Predicting the Orlando Magic Starting Five Next Season
Even though Dwight Howard decided to sign on for one more season, the Orlando Magic are no doubt nervous that they may lose their franchise cornerstone in the near future. But, Howard obviously is attached to the city of Orlando and may decide to star in the Magic Kingdom long-term if substantial improvements occur to the roster.
With a few contracts coming off the books and some nice trade assets, GM Otis Smith and the Magic brass will have the opportunity this summer to add another star next to Howard. Not only does this appease Howard's demand of wanting a second superstar in his city, but it will greatly improve Orlando's chances for a title.
However, Orlando's problems don't end there, as their supporting cast is aging and they don't possess a perimeter player who can create his own shot off the dribble.
In the end, Orlando has an opportunity to greatly improve their roster and here is my prediction for the Magic's starting five next season.
Center: Dwight Howard
This was a no-brainer.
With Orlando deciding not to ship Howard at the trade deadline, the Magic have essentially committed to their hopes of signing Howard to a long-term deal.
Whether Howard decides to sign that deal is another question, but Howard will definitely be the starting center in O-Town next season.
Howard is, by leaps and bounds, the best center in the NBA. Even though his offensive post-up game is still somewhat raw, Howard's athleticism allows him to score a majority of his points off putbacks, slams and alley-oops. This season, the dominating behemoth under the hoop is scoring nearly 21 points per night.
But, if you think his offensive production is impressive, you should check out his defensive and rebounding stats. On the defensive side of the court, Howard is swatting 2.2 shots per game, and he is in contention for another NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
His work on the boards is also quite impressive. "Superman" is bringing down almost 15 balls off the glass per night.
With Howard's contributions, the Magic will surely be a dominant team in the East.
Power Forward: Josh Smith
What better way to convince franchise cornerstone Howard to stay in Orlando than to acquire childhood friend and athletic superstar Josh Smith?
Smith, who has been snubbed from the Eastern Conference All-Star team the last few seasons, has developed into arguably the most versatile player in the association. Not only can Smith play out on the perimeter, but he possess a refined post game. Also, he is a fearsome shot-blocker that wreaks havoc on opposing teams.
Smith, who is scoring 18.4 points per game, is undoubtedly the best player on the Atlanta Hawks and there is no doubt that the team will be reluctant to trade the forward.
A trade would go down like this:
Orlando would trade to the Hawks Jameer Nelson, Daniel Orton, Jason Richardson and a couple of draft picks for Josh Smith and Ivan Johnson.
This deal makes sense for both teams, as the Hawks improve their backcourt depth while Orlando adds the second star they have been searching for.
If Howard alone on defense is scary, a duo of Howard and Smith would be downright frightening for opposing squads.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza
With Hedo Turkoglu's production and consistency on a sharp decline, the Magic would be wise to start looking for a backup small forward.
Well, what about former Magic forward Trevor Ariza?
Ariza, who is currently playing with the dismal New Orleans Hornets, hasn't developed the way many scouts expected him to after his breakout seasons in Los Angeles, but he is still a very talented forward.
This young slasher can penetrate to the basket with ease and possesses a silky smooth jumper. This season, Ariza is scoring 11 points per game and shooting 41 percent from the field.
But, Ariza's most valuable contributions come on defense, as the former UCLA Bruin is a lockdown defender. His lanky 6'8" frame allows him to guard a plethora of positions.
A trio of Howard, Smith and Ariza would be the best defensive frontcourt in the league.
To acquire Ariza, Orlando would have to ship rookie Justin Harper, power forward Glen Davis and a few draft picks to New Orleans.
Shooting Guard: J.J. Redick
When J.J. Redick was drafted with the 11th overall pick by Orlando back in 2006, many expected big things out of the former Duke star. However, Redick did not receive consistent minutes in the rotation and his first few seasons in the league were somewhat disappointing.
However, Redick has raised the level of his play and has developed into an elite sixth man. The sharpshooting guard can nail any open jumper on the court and is shooting at the tune of 42 percent from the field. Redick has also developed into a fantastic passer, as his court vision has been on full display over the past few years.
Redick, who has played on the bench his entire career, is definitely ready to make the jump to the starting lineup. Even though he is currently outplaying starter Jason Richardson, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy refuses to start the efficient Redick.
With athletic stars Smith, Howard and Ariza already in the starting lineup, Van Gundy would be able to mask Redick's defensive deficiencies.
Redick would be a fantastic addition to the starting lineup.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
Steve Nash has released that, unless the Phoenix Suns show significant improvement, he will be taking his talents away from the state of Arizona this offseason. While Nash is only expected to play a few more seasons due to his advanced age, there is no doubt that there will be many suitors for the elder statesman's talents.
In Orlando, Nash would bring a whole new element to a team struggling to find a consistent offense. Not only is he currently the best facilitator in the NBA, but he has the ability to knock down open shots and apply pressure to the defense.
Nash would have to take a serious pay cut if he wants to play in Orlando, but the Magic present an opportunity not found in many organizations: a championship-caliber team.