Orlando Magic: Top 10 Realistic Expectations for the in 2012-13
Sure, the franchise has experienced a setback of epic proportions, as the departure of "Superman" and the little value in return for his services will not bode well for the organization moving forward, but the team shouldn't be labeled bottom dwellers next to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats.
This roster isn't void of talent, even though the franchise is entering a complete rebuilding mode. Instead, the Magic should be considered quite the tough opponent, if not a borderline playoff berth contender.
With a fantastic blend of promising prospects and established veterans, this roster may be one of the deepest in the entire league. The starting lineup has left much to be desired, though, and the talented, spry bench will be the key to the development of this squad.
Nonetheless, this team should definitely not be counted out, even without their former All-NBA talent. After all, Dwight Howard wasn't the only reason this franchise has consistently been one of the top organizations in the past five years.
10. Jameer Nelson Returns to All-Star Form
Since Jameer Nelson's torn lumbar injury in 2009, which caused him to miss a significant portion of that season, the former St. Mary's star has just not been able to return to his All-Star form.
At his listed height of 6'0", which is quite generous, Nelson has had to rely heavily on whatever athleticism he could possibly muster. Now that he is 30-years-old, the little speed and hops the veteran once had are beginning to dwindle, causing opponents to repeatedly take advantage of him.
However, Nelson is arguably one of the more skilled offensive point guards in the Eastern Conference. Not only can the undersized facilitator efficiently dish the basketball, but he can also penetrate and shoot effectively.
Last season should be considered a disappointment for the guard, but the changes in the organization should present a new beginning for Nelson.
15 points and seven assists per night should not be out of the question for Nelson.
9. Hedo Türkoğlu Becomes a Threat Once Again
Much like Jameer Nelson, expect Hedo Türkoğlu to, once again, become a legitimate threat in the starting lineup. Last season, the Turkish small forward had his worst season to date with the Orlando Magic.
11 points, four assists, and four rebounds per night isn't going to cut it for one of the most versatile players in the league. On a roster with few talented facilitators and, undoubtedly, the best center in the East, Türkoğlu's statistics should have been bloated, if anything.
This season Türkoğlu won't have one of the two aforementioned luxuries with Dwight Howard's departure, but a bump in production is definitely in store. Not only does he not have to worry nearly as much about trade scenarios regarding "Superman", but he also said he is ready for the start of the new season both physically and mentally.
This is a great sign for a rebound year.
8. Orlando Magic Need to Be Competitive Against the Champions
It is no secret that the Miami Heat thrive with their small, position-less lineup against opposing larger squads; but the Orlando Magic have struggled in the past with teams that are similar in size.
The Orlando Magic do not have any true seven-footers, unless you count Nikola Vučević, and have the perfect team to defeat the champions. With a couple of perimeter lock-down defenders and numerous high-energy big men, this roster has all the necessary tools to pull off an upset.
Last season the team went 2-2 against the Miami Heat, but that was with the help of Dwight Howard. This time around, the franchise will do even better against their Florida neighbors.
This will put the Magic on the right path.
7. Jacque Vaughn Shows Promise as a Coach
It was quite the shock to hear former Orlando Magic guard, Jacque Vaughn, was a candidate to replace Stan Van Gundy. However, when news broke that he actually received the job, the Orlando Magic community was in awe.
Do the Orlando Magic really need an inexperienced coach taking over an inexperienced team?
While I do believe Vaughn will turn into a great head coach one day in this league, I don't think this was the time for him to receive this position.
Especially after the franchise's catastrophic season. Now, it is time for the Magic to prove me wrong.
6. Find a Suitable Player for the Starting Center Job
As of right now, the starting center job is quite ambiguous. The two main contenders for the role are Nikola Vučević and Gustavo Ayón, but don't count out the rookie Kyle O'Quinn.
In terms of size, Nikola Vučević is the obvious choice, as he is two inches taller than anyone else on the roster at a whopping 7'0". However, Vučević saw little action last season with the Philadelphia 76ers and is almost certainly not ready to fill Dwight Howard's former spot.
Gustavo Ayón is a more refined player. The downside with this alternative, though, is his lack of potential. At 27-years-old, it doesn't look like this big man is going to shock the NBA world in his second year in the league.
The final possibility is the rookie out of Norfolk State. While O'Quinn had a tremendous Summer League campaign, new coach Jacque Vaughn will almost certainly not hand over too much trust to a second round pick.
5. Glen Davis Has to Prove He Is a True Starter
As a starter in last year's playoffs( due to the absence of Dwight Howard), Glen Davis excelled in his new role, posting nearly 19 points and nine boards per contest.
While these are impressive statistics, the NBA community must first see if the former LSU star is truly a starter in this league. While his stocky stature does pose a problem on defense, his energy, will, and pure skill more than make up for his unfortunate physical attributes.
If Davis is successful in his first year as a true starter, staving off rookie Andrew Nicholson and new acquisition, Al Harrington for his coveted role, the Magic would have a solid trio at the power forward slot.
4. Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington Need to Flourish
With the additions of Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, the Orlando Magic received some quality players from the Denver Nuggets. While the team was probably hoping for prospects, these two established veterans are solid core players for the franchise.
Afflalo, who is a tremendous athlete, needs to become the lock-down defender the Orlando Magic have desperately needed. Moe Harkless is the only other perimeter defender who can shut down an opposing team's best scorer, but he is far too undeveloped to be counted on.
Al Harrington, on the other hand, is one of the few veterans on the squad. His best days are definitely behind him in terms of production, but now his leadership and experience will be quite helpful to a young Magic core.
If the team wants to be competitive, large contributions need to come from these two former Nuggets.
3. J.J. Redick Is One of the Top Candidates for Sixth Man of the Year
The Magic's starting lineup needs a boost of scoring prowess as nobody in this group has the ability to control a game with their offensive production. In fact, the only player who can do said job is a player projected to come off the bench.
J.J. Redick is one of the premier shooters in the NBA who is on a team that specializes behind the three point arc. The best indicator, though, is that there is a likely chance that he becomes the leading scorer for the squad next season.
Redick's scoring output has improved each of the past five years.
2. A Final Record of 32-50 Would Be Considered a Success
The Orlando Magic's elite status has officially been lifted off of the team's shoulders with the departure of Dwight Howard. Gone are the days where the franchise is consistently a top team in a weak Eastern Conference. At least for the foreseeable future.
In the first full season without "Superman," Orlando is going to be an easy location for opponents to win a game.
Anyway, the Magic need tot win at least 30 games, preferably a little more, to be considered a success. This, in turn, will show progress, but will also keep the team in the lottery, which is an absolute must in order to improve.
1. The Young Players Need to Mesh
In the end, this season is all about a fresh start for an organization that has been through a major divorce with their former star player.
While mistakes were made on both sides, the Orlando Magic are definitely in the worst-case scenario, as the franchise is entering arguably the largest rebuilding phase of the team's history.
With a young nucleus composed of Ish Smith (24 years old), Moe Harkless (19), Andrew Nicholson (22), Kyle O'Quinn (22), E'Twaun Moore (23) and Nikola Vučević (21), the future is bright for the Magic.
But it will take time for this team to develop.
The organization still possesses a few holes, including a complete star, but there is no denying the potential on this roster. We may be looking at the early signs of an Eastern Conference version of the Oklahoma City Thunder.