Bloggers Talks: Orlando Magic

An added treat. Yes, I know tonight is a road game, but we love the Orlando Magic match-up so much, we decided to do another Blogger’s Talk. We’re back with Andrew Melnick from the Magic blog, Howard the Dunk.

NAS: The Magic are off to a solid start despite some early injury woes. What does that say about their depth?

Melnick: It says that the Magic have excellent depth and without, they would be in some trouble. We knew the Magic would have to show off their depth early with the suspension of Rashard Lewis for 10 games, but they have had to play games without Vince Carter (ankle), Ryan Anderson (ankle), Mickael Pietrus (flu-like symptoms) and Anthony Johnson (personal reasons). The entire Magic team and especially Dwight Howard, have had a lot of problems staying out of foul trouble. To be 6-2 after all of that, it shows that the Magic have an incredibly deep team.

NAS: What are your impressions of Jason Williams off the bench at the point so far?

Melnick: Jason Williams has been better than I thought. He’s been very good as the backup to Jameer Nelson. He’s playing a little under 20 minutes per game and has been very effective. He has been solid from the outside shooting the 3-pointer (38%) and has an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio (4.6 to 1). Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy likes the way that Williams plays in a close game but he thinks that he gets too fancy in a less-than-tight game.

Williams has led some key runs and has been able to help Orlando extend leads while running with the second unit. He hasn’t shown many signs of rust, which is pretty surprising considering that he did not play in the NBA last season. Overall, I am very happy with Williams’ play so far.

NAS: There’s been a lot of talk about the Magic struggling on the defensive end so far. Any insight as to what’s the issues there?

Melnick: Well, first and foremost, the Magic have not been healthy. They’ve been missing Rashard Lewis, who is an underrated defender at the Power Forward position. Dwight Howard has not been able to defend the paint quite the way he likes because he has not been able to avoid foul trouble.

Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy blames their suspect defense on a lack of intensity, effort and intelligence. Van Gundy went so far as to call the Magic the worst defensive team in the league after Sunday night’s blowout loss in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

At times the Magic play very good defense. In fact, on Tuesday night the Bobcats exploded in the third quarter and scored 30 points to cut what once was a 15-point Magic lead to six. Orlando then held the Bobcats to just 10 points in the game’s final quarter.

Van Gundy pointed out that Celtics finish games and play good defense for 48 minutes – they keep their intensity level up throughout the entire game. The Magic simply do not have enough effort on defense right now. Dwight Howard has been in foul trouble and has grown frustrated too quickly – he is not the same player the won Defensive Player of the Year last season right now. He is not rebounding and blocking shots like he should and at times looks apprehensive on the defensive end. Jameer Nelson has now let an opposing Point Guard have their way with him three games in row (Westbrook, Felton, Mo Williams). These are things that did not happen last season. Luckily, these are all correctable problems.

NAS: How is the return of Rashard Lewis going to affect Orlando’s rotation? How do you think it should affect the rotation?

Melnick: Rashard Lewis will be the starting Power Forward and I think that is absolutely the right move. He was an All-Star at the position; he creates matchup problems and I said earlier, is an underrated defender.

The starting lineup should consist of Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and either Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus. Right now it looks like Barnes has the edge and I like that move – Pietrus is better suited to come off of the bench. He provides instant scoring and is the perfect player to spark Orlando’s second unit.

Obviously, this is going to mean both Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass will have reduced roles. Bass has started three games during Anderson’s absence after Anderson started the first six games of the season. Ryan Anderson can present several of the same matchup problems that Lewis creates because of his ability to shoot the 3-pointer. Bass is more of an inside player although he is an excellent shooter from the baseline.

Orlando’s second unit would be Jason Williams, J.J. Redick, Marcin Gortat, Pietrus (or Barnes) and either Bass or Anderson. I’m assuming Van Gundy will play whichever player present the biggest matchup problem for the opponent on that particular night. If that is the case, I would be very happy about it. I think that is exactly how the Magic should handle their rotation once Rashard Lewis returns.