With plenty of cap room this summer and new (and winning!) head coach Stan Van Gundy leading the way, the Orlando Magic look bound for big things in 2007-08.
Even though the Magic get talked about as a one-star team, I believe their supporting cast is good enough to produce a winner in Orlando for the first time since 1995-96.
Yes, the team had its shortcomings last season—their points-per-game average ranked 27th in the league, as did their free-throw percentage and three-point attempts. To make matters worse, the Magic averaged roughly 16 turnovers PER GAME.
But it wasn't all bad. The Magic had the fourth-best field goal percentage in the league, and the ninth-most blocks. Factor in their budding individual talent, and things are looking pretty all right for the season ahead:
#1: Trevor Ariza
Positives: Ariza is one of the fastest players in the NBA. If he continues to develop the way most of us think he will, he should add a lot to the Magic.
Negatives: Ariza was hurt last season, playing in only 57 games. If that trend keeps up, we're going to have a problem.
Outlook: Ariza should be good to go at at least 95 percent health this year. We need his agility and aggressiveness to the hoop, so I hope he's ready for some playing time.
#30: Carlos Arroyo
Positives: Carlos brings great energy whenever he steps on the court. He also plays pretty well on the defensive end.
Negatives: For a point guard, his assists are way too low. His turnover ratio isn't very good either.
Outlook: I love Arroyo as a player, but I don't really think the Magic need him. They have a pretty good backup PG in Keyon Dooling, and I believe Arroyo will shine brightly if given the chance somewhere else. If he does stay, he'll give our team a much-needed burst of energy every time he comes into a game.
#40: James Augustine
Outlook: I only got to see James play garbage minutes in one game but he was great when he was in. Hopefully he'll get to play more next season so we can see what he's really made of.
#4: Tony Battie
Positives: Despite his age, Tony can still play some defense and grab some boards. As a backup C or PF, he could provide a big lift.
Negatives: He's 31 years old, and his shooting has declined with age. He used to be automatic from the free-throw line area when shooting field goals...but he only shot 49 percent last year. His lack of offense really hurt us.
Outlook: As a backup, Tony could provide some decent, necessary defense. We shouldn't expect much else.
#10: Keith Bogans
Positives: Apparently, I'm the only person in Orlando who remembers that Bogans is a pretty good three-point shooter! He only shot 39 percent from long range last season...but he was used in a VERY limited role. Besides, his defense makes up for any shortcomings on offense.
Negatives: Bogans is great as a backup SG, but that's about it. If J.J. Redick gets injured, we would probably start Nelson and Dooling...which would technically make Bogans a third-stringer. That's not going to help his confidence.
Outlook: Van Gundy wants to run this season and still have shooters on the court. In that kind of system, Bogans will get a good amount of minutes...and should (hopefully) flourish.
#34: Travis Diener
Outlook: Diener logged 11 MPG in 26 games last season. In that time, he averaged 3.8 points and 1.3 assists. He might be a good backup PG on another team, but I believe it would be in everyone's best interests for the Magic to send him to the D-league.
#5: Keyon Dooling
Positives: Keyon is a high-energy, defensively-minded player. His offense is pretty good too: 7.3 PPG in 16.3 minutes. In his time at point guard last season, he looked to have the makings of a capable distributor.
Negatives: Sometimes, Keyon looks completely lost. He takes jumpers way out of his range, and he should have more steals, considering his size and speed.
Outlook: Dooling will be great for us as a backup PG. His passing should improve, and hopefully he will give Jameer Nelson a run for the starting position (which will, in turn, light a fire under Jameer and get him to reach his NBA potential).
#8: Pat Garrity
Positives: Pat's experience makes him a great leader on the court and, I'm sure, in the locker room. Plus, seeing him dunk last year was one the greatest things ever.
Negatives: Pat will be 31 before the season starts, and he's injury-prone. Even though he's ranked 15th in all-time three-point shooting percentage, he has dropped off in the last few seasons.
