Orlando Magic ('09-'10) Team Outlook:
The Magic let Hedo Turkoglu leave via free agency and made a strong move by trading Vince Carter to take his role in the offense; along with free agent signing Brandon Bass and the resigning of Marcin Gortat, the Magic have upgraded their toughness down low.
Stan Van Gundy again returns as Head Coach and was criticized highly last season during the finals for not only playing Jameer Nelson (who was fresh off of injury and rusty) while sitting Anthony Johnson and Rafer Alston at times but also for his panicked approach to the Magic falling behind early in games.
He will look to bounce back this season as he has an improved roster and a hungry Dwight Howard looking for a title.
Questions surround the reigning Eastern Conference champions as they look to repeat. Will Vince Carter fit in the Magic’s scheme of things? Will Jameer Nelson stay healthy? Will Rashard Lewis missing 10 games disrupt team chemistry when he returns? Will Gortat, Bass, and Williams be able to step in off the bench and solidly contribute?
Only time will tell if the offseason moves will have an adverse effect on the team or not, but one thing is for sure, the Magic will again be atop the Eastern Conference standings and with a high powered offense will look to not only reach the finals in back-to-back fashion but win it outright.
Nelson will look to prove he can come back healthy this season (40 games missed during regular season with shoulder injury) and build upon his career numbers (50 percent fg, 45 percent three-point shooting in 31 mpg, 3.5 rpg) and his first all-star appearance (DNP due to injury).
Nelson will need to improve on his assists per game and should this season with more offensive options and also look to build on his strong defensive showing last season (1.2 spg) and bring the Magic back to the finals.
Stan Van Gundy’s missing piece of the puzzle who provides instant offense when healthy (20.8 ppg last season) coupled with outstanding athleticism and a very good jump shot (45 percent fg, 37 percent three-pointers last season).
Carter will look to again be a focal point on offense but for the first time in his career will not have to be the first or second option in order for him or his team to be successful.
Carter will look to make his ninth all-star appearance this season and although he will have a slight dip in numbers, he should be hearing his name called in Dallas come February.
Barnes will look to step into the starting SF role and provide toughness and outside shooting along with tough hustle on defense. Barnes comes off a career year with Phoenix in which he averaged highs in mpg (27.0) ppg (10.2) and rebounds (5.5) and will look to stretch defenses with his mid range and three-point shooting.
Lewis is a sharp shooting finesse forward who uses a combination of three-point skill (39 percent for career) and quickness to keep defenders on their toes.
Lewis failed a drug test in the offseason (tested positive for DHEA) and will be suspended for the first 10 games of the season; this will surely hurt the Magic early on and questions will arise if he is able to step right back in and perform like last season on stall out of the gate as all eyes will be on Lewis and the Magic making a return to the finals.
Superman will look to lead his team to back-to-back finals' as he has worked extensively on his low post offense and footwork this offseason.
Dwight will look to build off of a fabulous playoff run (20 ppg on 60 percent shooting) and capitalize on the addition of Carter and a healthy Nelson on the perimeter to heighten the team to the finals once again.
Dwight possesses a strong ability on the defensive end as well (2.9 bpg) and was the league leading rebounder last season (13.8) looking to improve those numbers further this season.
Mickael is returning to his reserve role as he will look to provide tough defense and a solid hustle and shooting off the bench as he is fully healthy this season (25 games missed last season).
Mickeal also will look to keep the momentum of posting outstanding numbers in the playoffs last year (10.5 ppg on 48 percent fg and 38 percent three-point shooting) and spark plug the second unit and challenge for sixth man of the year honors.
Brandon is coming off a strong season where he posted career highs in games played (80) along with ppg (8.5) and rpg (4.5) with Dallas.
Brandon signed a four year, $18 million dollar contract in the offseason and will look to step in and play big minutes early on in the season as he will fill in for the suspended Lewis (10 games for violating drug policy) and bring his toughness and hustle and improved post game to the high powered offense.
Ryan is a second year forward who is coming off a solid season in New Jersey (39 percent fg, 36 percent three-point shooting with 7.4 ppg) where he played a solid role as a sharp shooting big man off the bench and will look to reprise that role this season in spot minutes behind Lewis and possibly Barnes if Pietrus is playing two guard.
Marcin is looking for a breakout year after testing free agency (RFA who signed with Dallas but offer was matched) and a solid performance last season in minutes off the bench.
Marcin is a tough player to gauge based on his limited minutes behind Howard the past two seasons but he did play a career high in games (63) and posted career highs in fg (56.9 percent) rpg (4.6) and ppg (3.8) and will look to improve those numbers in slightly increased minutes off the bench.
Marcin is limited on offense but will look to make the most of his four year, $33 million deal he signed with Dallas and prove he is more than just a tough nosed player able to fill spot minutes.
J.J. is an outstanding three-point shooter (38 percent for career, 40 percent in playoffs in '09) and possesses the potential to be a solid contributor when given minutes. J.J.’s trouble is his defensive deficiencies tend to keep him off the court along with injuries which seem to follow him after a slight build of success.
J.J. could shine this season if he can find minutes in camp as he will be asked to spot up and take advantage of double teams to Howard, Lewis, and Carter, and also play solid enough defense to keep his opponent’s scoring down.
Jason will return to the NBA after retiring for a season to be with his family and rest from various injuries. Jason is an exceptional passer (6.3 apg for his career) and always looks to get his teammates involved as a pass-first type player.
Jason also is a streaky shooter who tends to rely on his outside jump shot (39 percent fg, 32 percent three-pointers) when plays break down and has had some attitude issues which could play a factor on how he fits on the Magic.
Jason will battle Anthony Johnson in training camp for the backup PG spot and is said to be expecting a similar role as he had in Miami with Shaq and Dwyane Wade as a facilitator on offense who uses his passing to make his mark, and keep the defense honest with his mid range and outside shooting.
AJ returns after a season in which he played a career high in games played (80) and stepped in nicely when Nelson went down with an injury (5.3 ppg on 39 percent three-point fg) and graciously accepted a return to the bench when Nelson returned in the finals.
AJ has a tough battle on his hands with J-Will in town to battle for minutes at PG and will have to use his defensive toughness to gain an edge over Williams if he wants to win the backup PG job.
Note: the Magic will look to sign a third string big man before camp to round out the roster and have actively been talking about re-signing Adonal Foyle.
Projected finish: 59-23 , third in Eastern Conference