extensive look at the Orlando Magic extensive look at the Orlando Magic extensive look at the Orlando Magic

Commenting on Kevin Arnovitz’s extensive look at the Orlando Magic

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If you didn’t already see it, TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz took an extensive look at the Orlando Magic in their recent wins over the Cavaliers and Hawks. It’s a long read, but well worth the effort. He listed his seven reasons why the Magic should be feared – and he told me there were even more reasons that were cut out because of space. While it’s hard to argue with any of Arnovitz’s reasoning, let’s take a look at each of his major points:

"1. Rafer Alston is getting comfortable with the offense."

Otis Smith’s move to get Alston becomes a better move by the day. That’s obvious, though, let’s move on.

"2. Dwight Howard can and will kick it out of the post…and his shooters will make it easy for him."

While Howard is anything but Vlade Divac in the post, he’s made incredible strides over the past year in his ability to pass out of the post. When opposing teams send a second defender, Howard more often that not finds an open cutter or 3-point shooter. What Arnovitz didn’t point out, however, is that when certain teams don’t double-team Howard, Howard can’t always beat his defender one-on-one and Orlando’s offense consequently sputters. We’ve seen it against teams like the Celtics and Pistons, who bow up against Howard and there’s nothing he can do. Unlike stars such as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Howard can be neutralized on the offensive end of the floor. This is where the Magic’s lack of a bonafide perimeter scorer comes back to hurt them. Hedo Turkoglu is a great player for this team (Arnovitz heaps praise on Turk later in the article), but he’s a little out of his element when called on to be “the man” late in the game. Rashard Lewis can’t create his own shot, and Rafer Alston isn’t that type of player. That’s what worries me in the playoffs, and why a little part of me (very small part; I think the Magic are capable of winning it all) agrees with the traditional pundits when they say the Magic aren’t built for the playoffs. If the Magic and Cavs are in the final minutes of a playoff game, LeBron is going to be in full-on attack mode. He’s going to be very difficult to stop — especially when you throw in the Jordan rules. The Magic are going to have to find a way to match baskets with him down the stretch, and I’m not totally sure how they’re going to do that.

"3. Dwight Howard’s presence makes it hard for opponents to run basic offensive sets."

This is why Dwight Howard deserves to be in the MVP consideration. His presence changes the landscape of the game. You can really notice it when the Magic play the Cavs. LeBron James — who regularly drives through the lane and challenges anyone and everyone at the rim — tends to stay out of the lane when he plays the Magic. The thought of confronting Dwight Howard in the paint isn’t something he wants to do. Since LeBron attacking the rim is the Cavs’ primary offensive weapon, the Magic become a mighty touch matchup for Cleveland.

"4. Smart perimeter defenders + Howard behind them = Tough outings for slashers."

There’s no doubt that Orlando’s perimeter guys have become attuned to funneling slashing offensive players into the big guy waiting in the paint.

"5. Hedo Turkoglu is a triple threat. 6. Though the Magic don’t have to play in transition to win, they push the ball incredibly well. 7. Forget about getting any productive isolation sets for your big men down in the post."

It’s hard for anyone to argue any of these points. Arnovitz said this wasn’t even all of his reasons the Magic are a favorite to win it all — he apparently had to cut this down because it was too long. Arnovitz represents a growing national support of the Magic’s title chances. John Hollinger’s playoff odds list Orlando as the favorite to win the title, and the Magic are starting to really gain ground in the national spotlight since wins over Boston and Cleveland in the last two weeks. What do you think? Do you disagree or agree with any of Kevin’s points?