Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010-2011 Orlando Magic

The Magic decided to pretty much stand pat even though last year's watered down version of the Celtics pushed them straight into a 3-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals. I guess they're banking on Dwight Howard continuing to meteorically improve and the hope that Year 2 of Vince Carter is a little more ... good. They did add a little more firepower in basically swapping Anthony Johnson and Matt Barnes for Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson, but with an ever-improving Eastern Conference full of high-profile maneuvering, will it be enough?

2010-2011 Orlando Magic

Point Guard: Jameer Nelson/Chris Duhon/Jason Williams
Shooting Guard: Vince Carter/J.J. Redick
Small Forward: Mickael Pietrus/Quentin Richardson/Stanley Robinson
Power Forward: Rashard Lewis/Ryan Anderson/Brandon Bass/Malik Allen
Center: Dwight Howard/Marcin Gortat/Daniel Orton

Though he had his post-retirement moments, Chris Duhon is a big upgrade over Jason Williams as the back-up point. He regressed last season as a sometimes-starter for the Knicks, but his bounce-back is inevitable under a Stan Van Gundy-led system. And while Quentin Richardson has always been a natural 3-point threat and a solid defensive plug-in, I think they'll miss Matt Barnes' general craziness that he brought in certain situations. A Mickael Pietrus/Q-Rich combo isn't exactly a feared defensive tandem on the perimeter. That's one of the reasons that I see them having a slight drop-off this season. They'll still be a premier team bound to get top-4 home court seeding in the East, but all of their competitors made tangible improvements while Orlando went lateral.

Where they could make up that ground on their competitors is simple: Dwight. He shot a career high 61.2% from the floor last season, but he needs to get his scoring back over 20 points every game. As sick as it is to say, it would also be nice for him to up his 13.2 boards he pulled last season. He has the size and unheard-of physique to do it. As a matter of fact, he's already done it with 14.2 rebounds in '08. Basically, he just has to figure out a way to overcome Vince's presence and over-dribbling tendency to make himself a consistent force. I don't care how good the rest of his teammates chuck three-pointers, they're not gonna be anywhere close to a championship squad until Dwight puts at least 25 points on the scoreboard every night. 2004 aside, there needs to be a number one option on any great team, and Dwight needs to be that. You can't have Carter as 1A, Howard as 1B, Rashard Lewis as 1C, and Jameer Nelson as 2. It might go great for the majority of the year, but not when it really means anything.

There's not much of anything else to say about the Magic that isn't redundant of last year's squad. The guy with a surprising new contract, J.J. Redick, will be looking to prove he's valuable enough to possibly shake up the starting line-up at some point this year. He, Pietrus, Richardson, and Lewis will all be firmly planted at the 3-point line awaiting their 17 alloted chucks per game. Ryan Anderson will see if he can still naturally be such a valuable contributor that it's impossible to keep him on the bench. Marcin Gortat will probably force a trade at some point this season because there's honestly no room for him with how Van Gundy wants his team to play 48 minutes a night. Literally, his only usage would come if Dwight went down with a serious injury. And considering the fact that he's played in 489 of a possible 492 career games, that's not gonna happen. All-in-all, I think they wind up getting bitten again by the Celtics. I don't trust Howard or his back-ups enough to be able to overcome Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, and Jermaine O'Neal being thrown at him. You gotta hit the free throws from those 24 fouls being dedicated to taking you out of the game, and that's something Howard hasn't proven he can do yet. Shaq got away with it in his prime because he was already putting in over 27 points and had Kobe to clean up the rest. And that's my motto for the Orlando Magic in 2011: Vince Carter is not Kobe Bryant.

Regular Season: 56-26
Playoffs: Eliminated in Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

... and do the John Wall.

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