Outlook: I think this will be Pat's last season in Orlando...if he survives it. I love Pat for what he's done for this team, but now he's just dragging the Magic down. Give him a front office position (or let him teach EVERYONE how to shoot free-throws) while he still has his dignity.
#33: Grant Hill
Positives: Despite his age, GHill continues to be one of the best players in the game. Last season, he averaged 15 PPG in 31 minutes. He was and is very valuable both on the court and in the locker room.
Negatives: He's almost 35...and I cringe every time he comes down on either ankle. Plus, he's a free agent.
Outlook: Grant will succeed wherever he lands. However, I can't help but feel as if he owes the Magic something...especially since we only got two seasons out of his seven-year contract. Should he sign with Orlando for the vets' minimum, he'll be the piece that make this team excel.
#12: Dwight Howard
Positives: Dwight is the man. That's really all I can say. He's 11 months older than I am...and he's already one of the best, if not the best, big man in the NBA.
Negatives: Maybe it's the curse of Shaq...but Dwight's free-throw percentage last season (59 percent) was horrible. He also needs to improve his footwork and ability to play away from the basket.
Outlook: If Dwight improves as much this offseason as he did last year, he'll be the best center in the NBA. He's only getting better, and he'll lead the Magic for years to come.
#31: Darko Milicic
Positives: Darko just started to reach his potential last season. With a crazy hook shot and great shot-blocking skills, he'll be a solid asset to the Magic this year.
Negatives: Darko spent so much time on the bench in Detroit that he has yet to develop an identity as a player. Last season, there were times at which he looked utterly lost.
Outlook: If the Magic get a competent big-man coach, the NBA'd better watch out. Darko's a seven-footer who can shoot from the outside. Look for him to come out of his shell this season and blow everyone away.
#14: Jameer Nelson
Positives: Last offseason, Jameer hosted a weekend summit with his new teammates. That kind of leadership will greatly help this team. Jameer was also "Mr. 4th Quarter" for much of the season, helping the Magic secure wins in close games.
Negatives: Jameer seemed to lose his edge as a closer late in the season. More importantly, he's a PG with a SG mentality—and that HAS to change this year.
Outlook: Jameer is a great player, but you have to be ready to give the ball up as starting PG. Jameer always wants to take the big shot. That's not his job. If he doesn't start passing more, we might need to look elsewhere.
#45: Bo Outlaw
Positives: Bo is the most entertaining player in the NBA. From his sideline dancing to his theatrical game entrance, he always bring a high level of energy to the court.
Negatives: Bo is a year older than Grant Hill, and he's shown signs of slowing down. For all his energy, younger players are starting to beat him to the ball.
Outlook: Bo won't play a lot of minutes, but he'll be a great motivator for the team. He should be given a front office job after this season...and will definitely get his name and number on a banner in the rafters at the Orlando O-Rena (I refuse to call it whatever its official name is these days).
#7: J.J. Redick
Outlook: J.J. is my favorite basketball player of all time. In his first year in the NBA, he was barely utilized by coach Brain Hill—despite Hill's need for a shooter. As it stands, Van Gundy looks ready to give J.J. a chance. I expect him to start before the season's over. Watch out: It'll be Rainin' Redick!
#15: Hedo Turkoglu
Positives: Hedo is a great shooter. His defense is also pretty good.
Negatives: He takes too few shots from beyond the arc considering his 42-percent career mark, and his defense and rebounding could both improve.
Outlook: Hedo should have a pretty solid season. I think he will play much better if he comes off the bench.
With the free agency waters still untested and GHill yet to make his decision, much is up in the air.
If Hill returns and the Magic sign Rashard Lewis, expect Orlando to at least make the second round of the playoffs. If we don't sign Rashard, I still think we have the potential to win a postseason series...but we'll have to wait and see what Coach Van Gundy can do!