10 Keys for the Orlando Magic Heading into the Playoffs
To start the season off, the Orlando Magic came out of the gates in spectacular fashion, as they accumulated a dominating 10-3 record. Not only was the team winning games and earning the title of championship contender, but, most importantly, everyone was content.
Oh, how the tides have turned!
Skip forward a few months and the Orlando Magic are arguably the most disheveled team in the whole league. From injury issues to Howard's frustration with coach Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic do not look like a team gunning for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
However, the Orlando Magic are still projected to be in the playoffs, and it is definitely not too late for the organization to right the ship.
But in order to accomplish the aforementioned feat, the Magic must accomplish the subsequent goals.
Magic Need to Shoot over 40 Percent from Deep
Since the hiring of current Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic's offense has heavily relied upon three-point shooting. This year is no exception, as O-Town is converting on over 10 threes per game on 38 percent shooting.
However, if the Orlando Magic want to finish the season strong, the team absolutely needs to shoot over 40 percent. With Dwight Howard being double-teamed on almost every possession, Orlando's shooters must step up their games and become more efficient.
With sharpshooters Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson on the roster, there is no doubt that this can be accomplished.
Limit the Turnovers
Due to the rapid decline of veteran ball-handlers Chris Duhon, Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson, the Orlando Magic are giving up over 15 turnovers per night.
The sad reality is, however, that these three players make up for a majority of the lost opportunities.
In a league where possessions are invaluable, the Orlando Magic must find a way to make these three players less reckless while facilitating the offense.
The Bench Becomes an Elite Backup Unit
When you look across the association, there is a prevalent, common theme that runs through the best squads. This theme is, of course, the fact that the elite franchises possess the best backup units. From the Chicago Bulls to the Boston Celtics, there depth is a deciding factor in many of their respective matchups.
There is no denying that the Orlando Magic's backup unit has the ability to perform like any of the aforementioned benches. After all, this talented group includes forward Glen Davis, facilitator Chris Duhon, swingman Quentin Richardson and marksman J.J. Redick.
Find a Solution to Stop Opposing Athletic Guards
Throughout this condensed season, the Orlando Magic have struggled in their attempts to stop opposing athletic guards. From Derrick Rose to Russell Westbrook, the combination of Jameer Nelson and Chris Duhon have not been able to stop these dominating forces.
But it is not just All-Stars that dominate who have their way against the Magic, as role players like Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague have also caused nightmare matchups.
Whether it is changing the defensive strategy or granting more minutes to reserve guard Ish Smith, the Orlando Magic need to find a solution to this dilemma fast.
Replace the Production Left from Hedo Turkoglu
Sure, Hedo Turkoglu has struggled this season, as he is having one of the worst statistical years of his career. But the 6'11" point forward brings something to the Orlando Magic offense that is hard to replace. Due to his fantastic ball-handling skills and elite size, the small forward is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
Whether it is posting up against smaller defenders or facilitating the transition offense, Turkoglu can hurt opposing squads in a plethora of ways.
With Hedo Turkoglu out for the rest of the season with a facial fracture, the Orlando Magic must look for possible replacements to fill his vital role.
Shooting guard J.J. Redick and small forward Quentin Richardson become the primary beneficiaries with all of the leftover minutes in the rotation.
Jameer Nelson Finds Consistency in His Game
Over the course of this truncated season, Jameer Nelson has struggled finding his groove in the offense. When Nelson is confident, the tiny point guard facilitates the offense effectively and efficiently. He nails three-pointers, finds open teammates in transition and penetrates the lane with determination.
However, when Nelson doesn't come ready to play, the 6'0" guard struggles with his shot and is often relegated to the fourth or fifth option on offense.
The Orlando Magic are most successful when Nelson is a central cog in the offense, as he is undoubtedly one of their best athletes.
No More 50-Point Outings
The Orlando Magic are the essence of inconsistency. One night the squad puts up over 100 points and they struggle to score over 60 points the following night. This can't be acceptable if Orlando wants to acquire a higher seeding in the Eastern Conference and make a firm championship push.
There have been two occasions this year where the Orlando Magic did not eclipse the 60-point threshold.
The Roster Fully Recovers from Injuries Before the Playoffs
The Orlando Magic have been hit hard by the injury bug. After starting the season with relatively few injuries, the O-Town roster has been falling apart as of late. From Dwight Howard's back to Jameer Nelson's knee, the Magic have struggled to find help when important parts in the rotation miss games.
While it is too late for Hedo Turkoglu, as he will miss the entire season due to injury, there are a few Magic players who could definitely afford to miss time in order to become healthy for the playoffs.
One of these players is Ryan Anderson, who has been hampered by an ankle injury for the last few days.
Dwight Howard Maintains His Ridiculous Season Averages
Despite all of the rumors and controversy swirling around Dwight Howard, the 6'11" behemoth has put up an MVP-caliber stat line this year. His averages of over 20 points and 14 boards per night are absolute displays of dominance, as the center has controlled the paint all season long.
Nobody in the league can physically match Howard, as he creates a mismatch every single game.
Howard must maintain his averages till the end of the regular season if Orlando wants to make one last push for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After all, Orlando's offense and defense center around the big man in the middle.
The Team Believes in Stan Van Gundy as a Coach
How many championships in the NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL have been won with a team that does not believe and respect their coach?
The answer to the preceding question is none.
The Orlando Magic are definitely in championship-or-bust territory and, if they don't believe in their coach, the latter most likely will occur.
With all these allegations that franchise cornerstone Howard wants coach Stan Van Gundy fired, the Orlando Magic must block out the distractions and focus on the main championship goal by having their coach's back.