TrueHoop Network Season Preview: Orlando Magic

Last Year’s Record 59-23 Crystal Ball The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Orlando Magic Daily. Crowd Says: 59-23 Orlando Magic Daily Says: 63-19 Yes we can! You know what they say about Hedo Turkoglu. He’s perfect for the Orlando Magic’s system. Nobody can match up with a 6-foot-9 power forward who can dribble and shoot from anywhere on the floor. He’s the ideal pick-and-roll facilitator for the Magic. You know what they say about Courtney Lee. He is Orlando’s best draft pick since Dwight Howard. His all-around mix of driving ability and 3-point prowess is just the right fit for Orlando’s starting lineup. He was going to turn the Magic’s big three of Dwight-Jameer-Rashard into a big four. Yes, all of the above statements are true. These two players were a joy to watch last season and were an integral part of Orlando’s astonishing NBA Finals run. Take away either of these guys and the Magic aren’t getting to the Lakers. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team – albeit on different terms and different circumstances – when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago. Vince Carter — whom the Magic wouldn’t have if it weren’t for giving up Lee — brings a true offensive presence. He’s the most dynamic offensive force in Orlando since Tracy McGrady led the NBA in scoring six years ago. Carter’s ability to create his own shot and get to the rim gives the Magic an entirely new weapon; perhaps the missing weapon that would’ve brought home a championship last June. Brandon Bass — the free agent who wouldn’t be in Orlando if the Magic had re-signed Turkoglu — provides the Magic something they didn’t have last year: a hard-nosed, bruising power forward to play alongside Howard. With Howard and Bass on the front line, the Magic aren’t going to be pushed around any longer. Ryan Anderson and Matt Barnes will be integral role players who give the Magic depth they lacked last season. Anderson’s a 6-foot-10 power forward who can bury 3s; Barnes is an ultra-athletic swingman who brings energy and a broad set of skills. And you can’t forget the return of Jameer Nelson, coming off the best half-season of his career before tearing his labrum in February and missing the bulk of Orlando’s playoff run. Especially with Boston and Cleveland upgrading (if you consider centers in their mid-30s an upgrade), the Magic could not afford to stand pat with the same roster. The Magic transformed themselves from a great team to a team that can match up with any team, play any style, stop any attack and score on any defense. From top to bottom, the Orlando Magic are loaded, and nobody wants to come to Orlando. NO YOU WON’T I think my five year old nephew’s really cute when he’s showing off for everyone. But there’s a reason I don’t take him home with me. A. It’s kidnapping and B. it gets REALLY old after a while. So that’s what my nephew and Dwight Howard have in common. Well, that and they have the same number of offensive moves. If you’re looking for an alternative reason, they recently added Vince Carter. True story, when Vince Carter is in the room, all the toilets flow the opposite direction. Black magic, he is. (Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm) ALL-A-TWITTER @dwighthoward “Getting to the NBA Finals just made me hungrier than I’ve ever been. I know I have to come back better next season for us to get that ‘ship. I want it really, really, really bad. So ya’ll aint got to worry about me getting my work in.” -Dwight Howard, acknowledging fans and critics who believed he was spending too much time working on his Media skills instead of basketball skills. ON THE RECORD Stan Van Gundy, after the Magic pulled the shocking trade for Vince Carter: “I think it’s a proactive move because if you can get Turk back, great. But now you’ve gone out and improved your roster and not having to sit and wait and then three weeks from now say, ‘Well, we didn’t get Turk, we did everything we could.’ Then we’re out there trying to explain ourselves to everybody. We’ve got a very good team heading into next season.” LAST YEAR’S ALMANAC Offense: 11th Defense: 1st Pace: 12th Team Factor Strength(s): Shooting Allowed (1st), Defensive Rebounding (2nd), Shooting Percentage (3rd) Team Factor Weakness(es): Offensive Rebounding (28th), Turnovers Forced (25th) THE PLAY It’s easy to say the Magic will substitute Vince Carter for Hedo Turkoglu and dance the same jig as last year — run the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard while 3-point shooters prowl on the perimeter. But Carter brings a late-game element the Magic haven’t had in years: a true isolation scorer. Carter can create off the dribble for himself and others without a screen. Isolating Carter with shooters on the outside and Howard lurking probably gives the Magic the best chance of scoring in a last-second, must-score situation. THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE There’s little doubt Magic fans will want to see more of Ryan Anderson. He’s young, he can shoot 3s, and he was traded for fan favorite Courtney Lee. With the more dependable and hard-nosed Brandon Bass around, it’s going to be tough for Anderson to see extended minutes once Rashard Lewis returns from suspension. IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS The Magic went above the luxury tax threshold this offseason for the first time in team history, a move management said was okay during the NBA Finals run. But will ownership stand by that stance if the team goes sour this year? The Magic’s talented roster seems can’t-miss for another fan-drawing run, but nothing’s for sure in the NBA. What if the Magic can’t duplicate last spring’s exciting playoff run? Would the Magic look for cost-cutting deals next offseason?

TEAM BLOGGERS SAY WINS*

Bret Lagree | Hoopinion

“The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. … Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player, yet he’s the Hawks’ best player.”

45

Zach Lowe | CelticsHub

“It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment.”

58

Brett Hainline | Queen City Hoops

“Great defense + equally bad offense = average. With an improving division around them, that equation does not get them their first playoff berth. But at least they won’t suck.”

36

Matt McHale | By the Horns

“During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them.”

