Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis guard the Clippers' Chauncey Billups
The Orlando Magic need to significantly change their strategic approach this season if they are to begin a successful rebuild of this team.
Essentially, the Magic, with their new-look team and rookie head coach, need to modify almost everything the team has done over the better part of the last eight seasons.
Quite simply, since 2004-05, Orlando has devised its entire strategic approach to maximize and utilize the ultimate presence that was Dwight Howard. From an inside-out offensive plan to a defense designed to funnel ball-handlers towards the league's best defensive player, everything Orlando did was specifically implemented to take advantage of Howard's dominance.
With Howard now in Los Angeles, much of that strategic planning needs to be adjusted and re-worked to accommodate a vastly different team that no longer contains the best center of the last decade.
So how can the Magic adapt? What do they need to do differently?
Here's a look at five strategic adjustments Orlando could implement in 2012-13.
Jameer Nelson playing against the Miami Heat.
In order to give their youthful team a greater chance to score on the offensive end, coach Jacque Vaughn would be well advised to increase the pace at which the Magic play.
For a number of seasons under Stan Van Gundy, Orlando played at almost the slowest pace in the league, highlighted by their 29th-place ranking in that category last season.
That pace is perfectly understandable when a team has Howard to patiently build around, but implementing that slow play with the current roster is going to harm the development of the Magic's newly acquired youth.
Promising prospects such as Maurice Harkless, Ishmael Smith and DeQuan Jones would all benefit from an up-tempo style given their athleticism, while the likes of Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic could find more space in the mid-range areas if the Magic push the ball.
Although the team will concede far more at the other end, Vaughn needs to instill confidence in his men by allowing them to harness their natural capabilities.
Arron Afflalo guards Kobe Bryant in last season's playoffs.
Without Howard patrolling the paint to cover up the team's defensive frailties, Orlando needs to greatly increase the aggression in its defense of the wings this season.
The simply horrible guarding on the perimeter by Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu last season saw the Magic broken down off the dribble. Consequently, the Magic's defense last year took a significant slip in efficiency, points allowed in the paint and opponent field-goal percentage. While Richardson and Turkoglu weren't solely responsible for the decline, they were a big part of the problem.
The good news for Orlando is that it has two new faces that are capable of raising the bar in this area.
Arron Afflalo, acquired from Denver in the Howard trade, is widely recognized as one of the league's best defensive guards and has the ability to slow down the likes of Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant with his athleticism and attention to detail at the defensive end.
Additionally, new recruit Maurice Harkless has the potential to be an elite wing defender given his explosiveness and length. While it's asking a lot for him to be an elite defender at small forward in his first season, he certainly has the attributes to make an impact straight away.
If these two can apply more pressure and aggression on the wings, then the likes of Nicholson, Vucevic, Glen Davis and Gustavo Ayon may be saved from a constant battering in the paint.
Jameer Nelson battles past the Clippers' Reggie Evans.
In the Dwight Howard era, the staple of the Magic's offense was the 1-5 pick-and-roll with Howard and Nelson, resulting in an inside scoring chance or perimeter shot.
Obviously, that same basic recipe isn't going to work so effectively this season in Howard's absence.
Given that the current point guard rotation in Nelson and E'Twaun Moore lacks the speed and quickness to consistently break teams down off the dribble, the Magic could find themselves with some easier scoring chances if they utilize multiple screens on offense.
A tactic rarely used under Stan Van Gundy, multiple screens would allow Nelson and Moore to gain some separation from their opponent more easily, allowing them to threaten the paint. With the separation, both players could attempt to score or find an open teammate, causing the opposition to complete more defensive rotations, disrupting balance and cohesion at that end of the floor.
The tactic could also be used off the ball in conjunction with some misdirection plays for the likes of Afflalo, Harkless and Jones. If these three find the ball while on the move after multiple screens, then all are capable of using their athleticism to get to the basket.
Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson guard the Clippers' Chauncey Billups.
When you have Dwight Howard to defend pick-and-rolls, it's a safe bet that you'll do a decent job of protecting the paint. Without him, it becomes significantly harder.
Given that the Magic's best interior defender, Glen Davis, lacks size and quickness, coach Vaughn could find some success by instructing his team to "ice" pick-and-rolls that take place on the wings.
"Icing" essentially occurs when the player guarding the ball-handler prevents that player from moving in the direction of the screen, forcing him baseline instead. "Icing" is broken down nicely by John Schuhmann of NBA.com in these clips.
By forcing the ball-handler baseline, the defense is given more protection against dribble penetration, while the player setting the screen can't peel off into space as easily. This tactic would help cover up the lack of speed Orlando has at point guard as well as making the defensive rotations easier on the team's group of developing bigs.
While it's not a tactic that can be on used every single possession, "icing" is a legitimate method that could see the Magic force a greater percentage of contested shots from both the perimeter and in the paint.
Hedo Turkoglu shoots over Kirk Hinrich in the 2011 playoffs.
Arguably the biggest frustration for Magic fans over the last few seasons has been the team's habit of settling for poor pull-up three-point shots.
While the team has been loaded with players that are capable of filling it up from deep, a contested pull-up three-point shot that occurs before any sort of play has been run is a dreadful way to conduct an offensive possession.
Although this team still contains a number of very good perimeter marksmen, this habit must stop now for Orlando's development.
Coach Vaughn must instruct his backcourt to attack the paint off the dribble, while the group of developing bigs needs to be encouraged to score from 15 feet and in.
While there's nothing wrong with taking open looks from the perimeter, the team's holdovers in Turkoglu, Nelson and J.J. Redick must break the habit of quickly settling for a contested long-range shot.
Unquestionably, this may lead to some blowouts in which the likes of Vucevic, Ayon and Nicholson are dominated by better big men around the league, but that experience will be beneficial in years to come.
This season isn't about winning for Orlando, so ensuring the team's prospects are developed should remain the priority. To do that, inside scoring, not long-range shots, should be encouraged.