounding
25th in assists
22nd in blocks
11th in turnovers

Additions:  
DeShawn Stevenson, Darius Songaila

Subtractions:  
Jared Jeffries, Chucky Atkins, Awvee Story, Billy Thomas

Key Players

PG:  Gilbert Arenas, Donell Taylor
SG:  DeShawn Stevenson, Antonio Daniels
SF:  Caron Butler, Jarvis Hayes
PF:  Antawn Jamison, Darius Songaila, Michael Ruffin, Andray Blatche
C:  Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas, Calvin Booth, Peter John Ramos

Comments: Peter John Ramos is in da house!  Start selling those playoff tickets!  Well...in the weak East you can almost certainly pencil the Wizards in for the first round anyway.  They lost a decent all-around player in Jared Jeffries but they picked up more athleticism and speed in DeShawn Stevenson.  The Wizards have a distinctive style that's far more modern than Miami's:  poke at the ball, take chances, and just throw everything up at the hoop and hope enough falls in to win.  As a result they do a couple things well and a whole raft semi-poorly.  Arenas is a fine player but he doesn't exactly exude on-court discipline.  Jamison is a constant scorer.  I like Songalia but he's offensive minded just like the rest. (And besides how many PFs can you carry?)  Just about everything surrounding this team reads "second tier".  They won't be bad.  They won't be great.  They'll just be...well...Washington.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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