43

John Krolik | Cavs the Blog

“After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation … However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals, despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this seasons whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis, or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring.”

61

Rob Mahoney | The Two Man Game

“’Rebuilding’ teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. Quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions.”

50

Jeremy Wagner | Roundball Mining Company

“The only players still on the roster who exceeded expectations in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every member of the Nuggets, other than thirty-something Chauncey Billups, to improve.”

53

Dan Feldman | PistonPowered

“However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.”

36

Rasheed Malek |Warriors World

“Under the ownership of Chris Cohan, the Warriors have made the playoffs exactly one time and have gone through numerous coaches, players and executives. Going into this season, Larry Riley is the man in charge taking over for Chris Mullin.”

28

Anup Shah and Brody Rollins | Rockets Buzz

“The speed revolution has overtaken some of basketball’s peers, most notably football … Is basketball headed in the same direction? [Aaron] Brooks provides an excellent case study. Beginning the year as the Rockets number one threat on offense with Ron Artest’s departure and injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks will have every opportunity to prove that size really doesn’t matter.”

39

Jared Wade | Eight Points, Nine Seconds

“It’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco. … Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: [Mike Jr.] Dunleavy’s knee.”

32

Kevin Arnovitz | ClipperBlog

“[Blake] Griffin and [Eric] Gordon may not be saviors, but they’re something. Griffin’s skills and his tenacious work ethic (the guy runs up sand dunes in his free time) will be a boon to a team desperate for cultural overhaul. Gordon offers an enticing combination of spot-up shooting and forays into the paint. He finished third in true shooting percentage among starting off guards in his rookie campaign, something that can only help a team that ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season.”

32

Kurt Helin | Forum Blue and Gold

“God, is it good to be hated again.”

64

Chip Crain | 3 Shades of Blue

“The 2009-10 version of the Grizzlies have put together a starting five where every player scored 30 points or more in a game last year. The oldest starter is only 28 years old (Zach Randolph) and the youngest won’t turn 22 until after the start of the season (O.J. Mayo). They are young, talented and hungry for success. So why do most people focus on the two players not on a rookie contract this season?”

20

Matthew Bunch | Hot Hot Hoops

“38.6 minutes. 30.2 points. 49.1 percent shooting. Five rebounds. 7.5 assists. 2.2 steals. 1.3 blocks. That’s what [Dwyane] Wade averaged last season. You’re going to keep that guy out of the playoffs? Good luck.”

44

Jeremy Schmidt | Bucksketball

“If the Bucks get anything out of their three small forwards, if they can keep [Andrew] Bogut and [Michael] Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach. But that’s a lot of ifs.”

29

Patrick Hodgdon | Howlin’ T-Wolf

“”Ever since his arrival, David Kahn has had seemingly one mission, other than to look like the smartest guy in the room at every turn, and that is to get as much cap space for next summer as he possibly can. … The obvious question lies in whether or not the Wolves will actually be able to lure one of the better free agent players to come to Minnesota.”

23

Mark Ginocchio and Sebastian Priuti | Nets are Scorching

“Lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any change the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer.”

29

Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan | Hornets247

“Enter Emeka Okafor. He’s a near match to a healthy Chandler, is more durable, and doesn’t look like he’s having muscle spasms when making a post move.”

47

Mike Kurylo | Knickerblogger

“2010 could be New York’s return to winning.”

31

Royce Young | Daily Thunder

“The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game.”

34

Zach McCann | Orlando Magic Daily

“Take away either Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee and the Magic aren’t getting to face the Lakers in the Finals. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago.”

59

Carey R. Smith | Philadunkia

“The travesty of a deal that Billy King gave to Samuel Dalembert remains easily one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Hopefully this season Dalembert, his inflated self-worth and his contract will be dealt for a couple of expiring contracts and some much-needed cap space.”

39

Michael Schwartz | Valley of the Suns

“Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks. Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team. This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room. … There will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards. But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball.”

46

Max Handelman | Beyond Bowie

“The Blazers effectively bumbled their way to a 54-win season despite a mediocre performance from Greg Oden, the loss of Martell Webster for the season, and at times starting three rookies. This team is only getting better, kids.”

53

Zach Harper | Cowbell Kingdom

“Enter Tyreke Evans — a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose.”

22

Timothy Varner | 48 Minutes of Hell

During the Celtics heyday, Red Auerbach boasted a winning percentage of .719. In the modern era, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers played to the tune of .733. Phil Jackson’s Jordan Bulls dominated the 90s with an otherworldly percentage of .771. Jackson’s three-peat Lakers? .735. In his 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, whose cynical disdain for the regular season runs more than skin deep, has, nevertheless, posted a winning percentage of .707. That’s the company the Spurs keep. What should we expect this season? 58 wins and a run at the title. Same as every other year.”

55

RaptorsRepublic

“How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players into a new system with two new assistant coaches?”

41

Spencer Ryan Hall | Salt City Hoops

“With young Wesley Matthews providing the good luck charm, Boozer in a contract year, Deron Williams with a chip on his shoulder, and a new longer-haired version of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz have no reason to be anything other than beastly this season. And I mean that in a good way. Every prediction from the Jazz camp, however, comes with the ominous caveat ‘If we can stay healthy.’”

46

Kyle Weidie | Truth About It

“Flip Saunders has never gotten a team ‘there.’ That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality. … 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place.”

42

* As predicted by a consensus of all TrueHoop Network bloggers.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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