Blog Preview: Orlando Magic Preview

For the seventh year Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog has gathered everyone together for the Blog Preview. I will be getting to those other teams in the Never-Ending Preview. But today is for the Orlando Magic. So here is my contribution to the Blog Preview and a look at the Orlando Magic's 2012-13 season.

Orlando Magic
2012 Record:
Key Losses: Dwight Howard (traded to L.A. Lakers), Ryan Anderson (traded to New Orleans), Stan Van Gundy (fired)
Key Acquisitions: Arron Afflalo (traded from Denver), Nikola Vucevic (traded from Philadelphia), Sanity

1. What significant moves were made in the offseason?

None. Absolutely none. It was a quiet summer for the Magic.

Oh, you meant after August 10. Well, in that case, yeah the Magic were busy.

Orlando is going into rebuild mode after the whole Dwight Howard saga played out the way it did. The Magic could not salvage their relationship with Howard after he opted in to the final year of his contract and then soured on the franchise for a number of reasons — they have been well documented here and elsewhere. And so the Magic traded Howard and reshaped the franchise.

It began with firing of Stan Van Gundy and the resignation of Otis Smith. It continued with bringing in the new vision of Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn. But nothing can be built up until it all gets destroyed.

Hennigan, after taking his sweet time, took a wrecking ball to the old Magic by trading Dwight Howard for an interesting mix of veterans and young players in Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Maurice Harkless. Nobody is quite sure how this team will come together and most of the predictions are bad.

That is part of the point though. Orlando is putting a renewed focus on the draft and so being bad is a good thing. Everything is new in Orlando.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths

Resiliency might be the biggest strength. Or it should be because they are going to need it.

Last year, this Magic team was extremely professional while the whole Dwight Howard thing went down and each player is going to need to keep that professional, duck their head and keep playing hard through a lot of losing this year.

Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick have come to epitomize professionalism in the Magic locker room and no one will ever question their effort. Glen Davis has some ways to go, but it seems like he is taking his leadership role seriously and will be a good force in the locker room.

Unlike most rebuilding teams, there are a lot of veterans on this team who know what life is like in the NBA and have seen its ups and downs. That should mean the team will play hard just about every night and get through the season as best they can.

There will be plenty of frustration, but if they work hard and continue to buy in, the reward should come down the road and in a surprise performance this year.

3. What are the Team's Biggest Weakness

The Magic lack a "go-to" player. They lack a "go-to" defender. They lack basic sure talent.

Like most rebuilding teams, Orlando is going to be wracked with inconsistency. Like any team whose defense is built around the abilities of one player, the team is going to struggle defensively. Dwight Howard is not around to clean up mistakes on either end any more.

The Magic will ahve to find a way to create and manufacture points. They want to get out on the break to do this, but in the halfcourt it is going to take an incredible effort to score at a consistent pace.

Defensively, even with Dwight Howard, there were few good one-on-one defenders. But Howard cleaned up so much it did not matter. Nikola Vucevic and Gustavo Ayon are no Dwight Howard's in the paint. Teams will find it much easier to get into the paint and score against this Orlando team. That puts more pressure on the perimeter defenders to do their jobs. And that is where the team's lack of great individual defenders will bring trouble.

4. What are the goals for this team?

The goals for the Magic are to play hard and maintain a winning and professional culture while potentially facing a lot of losses. This season will not be measured by wins and losses. Orlando does not really have the talent to compete for much more than one of the last spots in the Playoffs, and that is incredibly optimistic.

So for the Magic to be deemed a "success" this year, the Magic have to show that they are playing hard and are going to be a tough out. Orlando cannot just roll over and die and accept the preseason expectations of 20 wins or fewer.

This team has to have the goal of competing for and sneaking into the Playoffs and play with that chip on their shoulder. The goal should be to prove everyone wrong about this team and these individual players.

5. When will the Magic be "back?"

The big knock on the trade of Dwight Howard was that Orlando did not get a star in return and did not shed enough salary to get back into contention quickly. Those are fair criticisms — especially with some of the other rumored deals out there.

So when will Orlando be back?

The Magic still have a lot of money tied up into the 2014 team. It will likely not be until the 2014-15 season that Orlando will be able to spend money to bring in a decent player to bring the team back into Playoff contention. The Magic are hoping smart drafting will keep the boat steady and provide the foundation for a future title run. And it looks like Orlando will take two drafts to rebuild that foundation.

That is not what Magic fans want to hear — especially if you know who is winning out West and that team down South is dominating the East.

Orlando fans are excited about the future and optimistic, but that may not last through a 10-game losing streak and a rough season. Another rough season would not help matters either. But that looks like what we are in for.