Orlando Magic: How They Compare to Each of Their Division Rivals

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2012

Orlando Magic: How They Compare to Each of Their Division Rivals

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    With the 2012-13 NBA season less than a month away, it's time to start evaluating how the Orlando Magic stack up against their division rivals in the South East.

    A tumultuous off-season that has seen a major reshuffling of the roster will significantly change the way Orlando lines-up this season, altering their match-ups against the four other teams in the division.

    Gone from the roster are Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Chris Duhon. Stan Van Gundy will also be missing from the sideline.

    No longer will the Magic defend shrewdly at one end and rely on a combination of Howard post play and three point shooting at the other. This team simply isn't built for that sort of one-two punch anymore.

    The team is full of new faces, many with little experience in the NBA. The Magic will also be led by rookie coach Jacque Vaughn, whose primary job will be to identify which pieces of the roster Orlando can work with going forward.

    After spending five seasons among the division's elite, Orlando are likely to now sit alongside Charlotte as South-Eastern battlers.

    But if there's one advantage the Magic have, it's that they are an unknown quantity this season. After being as predictable as the sun rising for the better part of half a decade, Orlando now have some degree of surprise.

    With that in mind, here's a breakdown of how the Magic will line up in 2012-13, and how the team will fare in the South East division.

How Orlando Will Line Up

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    Predicted Starting Five: PG Nelson, SG Afflalo, SF Turkoglu, PF Nicholson, C Davis

    Sixth Man: Redick

    Promising Talents: Nicholson, Harkless, O'Quinn

    Unknown Quantities (at Orlando): Eyenga, Vucevic, McRoberts, Ayon

    The Magic's starting five for the upcoming season remains somewhat unclear at this stage, with doubt surrounding how coach Vaughn will assemble his front-court.

    Hedo Turkoglu will definitely start at the small forward position and Glen Davis will unquestionably line-up alongside. However it's uncertain whether Davis will be used at center or power forward for the new look Magic.

    If Davis is used at power forward, then Gustavo Ayon, who arrived from New Orleans, may well be deployed at center. However, given Davis' performance at center when Howard was out with injury in last season's playoffs, it's more likely the former Celtic will start there. With that being the case, then rookie Andrew Nicholson could likely start alongside Davis and Turkoglu in Vaughn's front-court.

    This would give Orlando a ball-handling forward and an immensely hustling presence alongside the rookie Nicholson, who will be among the most ready-made NBA players from this year's draft class.

    Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo will undoubtedly start at the guard positions, and barring injury or major form issues, will likely hold down these positions for the season's entirety. These two provide the Magic with a nice offensive-defensive blend in the starting back-court.

    Leading the way from the bench will be J.J. Redick and Al Harrington. Both will be required to supply some significant punch in a second unit that will lack NBA experience, and the three-point shooting ability of both men will be required for the team to score.

    However the use of Harrington will need to be monitored carefully, as he will deprive minutes from the promising, yet raw forward pair of Moe Harkless and Kyle O'Quinn. Harkless however, will most likely miss the start of the season due to injury.

    Ish Smith and E'Twaun Moore will back up Nelson and will provide Orlando with contrasting styles at the point guard position, while for coach Vaughn, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, Gustava Ayon and Christian Eyenga will be the unknown quantities. All have talent and unique capabilities, but where they will be used in the Magic rotation is a mystery to this point.

Orlando vs Charlotte

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    The Magic have tormented Charlotte since their inception in 2004, compiling a 27-9 record against the Bobcats in that time. Yet despite how poor the Bobcats were last season, the new look Magic will see more competition from Charlotte this time around.


    Starting Five Comparison

    Of the teams in the South East division, Charlotte is the team that Orlando has an advantage over in regards to the starting unit. Kemba Walker is one of the few point guards in the league that doesn't dwarf Nelson, and although Walker's athleticism may trouble the Magic's leader, Nelson's experience in the league should see him outplay the yet to develop talent. Nelson's back-court partner Afflalo will also be comfortable against the Bobcats, owning the defensive ability to shutdown Gerald Henderson or the declining Ben Gordon.

    Turkoglu may have his hands full with the promising and athletic Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but Turkoglu will cause the rookie some concern when it's his turn to run the Magic offense. Alongside Turkoglu, Davis is the most established low post presence in the match up, and will line up against one of the few centers in the league that is his height in Bismack Biyombo, while Nicholson will have his hands full in trying to outplay the explosive, albeit wayward, Tyrus Thomas.


    Depth Comparison

    Despite the Magic owning a longer rotation, the bench battle between these teams is quite even. Harrington, Redick, Harkless, Ayon, O'Quinn, Smith and McRoberts can all have a degree of impact for Orlando. Charlotte meanwhile will call on Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon (if he doesn't start), Brendan Haywood, Reggie Williams and Byron Mullens to provide their punch.


    Key Match-up for Orlando

    Davis vs Biyombo

    The Magic are obviously going to miss Howard's interior presence this season, but Davis has shown he can shine when played at center. Coming up against a similar-sized opponent, Davis has the ability to over-work the raw talent of Biyombo. The 20-year-old has shown he has great athleticism and a huge wingspan, but while very raw, Davis could exploit him on the offensive end.


    Season Series Prediction: Magic 3-1

Orlando vs Washington

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    Washington is another team that Orlando has dominated in the South East division. Since becoming the Wizards in 1997, Orlando is 42-17 against the men from the capital. But after adding some considerable talent to their roster, Washington will no longer be a pushover in the South East.

