Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard's Departure Will Put Team at the Bottom of East

Andres BoteroCorrespondent IJune 27, 2012

Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard's Departure Will Put Team at the Bottom of East

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    As the Orlando Magic are preparing for the 2012 NBA draft, fans are wondering what the team is going to do after such a tumultuous season with star center Dwight Howard.

    Though Howard opted to stay with the Magic through the 2012-2013 season, no one really knows whether or not he will live up to his promise.

    However, there is one certain fact in this fiasco: Once Howard leaves Orlando, the Magic will play poorly in the Eastern Conference.

    Here are some reasons why:

Offensive Leader

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    A major piece of the Magic offense was Dwight Howard and his high-percentage shots from the post.

    This past season, Dwight Howard led the team in points per game and minutes per game, averaging 14.5 and 38.3 respectively.

    Not all of his points come from just dunking on people; Howard has developed a few finesse moves to complement his physical style of play.

    Dwight Howard has developed other post moves the past few seasons such as bank shots from 18 feet out, running baby hook shots and turnaround jump shots. 

    His versatility in the post is advantageous and makes him more of a game-changer than he already is.

    Also, the more time he spends on the floor equates to more open looks for his teammates as Howard is double-teamed in the post.

    The Magic lose most of the offensive advantage because opposing teams can focus on pressing all five players as opposed to fixating on Howard in the post. 

Tour De(fense) Force

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    Dwight Howard is one of the top defensive players in the league.

    Without him, the Magic will have a hard time keeping up with the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and other high-scoring offenses. 

    Howard averaged 10.8 defensive rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.1 blocks per game this past season. 

    Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated wrote a piece in April, pointing out how the Magic come undone defensively without Howard.

    Despite the recent offensive explosion, the Magic are just 3-5 without Howard, and five of those eight games have come against some of the league’s worst defensive teams — two against the Pistons, and one each against the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Wizards. The Magic’s defense has come totally undone without the league’s greatest defensive force around to anchor it. 

    Even though the Magic can score points, it isn't enough without Howard, their defensive linchpin.

    His size and athleticism in the post makes him an obstacle for most other teams; once he leaves Orlando, the Magic will need to evaluate their defensive capabilities if they want to stay atop the Eastern Conference. 

Three-Point Shooting

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    Bleacher Report's Karthik Tadisina wrote about Howard's offensive production and how it is tied to Ryan Anderson's three-point shooting. 

    The growth and consistency of Anderson will be a huge factor as the season rolls along and heads into the postseason. Howard will be facing multiple double-teams, so Anderson knowingly should be ready to shoot the ball and he should be used to it by now.

    If coaches focus too much on Howard, they leave themselves vulnerable to the three-point shot.. 

    Once Howard leaves, opposing coaches can focus on guarding the three-point shot, the Magic's main offensive tool.

    Without Howard, there is more pressure for the shooters to be efficient with their opportunities.

    Even when Howard does not have the ball, he still controls how the defense sets up: Either they brace against him and begrudgingly allow Anderson more open looks or play everyone straight up and risk a mismatch against Howard.

No Rings in the Near Future

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    David Whitley of the AOL Sporting News wrote about how most teams that win a title do so because of a Hall of Fame-esque player on their roster.

    After watching the 2012 NBA Finals, I'm inclined to agree.

    In order to win an NBA title, it helps if a team has a Hall of Fame-caliber player, and Dwight Howard fits the bill.

    The only recent team to win a title without a player putting up HOF numbers was the 2004 Detroit Pistons; they had All-Star-caliber players like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and first-team All-Defense member Tayshaun Prince. 

    The 2004 Pistons are an exception to the norm: Teams that have multiple elite-level NBA players that are able to put big numbers during the grinding playoffs.

    Without Howard, the Magic's chances of making it back to the finals again diminishes significantly.