Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the five most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
The Magic are good, but can they hang with the Celtics and, we guess eventually, the Heat?
Steve Aschburner: No. Overpaying guys doesn’t turn them into clutch performers, so I still have reservations that Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis can step up when it matters most. Jameer Nelson has maxed out, Matt Barnes‘ feistiness will be missed and J.J. Redick was kept at too high a price. Now, if you could find a way to air-drop in Kevin Love to bang alongside Howard …
Fran Blinebury: Only if Rashard Lewis can find his shot and rediscover his spark from the 2009 playoffs when he was a difference-maker.
Art Garcia: Sure they can hang. Trips to the Finals and Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back years proves that. You really want to know if they can beat the Celts, and eventually, the Heat? The Magic can D-up, which is a great start, but I don’t believe there’s enough offensive depth to get out of the East. If Rashard Lewis‘ shot doesn’t come around, there’s too much pressure on Howard, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson.
Scott Howard-Cooper: If they continue to defend and rebound at this rate, anything is possible. But no one is fearing that offense right now. Rashard Lewis is nowhere and Vince Carter is a complementary scorer on a team that needs weapons. Put it this way: The Magic don’t want to be in too many close games where it comes down to Celtics heart, experience and determination.
Shaun Powell: The Magic could beat the Celtics or Heat in a seven-game series, or lose to them. They lack an X-factor that would give them a decisive edge. Even Stan Van Gundy admits his team needs a playmaker. Orlando should consider rolling the dice for Steve Nash and sacrificing Jameer Nelson in the process.
John Schuhmann: I still think the Magic are as good as both of those teams. And even though they got crushed by the Heat in the first week of the season, I think they match up better with Miami. Boston has the advantage of not having to double-team Dwight Howard (as long as Shaq or Kendrick Perkins are healthy), which allows them to stay at home on the shooters. The Celtics also defend the pick-and-roll really well. Without anyone that can defend Howard by himself, Miami will have to scramble a little more defensively. I’m actually really looking forward to that rematch next Wednesday in Orlando.
Sekou Smith: Absolutely. They can hang with the Celtics, Heat and whoever else joins that elite party in the Eastern Conference this season. I’m still convinced that they have the raw personnel to win big, but I’m not sure about their chemistry. Something (or someone) does seem to be missing. But they are no more flawed than anyone else hovering around the top of that totem pole in the East.