Sunday, September 30, 2007

Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic season preview

Projected Starting line-up
G Jameer Nelson
G Keith Bogans
F Rashard Lewis
F Hedo Turkoglu
C Dwight Howard

Carlos Arroyo
J.J. Redick
Trevor Ariza
Tony Battie
Adonal Foyle

Last year
I remember a time, about 17 games into the season, when the Orlando Magic had a record of 13-4 and everything looked great in Florida. With Miami coming off a championship and Orlando making big moves forward, it must have been great for b-ball fans in the sunshine state. Now let's go back even further here, to the 2005-2006 season when the Magic were having a horrible year with a young team, an injuried Grant Hill and Steve Francis still on the roster. They made a trade in the middle of the season that sent Francis to the Knicks for Penny Hardaway (who they waived) and Trevor Ariza. With starting line-up of Tony Battie, Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, DeShawn Stevenson and Jameer Nelson, the Magic went on a huge run towards the playoffs including a winning streak of 8 games. In those 8 games they beat the Spurs/Pistons/Mavs and Heat. Now they didn't make it all the way out of the hole they dug earlier in the season, and missed the playoffs. But the momentum was there. And with a 13-4 start, it really did appear that Orlando was legit. Of course the key word is appear, as the Magic ended up finishing the season with a 40-42 record in the weak east. Sadly, 2 games below 500 was still good enough for the playoffs. And that is where the magic were put down quietly by the Pistons in 4 games. A 40-42 record and getting swept did not match to the potential that was shown just months earlier. What happened? I know people in Orlando feel that coach Brian Hill is a big part of the reason, and I do have to agree. When you have a weapon like Dwight Howard who can score every single time he gets the ball anywhere within 5 feet of the net, maybe that should be the prime goal for the teams offense. Perhaps finding a way to get Dwight about 15 shots a game would do the trick. But Dwight Howard only shoot the ball 15 times or more in 11 games during the season. Chris Bosh for an example shot the ball more then 15 times in 47 games, and he had an injury during the season too! Now CB4 is a more diverse player, as Dwight has no mid range shot, but Howard is still an athletic freak who should have an offense designed around the goal of getting him the ball in a nice position, at least more frequently then what we saw last season. While the jury is still out on Jameer Nelson (he was a huge bust from a fantasy perspective, I can tell you that) and his point guard skills, it's the coaches responsibility to make sure that the star player is involved in the offense.

Signed Rashard Lewis
Lost Darko Milicic to free agency
Lost Grant Hill to free agency
Signed Adonal Foyle
Signed Marcin Gortat

I am not even going to get into the Billy Donovan situation. All I will say is that the Magic did alright in the end by getting Stan Van Gundy. A different direction is exactly what this team needs, and with the talent the team has combined with a new coaching style, it could lead to big things for this franchise. Of course, giving way too much money to Rashard Lewis is not going to help long term, but if we just looking at the talent and not the financial side of things, Lewis is a much better option then 35 years old and broken down Grant Hill. Is Lewis though equal to both Hill and Darko? I never saw anything from Darko that would indicate he is the type of player that can contribute to a winning team, but he never got a fair shake so far ether. I would imagine it would be tough for any player to do anything positive on a team like Detroit, and with the Magic, how much did Brian Hill hold back on the possibly talented big man? If Darko steps up in Memphis, and with the Magic putting everything they got financially into Lewis, this off-season could be viewed as a disaster by this time next season.

With Orlando involved in the summers biggest free agent purchase, a lot of pressure will be riding on this upcoming season. You don't just spend that kind of cash and lock yourself in from a salary cap perspective without expecting positive results ASAP. But I would say that not as much is going to ride on the performance of Lewis, but more on the performance of Gundy. This team last year was weak in the PG position, had a lot of inconsistent players on the team like Hedo Turgoglu, and a big man in Dwight Howard that was not getting the ball nearly enough. Injuries did hurt the depth of the team last year, but I do question how much quailty there was in Orlando's depth to begin with. What is Van Gundy going to do to change all these things? Especially with one less big man on the court in Darko? And it's not like the east has gotten worse? With Boston and NY and Charlotte as 3 eastern lottery teams looking to make a move into the playoffs, some teams with high expecations just ain't going to make it. Having a 40-42 season won't get you into the playoffs anymore (I hope). So has Orlando improved enough to play better then Boston/Detroit/Washington/Toronto/Miami/Cleveland/New Jersey/Chicago? For Orlando to make the playoffs, they better hope they did.

What to watch for
1) How badly did they overpay - Rashard Lewis is a solid player, but for the money he is making, he needs to help Dwight Howard lead this team to the playoffs. Anything less would be considered a bust.
2) Howard getting an outside shot - He won't take the next step with out some sort of jump shot.
3) Stan Van Gundy - He has the motivation to succeed after being forced out of Miami half way threw the championship season. But with a questionable roster, does he have what it takes to get the maximum out of this team?

Anytime a team includes a new coach as well as a new star player, making a accurate prediction is tough. So many unknowns in this situation. How much was the talent held back by the previous coach? Can the new coach get the full potential out of the players? Will the new star continue to be a star in a new environment? At this stage, I can't honestly say that I expect Orlando to beat any of the 8 teams I mentioned above, but this will be a different team then the one we saw last year.

Between 36 and 40 wins this season with a 10th place overall in the East



That was a great post; full of detail. In my opinion, you pretty much get it, and I would agree with you from top to bottom for the most part. Of course I picture the Magic making the playoffs, and winning close to 50 games, but I'm also a Magic fan.

I’m going to make some points to go along with yours. These are just my opinions.

1. Any player getting max dollars is pretty much overpaid, and I understand the talk about Lewis; but if Shard keeps on delivering 20+ points a game, and makes life easier for Dwight, then he’s doing his job, and the Magic will get exactly what they paid for.

2. Howard does need to fine tune his offense; but Shaq never had a jumper. I want Dwight attacking the basket, or around there at all times. I could live with him developing a Duncan type of jumper off the glass, but I don’t ever want to see him shooting around the free throw line. Which leads to the biggest thing Dwight needs to improve upon; he needs to get his free throws above 70%. I could careless if he develops a jumper. Dwight’s post moves will continue to improve, as they have each year. With shooters on the floor, he’ll have more space to work, and see more single coverage; unless teams want to leave guys open for 3’s. So if he can just start making his free throws, teams will have no choice but to pick their poison in regards to what they’re going to give up.

3. I couldn’t stand Brian Hill. And I believe in most of the players on the roster, as almost all of them have shown they can play at one time or another in their career. If any coach can get these players to perform how they’re capable of on a regular basis; Stan is as good of choice as any coach in the league.

4. I might miss Darko; but a lot less after his explosion which really makes me question his stability.

5. The Grant Hill era is over, and I’m happy. If he was actually playing at the SF spot, I could have lived with it. But there was no excuse for him to be the starting SG last season. I actually think it hurt the team.

Anonymous said...

Great article and very accurate in my opinion. One more thing that is worth noting is that the other starting big from last year, Tony Battie is out for the year. This leaves them with two bigs on the team and one of them is Adonal Foyle who is 30 something averagving 2 and 2 for his career so they need some more depth inside.