What If? Series: 2009 Orlando Magic vs. Denver Nuggets

Dwight Howard and Nene would have been an intriguing and testing battle if the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets met in the 2009 NBA Finals. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Dwight Howard and Nene would have been an intriguing and testing battle if the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets met in the 2009 NBA Finals. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /
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Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets, Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic
A matchup between Rashard Lewis and Carmelo Anthony in the NBA Finals would have added plenty of intrigue. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /


I will fully admit, entering this experiment, I wanted to completely dismiss the Denver Nuggets. I did not remember much about that team and it did not imprint on me much. It is easy to fall into the stereotype of Carmelo Anthony hogging the ball and being the iso scorer he was and thinking that was this team.

This Nuggets team was very much of the older generation. It used two bigs and tried to be physical, using one dominant scorer to create space for everyone. It was clearly still a formula that would work.

But like the real Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers, this simulated series revealed the Orlando Magic’s flaws. They could have won the series against Lakers, just like they could have very well won the series against the Nuggets.

But Orlando was no runaway favorite. They had a ton of flaws. And everything had to fall into place with execution and shot-making to win.

They had great spacing and shooters, but they lacked the last bit to get over the top. They needed a perimeter creator and scorer to close games. Hedo Turkoglu had his big moments but he could get stymied. Rashard Lewis could go hot and cold.

Nowhere is the flaw more apparent than with Dwight Howard himself. He could put up monster numbers, but would he carry the team to a win and to a title? That was always the question.

Carmelo Anthony was someone who could take over a game. In the playoffs, being able to beat a set defense is the biggest thing. That was the biggest element the Magic were missing and the biggest flaw in the 2009 team. And that proved to be the difference against the Lakers and could have been a big difference if these teams played each other in 2009.

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And that is probably why the Magic took the chance to go after a player like Vince Carter, someone they believed could give the team the missing finishing element from the perimeter and take more pressure off Dwight Howard.

That obviously did not work. It seems the 2009 Magic captured lightning in a bottle. They were good enough to win a title. But everything needed to work perfectly. It did go right, helping get them to the 2009 Finals.

But they were not really ready for that stage. And the league was not quite ready for the barrage they unleashed and the revolution the Magic started. There were still defenses to the league’s incoming 3-point revolution.

I think the Magic and Nuggets would have played an entertaining and close series. If we ran that simulation again, the Magic would probably win their fair share of them — incidentally, I ran the simulation a second time and the Magic swept the series to win the title.

The Nuggets absolutely have the right to be confident in that series. So too did the Magic.

Maybe the marketers would have had nightmares (they still would have had Anthony to sell!). But it would have been a competitive and interesting series on a number of levels.

If I had to make a pick, I would say the Magic win in 7. I think homecourt advantage and their shooting and matchup advantages would give them the series more often than not. But it would be a close and tight battel throughout.

Both the 2009 Magic and 2009 Nuggets have reason to feel history has slighted them and forgotten them. Both fan bases have a right to believe these teams, quite possibly the best teams in each franchise’s history, are overlooked and forgotten.

Next. Who has next for the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame?. dark

Or maybe the ultimate conclusion is the right team won in real life. The Lakers were the better team than both the Magic and Nuggets that year.