Before I write this article, I would like to make something clear with my audience: I am a die hard Cleveland Cavaliers fan.
And along with my love and passion for the Cavs comes a recent dislike for the Orlando Magic. That doesn't mean I'm biased about everything Orlando, nor that I disrespect their fanbase; I'm simply just a little sour at the way my team's season ended last year, that's all.
Now that that's off my chest, I would like to explain the purpose of this article.
As an active contributor at CavsFanatic.com and a frequent guest to other NBA team based Web sites, I have seen many fans coming to the conclusion that Orlando has taken a step back this offseason. It's not so much the thought itself that irritates me, but the arrogant comments supporting it that do.
Here are a couple of posts from contributors on CavsFanatic.com:
"Have you paid any attention to this offseason and it's consequent FA acquisitions and/or trades??? I guess not. B/c if you have, you'd know that Orlando has taken a few steps back: Lost Hedo, Lee, and Alston, while only adding a balding, injury-prone, overrated, me-first, Vince Carter. And then we go out and add the Diesel and length in Parker.
"...So how exactly are the Magic going to contest with that? The two things they beat us on we got them on now. Shaq neutralizes Howard better than anyone in the NBA, and they lost their other 6'9"/6'10" three point shooter in Hedo... Adding Shaq alone stops us from having to double Howard, which allows us to guard those big shooters, which they only have ONE of now..."
"The only team I think took a step back was Orlando. Thanks Otis for getting VC and losing Lee, Hedo, Alston, Battie."
It's biased, unresearched statements like these that encouraged me to write this article.
I think too many people are underestimating the Magic. They may have taken a slight step back this off-season, but not the gigantic leap like many people are saying.
Listen, the Magic had to get rid of Alston. No choice. They had their all-star, starting point guard, Jameer Nelson, returning to the lineup and Alston wasn't willing to play second fiddle to him.
(It showed in the NBA Finals when Alston publicly whined and complained about playing time, in the most important games of the year.)
Alston wasn't the huge loss that people claim him to be. Alston can be described in one word for the Magic franchise: replaceable. In my opinion, he's just Damon Jones with handles, and nothing more.
As far as losing Courtney Lee goes, yeah, it's probably going to come back to bite them in the long run, but by no means is Vince Carter a downgrade to Lee. With Carter, you're getting a top-notch scoring threat and a legitimate all-star every time out on the court. He averaged 21 points, five assists, and five rebounds last season.
And along with Carter, came Ryan Anderson. Perhaps a no-namer to most, he averaged seven points and five rebounds last season—not flashy, but surely signs of potential for the 21-year-old. He can shoot, too, connecting on .365 percent of his three-pointers last season. So it's not like he was just a "throw in."
On the other hand, Tony Battie, who was also dealt to New Jersey in the five-player swap, is on the wrong side of 30 and has seen his best days come and go (if you could call eight points and five rebounds his rookie season his "best days").
Along with everything else, they'll have veteran swingman Mickael Pietrus healthy. Remember, he only played in 54 regular season games last year and we all saw how much damage he could do when he was healthy in the playoffs this past season.
Another training camp and a possible insertion into the starting lineup could only benefit Pietrus and the Magic.
The only real "loss" in the short term for the Magic, and it definitely was a big one, was Hedo Turkgolu to free agency. I can't write my way around this one, they lost a major contributor and arguably the most important component to their offense. They lost a leader, a high character guy, a dominant scorer, and a mismatch nightmare for opposing teams.
Will they be able to replace that? Probably not, but they can work around it and try to use what they have left, which is, last time I checked, still a terrific lineup.
They've got a pretty good anchor on that lineup too. Dwight Howard, who's only 23 years old, is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. All you heard in the Finals was how he wasn't a true leader and needed to work on his post game.
Maybe he's not ready to put that team on his shoulders and single-handedly carry them throughout the playoffs like LeBron James would, but you've got to give credit where credit is due.
Sorry, Jon Barry, but Turkgolu was not Orlando's best player last season—it was by far Dwight Howard. He led the league in rebounds and blocks, all the while averaging over 20 points per game.
He is the most dominant big man in the NBA today, yet everyone seems to be overlooking that. Listen, Howard is on track to be one of the all-time greats at the center position, and there's nothing to expect but excellence from him next season.
Here's a quick look at Orlando's starting five.
- Jameer Nelson: all-star
- Vince Carter: all-star
- Mickael Pietrus
- Rashard Lewis: all-star
- Dwight Howard-: superstar
- Marcin Gortat, Brandon Bass, and probably a few more little moves to come
Orlando is still a contender, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, as a Cavs fan, I still believe my team's got the best chance at celebrating in late June next year, but Orlando hasn't fallen out of contention, and hopefully more people have realized this.