Team: Orlando Magic
Last Year’s Record: 59-23 (1st, Southeast Division)
Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Comings: Morris Almond, Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, Jason Williams, Ryan Anderson, Vince Carter
Goings: Hedo Turkoglu, Jeremy Richardson, Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, Courtney Lee
Blogger Thoughts: Eddy Rivera – Third Quarter Collapse
Championship. When the Orlando Magic finish a practice, that’s the word uttered when they break the huddle. That’s about as clear of an expectation as it’s going to get for a franchise committed to an estimated $82 million payroll in hopes of winning a title.
Thoughts On The Nets:
I like what New Jersey is building – it starts with Brook Lopez and Devin Harris, an inside-outside combo that will be devastating for years to come. Adding Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams alongside Chris Douglas-Roberts give the Nets increased versatility at the wings. Wins may not come right away, but they will eventually.
Comparing the Starters:
Starting PG – Jameer Nelson (16.7 ppg, 5.4 apg, 20.66 PER) vs. Devin Harris (21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 21.65 PER):
Jameer Nelson had an all-star first half of the semester but then he was injured right before the All-Star break and he didn’t return until the Finals where he played ok. Nelson is a physical point (small in terms of height, but he is very strong) who used his body to get defenders off balance and then hit jumpers. Nelson led the league by shooting 54.5 percent on long 2s and 56 percent on 2s that weren’t at the basket.
Nets. These kind of battles are really fun to watch, especially when you get the physical stronger point vs. the quick speedy point. I am giving the edge here to Devin, because we don’t know where Jameer is at right now in terms of health. I know he rehabbed since, but when he came back to the Finals he was a shell of his former self.
Starting SG – Vince Carter (20.8 ppg, 4.7 apg, 19.35 PER) vs. Courtney Lee (8.4 ppg, 1.2 apg, 10.78 PER):
Ah, Vince Carter. Last year, Vince had his best season as a Net (in my opinion), playing in 80 games and averaging 20 plus points. Carter showed that he can be a leader, and that he can hit clutch shots. Carter hit a number of late game shots, and he was a terrific passer. Defensively that is another story, he was once again a poor defender, and while many claim it was the team he was on, I think otherwise.
Magic. Vince Carter is a perfect fit for this team. A guy who would rather take jumpers than drive the lane, clogging it for Dwight Howard. Also, with guys like Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson on his team, there is no way teams can focus on Vince like they focused on him in New Jersey.
Starting SF – Mickael Pietrus (9.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 11.9 PER) vs. Chris Douglas-Roberts (4.9 ppg, 1.2 apg, 12.22 PER):
After a rough regular season where Pietrus had to battle through a number of injuries, Pietrus really shined in the playoffs, especially the NBA Finals. In the playoffs, he was able to hit the corner three, stretching the court for the Magic. The athletic wing also had played solid defense, and that could be the reason the Magic saw C.Lee as expendable.
Nets. This is the type of match-up CDR can take advantage of at the 3 spot. Pietrus isn’t a whole lot bigger than him (only 15 pounders heavier), and he isn’t a physical guy on the offensive end, meaning CDR can hang with him defensively. CDR is better than Pietrus on the offensive end as well/
Starting PF – Rashard Lewis (17.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 16.83 PER) vs. Yi Jianlian (8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 10.98 PER):
Usually when you have a 4 who plays behind the three point line, he isn’t able to hang on the defensive end, with Rashard Lewis though, he can defend 4s on the inside and stretch them out on the outside. Lewis is one of the league’s most difficult matchups because of his ability to stretch defenses against bigger opponents and post up smaller ones. He’s a very good post player from the left block against smaller defenders, with an unblockable turnaround jumper going to either side.
Magic. The one way you can take advantage of Lewis is if you have a big/physical 4 who bangs with him the whole game, hopefully tiring him out causing him to miss his shots short late in the game. Yi, while being more physical this year (in the preseason at least), won’t be able to do anything like this. Rashard is quicker than Yi, and he will be able to take him to the basket at will, and once Yi starts compensating for that, Lewis will hit jumpers over him.
Starting C – Dwight Howard (20.6 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 25.44 PER) vs. Brook Lopez (13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 17.94 PER):
Dwight Howard is a physical freak who had his breakout season last year. His offensive game continues to become more polished, and on the defensive end, he is just a stud, leading the league in blocks and rebounds. Howard was able to get to the line at a ridiculous rate. Howard attempted 0.87 free throws per field goal attempt and, in raw numbers, had nearly 100 more free-throw attempts than any other player in the league. It makes sense when you realize teams would rather foul him and watch him clang free-throws rather than see him dunk.
Magic. Can you imagine a guy who is as physical as Dwight and the polished game as Brook? As Dwight continues to work we are starting to get there, and when you realize that Dwight Howard is only 23, you realize that opposing Eastern Conference centers are in for a long long year. Though watching Brook and Dwight battle for the next 5-10 years should be real fun.
Despite losing guys who were big contributors from the bench (Rafer, Battie, Pietrus – who is now starting), the Magic did a terrific job of retooling. They got Matt Barnes who to add some defensive toughness, and they got two PFs who can come off the bench depending on the style the Magic want to play at that moment. They want to go big, just throw Brandon Bass in there. If they want to go small and stretch the court, they got Ryan Anderson.
Magic. I am a real big fan of the Nets depth, but the Magic’s bench is a real good one just because they have guys who can step in a replace starters (in terms of playing the same style of said starter). They can also adjust their rotation depending on how their opponent plays them (If teams go big, play Bass. If teams go small, play Anderson), allowing for great flexibility.