Great start to season by Atlanta puts them as favorite to win SE over Magic
Though the season is only two weeks old, Atlanta has shown that they are the best team in the SE division, without question. They have beaten four teams that made the playoffs last season, including impressive wins at Orlando, at New Orleans, and at home against Toronto, and are outscoring their opponents by an average of 98.8 to 89.5.
It's not easy to say this, but the Atlanta roster is superior to the Magic roster, at least right now, the way the two teams are playing. The Hawks have six players who average in double figures, and their bench depth is far superior to the Magic. The Hawks are without one of their best players in forward Josh Smith, who is out with an ankle sprain, but they haven't missed a beat, thanks to the other guys picking up the slack and their depth.
Let's compare the current team statistics for the Magic and Atlanta:
FG%: ORL 45.0% ATL 44.8%
3 PT FG%: ATL 39.5% ORL 31.3%
FT%: ATL 70.1% ORL 67.9%
REB: ATL 44.7 ORL 44.3
AST/TO: ATL 21.2/12.3 ORL 17.7/14.1
STEALS: ATL 8.0 ORL 7.3
BLOCKS: ATL 6.3 ORL 6.3
POINTS AGAINST: ATL 89.5 ORL 93.7
POINTS FOR: ATL 98.8 ORL 98.4
Those statistics illustrate how much better the Hawks are doing than the Magic. The Magic have a very slight advantage in only one category, FG%, and are tied in blocked shots. Atlanta has the advantage in every other category, including a distinct advantage in 3 pt%, FT%, assist/turnover ratio, and defense. I still think the Magic can have a good season, but all the guys need to step up and play like they're capable of playing (Rashard Lewis...hello??), be more consistent, and SVG needs to do a better job of coaching. If they don't, the SE division will be won by the Hawks easily, and the Magic will probably be a 5th or 6th seed (if that) in the playoffs.
That would be a far cry from the 50+ wins and a solid playoff run most of us were predicting before the season started.
Coach Mike Woodson deserves a lot of credit along with the players for the Hawks' dominant start, proving that taking Boston to a Game 7 last season in the first round was no fluke.
The Magic start a three game road trip tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder. All three games on this trip are winnable; I think it's imperative for the Magic to win two out of the three games at least.
For a complete preview of tonight's game, click here