It has been nearly a week since Orlando added Jason Williams back to the roster and reached the league minimum of 13 players under contract. And so, everything is quiet at RDV Sportsplex… except for the moving trucks getting ready to take everything over to the new Amway Center. That may be the biggest move left for the Magic the rest of this summer.
That means, yes, Orlando will be working with what is already on the roster. Whether you like it or not, this is the roster the Magic plan on winning a championship with. And remember everyone is 0-0 right now, even with the schedule already out.
What exactly does Orlando have? It is much the same as last year but a quick refresher:
Jameer Nelson – Nelson came back to earth after a career season in 2009, but still played pretty well. After missing about a month early in the season, he found his groove and started playing like an all star once again. Nelson’s efficient shooting (44.9 percent from the floor and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc to go with a 54.0 percent true shooting percentage) and good decision making on the pick and roll sets the tone for the Magic. A lot of people may point him out as a weak point, but he works for Orlando’s offense. And as long as he can stay healthy, it is not unrealistic to expect All Star numbers from Nelson again.
Vince Carter – Vince’s first season in Orlando was a bit of a struggle. His nightmare January and his poor performance in the playoffs — especially the Eastern Conference Finals — will likely stick with Magic fans more than anything else. Yes, Carter did not step up when the team needed him to. But as Ben Q Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post pointed out, that did not mean Carter had a completely horrible season. His numbers were well below his career averages, so maybe Carter cannot be the player he was before. Or maybe he needed a year to feel his way through Stan Van Gundy’s offense… or Van Gundy needed a year to feel out Carter’s abilities. I would expect Carter to have a better season this year. Remember Nelson, Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu all had breakout seasons in 2009 — their second year with Van Gundy.
Quentin Richardson – the newest addition to the team figures to be the starter and bring the same defensive intensity that his predecessor, Matt Barnes, but a little bit more of the offense. Richardson will not be as in your face about defense, but has proven himself to be a better shooter throughout his career than Barnes. Adding Richardson might have been a bad move on the defensive end, but it definitely makes sense on offense. Boston left Barnes open in the Eastern Conference Finals, much like teams did against Rafer Alston, and dared him to make 3-pointers. Teams will not be able to do that with Richardson.
Rashard Lewis – Lewis received as much criticism as anyone after last season. Some of it was deserved, some of it not. What Lewis should be focusing on is improving and becoming more assertive next season. He very well could be the key to the whole season. Lewis’ ability to spread the floor and shoot — and occasionally post up against smaller defenders — is what Orlando is paying him all that money for. He needs to demand the ball more and not just stand in the corner, but more importantly he needs to keep taking and making 3-pointers. It is what keeps the offense going.
Dwight Howard – there should not be a lot to say about Howard. He has really gone above and beyond anything Orlando could hope for him to do. He is the single biggest force on the defensive side of the ball in the league. If Howard can continue to improve his offensive game (which has improved greatly already) and especially his free throw shooting, he could take Orlando to the next level without anyone else improving. It could really happen.
JJ Redick – Redick established himself as a the team’s sixth man and most consistent bench player. Redick earned the contract the Bulls offered him and the Magic matched. Whether that is too much or Orlando thinks he can one day be the team’s starter is another question. Redick had a career season in a contract year, that happens all the time. Could he come back down to earth next year?
Mickael Pietrus — Pietrus always seems to be a question mark. He made a name for himself playing big in the 2009 Playoffs after an injury-filled and up-and-down season. Everyone expected Pietrus to either fill in as the starter or be the most consistent scorer off the bench. Pietrus did not do that. He continued to be up and down, showing up for big games several times and putting in his points. But he also struggled to find his stroke in the postseason — especially in the conference finals. Pietrus continued to provide solid defense and might be the team’s best perimeter defender. That makes him very important to this season.
Chris Duhon – Orlando added Duhon this summer and expect him to be able to back up Nelson and (who knows) push him a little bit for minutes. Nelson has a history of injury and having a capable back up is very important. Duhon did a good job as the starter for the Knicks and should be able to fill in if needed. Duhon is not a fantastic shooter, but is very adept at the pick and roll. In other words, he fits what Orlando needs from a backup point guard and should be able to create off the dribble while the bench players are in.
Marcin Gortat – the Polish Hammer will continue to play the backup role for Howard. He wants more playing time but will not get it unless Howard gets hurt or until he develops a 15-foot jumper. Gortat still plays strong defense and is great on the roll, but the rest of his offensive game is limited. No one on the roster may have more trade value. Lots of teams think Gortat can produce if given the time. That makes him valuable to Orlando. As a backup he is more than serviceable.
Ryan Anderson – Anderson proved he was not just a throw in to the Vince Carter deal with a blistering start to the regular season. He continued to be Rashard Lewis-lite throughout the season, allowing Orlando to play a 4-out/1-in style all the time. It made benching Brandon Bass a lot easier for Stan Van Gundy. But Anderson did not fare as well in his playoff debut. The second-year player from Cal averaged 2.6 points per game and 28.6 percent on 3-pointers. This after a season where he averaged 7.7 points per game and 37.0 percent on 3-pointers. Anderson will have to make up for that and Van Gundy will have to play Brandon Bass some so he can feel comfortable with both in the postseason.
Brandon Bass – Bass is the other big puzzle on the roster. He played decently while he was in but also lost on both offense and defense. The hope for Magic fans — and probably those in the organization — is that something clicks and Bass becomes the bruiser Orlando needs to compete with teams like Boston and the Lakers. Bass represents the change of pace the Magic need to be able to have. Van Gundy was uncomfortable using him throughout the season. Exactly why i shard to tell — although there were hints out on the court. Bass is expected to have a bigger role next year.
Jason Williams – Williams played fantastic as the backup point guard last year in the regular season but faded in the conference finals. He is most likely going to see spot duty and hopefully push Duhon as the backup (competition breeds improvement, right?).
Daniel Orton — Orton is a big mystery after falling to 29th in the Draft. He has talent, but never showed it in summer league. His development throughout the season could very well determine whether Orlando would feel comfortable enough to trade Marcin Gortat. If you asked me right now, I feel Orton would be better served spending the entire year in Reno with the Big Horns and just gaining confidence and improving. Unless Patrick Ewing can devote exclusive time to him and really improve his game, Orton needs a lot of improvement.
Orlando does not need a whole lot more. Another wing player might be nice. With James Posey and Darren Collison being traded to Indiana from New Orleans, kill any thought of a Chris Paul deal. Not that it was likely to happen anyway.
So this is our roster. And it likely will not change. The addition of second round pick Stanley Robinson is likely the only move, and really that could be a blip for the few weeks of training camp and the preseason.
What it means is Orlando will be much the same team. The Magic will have to play like a team and have balanced scoring. That may not be the recipe du jour now with the Heat triumvirate taking over down south. But that is what Orlando will do. It should work in the regular season and then it will be all about matchups.
The players listed above all fill a role. And for the most part, they fill that role well. Another year within that role should make them better — you would hope, hopefully the disease of more does not creep in.
That is not to say things cannot change. Van Gundy is expected to play Bass more and play Lewis at the three more. Orlando will continue exploring trades that will make the team better.
Motivating this team more than anything will probably be falling short last year and facing what could have been called a disappointing season. The Magic have always relished being underdogs and now they have to prove themselves all over again. This team will have to be all about character and determination.