10 Reasons Orlando Magic Shouldn't Despair in 2012-13
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However, he general consensus is that the city of Orlando is not looking forward to the upcoming season due to the rather weak return from the blockbuster trade that saw the All-NBA talent shipped to Los Angeles.
But the fans of the Magic shouldn't despair in 2012-13, as the team's new direction is sure to bring around much excitement. It has been quite a bit of time since the Magic were focused on a rebuilding phase.
In fact, the last time was in 2004 when the team drafted Howard, ironically, and shipped a lackluster Tracy McGrady to Houston. Since that new beginning, the city of Orlando has experienced tons of playoff success, including a magical run to the NBA Finals in 2009.
Behind "Superman," the Orlando Magic have been one of the more consistent forces of the past decade, but that time is now officially over. It seems as if the Magic have once again been spurned by a star player, and have returned to being bottom-dwellers.
Magic fans should be thrilled, though.
A fresh start is exactly what Orlando needs. In a deepening Eastern Conference, which boasts the champion Miami Heat, taking a few years off will hopefully allow these contenders to fall from grace once Orlando builds a solid core.
The present forecast isn't too dismal, either. From the development of the prospects to the production of the new players in the rotation, the Magic have a nice blend of experience and youth.
So, here are 10 reasons Magic fans will be pleased next year...
The Return of Jameer Nelson
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The Orlando Magic recently signed an extension with starting point guard Jameer Nelson worth three-years, $19 million, a move that puzzled fans due to the rebuilding phase many expected Orlando to begin.
Of course, a 30-year-old former All-Star that skills and athleticism are on a rapid decline probably doesn't fit in those plans, especially when the team grossly overpays for his services.
Nonetheless, why should fans be excited about Nelson's return?
Well, it isn't so much about how thrilled the city of Orlando should be for his presence in the lineup, as it is a service we owe to Nelson to support him and his squad fully.
In a city that has seen so much heartbreak over the loss to superstars, Nelson is one of the few Magic stars that has spent his entire career with Orlando. Nelson didn't follow the bright lights of Los Angeles, the marketing opportunities of New York or the beaches of Miami.
Instead, Nelson has thrived in the small-market of O-Town, and has given the town countless memories.
The New Role for J.J. Redick
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J.J. Redick will most likely be coming off the bench next season, but his role is sure to be expanded. The absence of both Jason Richardson and Dwight Howard automatically makes the former Duke star Orlando's best scoring threat.
Redick has raised his scoring average each of the past five seasons, culminating in a 11.6 points per game effort last year. Sure, Arron Afflalo will be starting over the marksman, but Redick will be more heavily relied on the offensive side of the court.
After all, the sharpshooter shot 41 percent from deep, which shows a consistency that sure comes in handy in an Orlando offense.
Ish Smith Will Finally Be the Backup Point Guard
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We may never know the answer to possibly the most intriguing question of Orlando's unfortunate past season: Why did former coach Stan Van Gundy insist on utilizing Chris Duhon, instead of Ish Smith, as the backup point guard?
Simply put, Duhon was horrendous in limited action last year. In nearly 20 minutes of action per night, the former New York Knicks starting point guard averaged only three points and two assists. Yikes.
Smith, on the other hand, is a promising prospect with solid athleticism. His game may still be quite raw, and he truly hasn't seen much professional action, but expect solid production from Smith this year, especially with the fact that Duhon was shipped to the Lakers.
Andrew Nicholson and Moe Harkless Will Provide a Powerful Rookie Forward Tandem
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Rookies Andrew Nicholson and Moe Harkless, who was acquired in the Dwight Howard trade, will probably begin games on the bench next year, as Hedo Türkoğlu and Glen Davis will start at the forward slots, but both players are viable bench options.
Harkless, who was originally drafted 15th overall by the 76ers, has drawn comparisons to Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza. Both players are capable of locking down the opponent's best perimeter scorer, a skill no other player on Orlando's roster possesses.
Nicholson, a former St. Bonaventure star, can score in a plethora of ways, including a consistent mid-range jumper, and was widely considered the fifth-best big man in this summer's draft, after Anthony Davis, Tyler Zeller, Andre Drummond and Meyers Leonard.
Nevertheless, both of these rookies will show their respective vast potentials, giving the Magic fans hope for the future.
Nikola Vučević Is a Promising Center
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If you thought Nikola Vučević was just a throw-in to help balance the salaries in the blockbuster trade, then you are sadly mistaken.
This Montenegran center possesses solid NBA size, as he is a true seven-footer, coupled with a polished offensive game. Not only can he knock down the mid-range jumper, but his long arms allow him to be an effective low-post threat.
The combination of his refined skill set and promising size made him the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Vučević, though, would later be traded to Orlando in the blockbuster Howard deal.
Vučević will help soften the blow the Magic will immediately feel from the absence of "Superman" from the starting lineup. He may not start at the beginning, as Gustavo Ayon is slated to begin games, but expect Vučević to find his way to the first-team by the end of the season.
The USC product recorded astonishing per-36 minute production last year, averaging 12.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Glen Davis Will Become a Starter
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Glen Davis played downright incredible in last season's postseason series against the Indiana Pacers. Despite playing out of position and matched up vs. the 7'2" Roy Hibbert, Davis still averaged 19 points and nine rebounds per contest with the absence of Dwight Howard from the lineup.
Hopefully, his playoff success transitions into this upcoming season, as he will become the undisputed starter at the power forward slot.
When he first came to Orlando, many expected him to immediately contribute in the starting lineup. However, Ryan Anderson, who would later win the Most Improved Player of the Year award, beat the former LSU star for the job, and would, of course, thrive in the role.
Davis, though, will have the final laugh in Orlando, as he will put up gaudy numbers in his first year as a starter.
Arron Afflalo Will Prove His Value in Orlando
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Orlando's biggest catch from the Dwight Howard trade, Arron Afflalo, is relatively unknown to the common NBA fan. The former Denver Nuggets shooting guard has always been considered a solid role player for deep teams, not exactly a household name.
Now, this 6'5" 26-year-old will be able to thrive in a bigger role. With the Magic, Afflalo will be called upon to not only guard the best opposing scorer every single night, but also be a major factor on the offensive side of the ball.
Will he blossom into an All-Star? Probably not.
However, he will be a nice building block for a rebuilding franchise.
Jacque Vaughn Will Usher in a New Era for the Magic
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While his inexperience as a coach does warrant a few question marks, as he has only been an assistant coach for the Spurs for two years, his stock around the league skyrocketed due to his time under Gregg Popovich.
His defensive mindset will help solidify a porous roster that allowed 93 points per contest, and his young age, only 37 years old, will allow him to easily communicate and form cohesion with his players.
Sure, much is still left undetermined, but expect Vaughn to have a great first year as a head coach.
Expect a Deal (or a Few) Before the Trade Deadline
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Orlando's roster is practically screaming for a trade.
With a plethora of prospects and valuable established veterans and no real star talent, the Orlando Magic, led in this delicate process by general manager Rob Hennigan, will most likely look into a few significant trades to improve the future of the organization.
This will surely add spice to a season that will most likely not see the Magic in the playoff race.
Next Year's NBA Draft
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The Orlando Magic will struggle in their first season without Howard. However, the team will build valuable chemistry among their prospects, regardless of their record.
Nonetheless, all Magic fans should be excited over next year's draft. The team will finally be able to "compete" for a first overall pick. At the very least, the Magic will possess a lottery selection in a relatively strong draft.
In the end, next year's pick will be when the significant improvement occurs, so study up on future B/R mock drafts.
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