    Starting Five Comparison

    Despite an injury setback, John Wall will likely be fit for the Wizards’ first encounter with Orlando. That being the case, Wall has the upper hand on Nelson given his speed and overall athleticism. Although he was inefficient, Wall averaged 16 points, 4.2 assists and 4.3 rebounds against Orlando last season. Provided his return from injury is smooth, expect even more this time around without Howard to mop up behind Nelson.

    Afflalo will be comfortable guarding the streaky Jordan Crawford and will pose his own threat when the Magic have the ball. However Hedo Turkoglu will struggle against Trevor Ariza’s length and defensive prowess, highlighted in Turkoglu’s sole performance against New Orleans last season, in which he contributed just three points and one assist in 30 minutes.

    Washington’s main advantage will be if they play Emeka Okafor and Nene alongside each other at center and power forward. If that’s the case, then they’ll hold a size and experience advantage over Nicholson and Davis, with Nene the most accomplished offensively.


    Depth Comparison

    Orlando have slightly more recognized scoring coming off the bench compared to the Wizards, with Redick and Harrington the likely focal points. However, Washington have wildcards such as Martell Webster and rookie Bradley Beal to call upon, and how they'll impact the Wizards is unclear right now. And although the stocks behind Wall aren't stellar, A.J. Price, Jannero Pargo and Shelvin Mack provide solid back-up to the Wizards' franchise player.


    Key Match-up for Orlando

    Nelson vs Wall

    If the emerging star in Wall is able to slash past Nelson, then Orlando will have all sorts of problems guarding the Wizards. In addition to scoring himself, Wall will find Nene in particular for easy baskets at the rim, while Crawford and Ariza will be found for open looks at the perimeter. Nelson will need to make Wall work defensively, as well as limit his dribble penetration if Orlando is to win.


    Season Series Prediction: Wizards 3-1

Orlando vs Atlanta

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    After suffering the heaviest playoff series defeat in history to Orlando in 2010, Atlanta finally discovered a way to beat the Magic. In the last two seasons, including the 2011 playoffs, the Hawks have gone 10-3 against the Magic. However both teams are now vastly different, and the match-up will take on a completely new look this season.


    Starting Five Comparison

    Despite a breakout season last year, Jeff Teague struggled against Orlando. In 3 games, Teague averaged 9.7 points and 2.3 assists against the Magic, both well below his season averages. However, entering his fourth year in the league, it's certain that the 24-year-old will continue to improve. He will have an intriguing tussle with Nelson at the point guard spot, considering Nelson also struggled in this match-up last season.

    Afflalo will have his hands full coming up against Lou Williams at shooting guard, given Williams' ability to play both back-court spots. Meanwhile, like his match-up against the Wizards, Turkoglu will genuinely struggle against the Hawks if Josh Smith starts at small forward. Smith is the far superior athlete and will dominate Turkoglu in the paint and out in transition.

    The Hawks may also throw a front line of Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia at the Magic. Horford will clearly get the better of Nicholson with his experience and offensive ability, while Pachulia has the defensive ability and work-rate to keep up with Davis.


    Depth Comparison

    The Hawks have genuine depth at the guard slots, which is arguably where the Magic are weakest. Devin Harris will back-up Teague, while Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow will provide a significant perimeter threat behind Williams. Like Orlando, the Hawks rotation through the front-court is rather inexperienced, with only Johan Petro and Anthony Tolliver owning significant NBA experience.


    Key Match-up for Orlando

    Turkoglu vs Smith

    If the Magic have any chance to beat the Hawks this season, Turkoglu must find a way to keep up with Smith. If the Hawks highlight machine is able to dominate the glass and get out and run in transition, then the Magic simply can't contain Atlanta. Turkoglu will need to find his shooting range to keep Smith working defensively, as well as finding a way to stay in front of him at the other end of the floor.


    Season Series Prediction: Hawks 3-1

Orlando vs Miami

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    After two seasons of fascinating encounters between these two teams, it's likely we'll see some blowouts this time around. The Magic have gone 4-4 against the Heat since Chris Bosh and LeBron James joined Dwayne Wade in South Beach. However, this season is likely to be far more one-sided.


    Starting Five Comparison

    Nelson and Davis are the only two starters for Orlando that can genuinely hold their own against the Heat. Nelson will face the hot and cold Mario Chalmers but will have to be aware of Chalmers' growing confidence given his performance in last year's NBA Finals. Davis meanwhile, will take on the similar-sized Udonis Haslem if the Heat play their expected small line-up in what will be a ferocious battle down low.

    However, at the other positions the Heat will simply dominate. Dwayne Wade has tormented the Magic for years now and will feel supremely confident coming up against Orlando again, despite the addition of Afflalo who will definitely guard him. LeBron James is clearly the best player in the NBA and will have Turkoglu trembling at the mere thought of facing him, while Chris Bosh will take advantage of rookie Nicholson.


    Depth Comparison

    In addition to their starting five advantage, the Heat also have more versatility coming off the bench. Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, James Jones and Mike Miller provide a substantial perimeter threat, while Norris Cole showed in the Finals that he's a capable back-up for Chalmers. The likes of Redick and Harrington for Orlando can't compete with that array of scoring. The Heat can also call on Joel Anthony and Shane Battier for defensive support if needed, while the Magic have mainly inexperienced players to use in the front-court.


    Key Match-up for Orlando

    Afflalo vs Wade

    Wade has simply torched Orlando for some time now, highlighted by averaging 29.8 points per game against the Magic last season. However, with Jason Richardson gone, Afflalo will be the primary defender on Wade. Afflalo is certainly the best defensive guard the Magic have had in a number of seasons, and his ability to stop Wade from scoring in bunches will be critical if Orlando has any chance to grab a win against the Heat.


    Season Series Prediction: Heat 4-0