Pick 'n' Roll Preview: The '09-'10 Orlando Magic Season Forecast
The Orlando Magic franchise is turning 20 this season and, like most twenty year-olds, are starting to show signs of maturity.
Coming off a memorable playoff run that left Orlando three games away from their first championship, the Magic look like serious contenders in the NBA. The team saw ups and downs and stuck together through it all.
Now comes the hard part, keeping the ball rolling for the upcoming season. After losing All-Star SF/PF Hedo Turkaglu and rookie sensation Courtney Lee, among others, Orlando has made moves all off-season to insure their place at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Much has been made of Shaquille O'Neal joining LeBron James in Cleveland and Kevin Garnett's return to the Boston Celtics lineup.
The acquisition of Shaq seems like a desperate attempt to keep King James with the Cavaliers. Considering that Shaq has trouble staying healthy and, at times, has been a huge distraction, odds of success for this project seem moderate at best.
The heart and soul of the Boston Celtics, KG, trades in the suit for his old #5 uniform. Questions are still abound about the condition of his knee, and doubters have trouble believing he is 100%. Without Garnett, Boston looked mortal in the '08-'09 playoffs.
Orlando looks to separate themselves from the pack by abandoning the luxury tax, picking up Vince Carter and building around the league's premier big man, Dwight Howard.
The Orlando Magic are hungry and it's feeding time in the NBA. It's time for this team to aggressively pursue their first NBA title, whatever the cost.
Jameer Nelson hurt Orlando's chances for a championship last season when he was shelved due to a labrum tear in his right shoulder just before the All-Star break.
The injury prompted the team to bring in former And 1 Mixtape star Rafer Alston aka "Skip to My Lou". Alston filled in admirably in Nelson's absence, but the Magic sorely missed the presence of their All-Star PG.
Nelson was able to return in time for the NBA Finals, though his return to action seemed rushed as his shoulder looked tight and the teams chemistry felt off.
Plan B at the 1 spot is not as bright for Orlando, after Rafer Alston was traded to the New Jersey Nets. Anthony Johnson, age 32, is the primary back-up to Nelson. Johnson, though aging, plays well off the bench, but may not be enough if Jameer gets injured.
The Magic lured Jason "White Chocolate" Williams out of retirement for one more season. Williams brings with him a championship ring and a few too many miles.
Jameer Nelson will need to stay healthy if Orlando plans to return to the Finals this season.
So much for Courtney Lee being the SG of the future for the Magic. Lee shined in last year's rookie campaign, but found himself as a major part of the trade that brought "Vinsanity" to Orlando.
Vince Carter has seen better years but not better teams.
Spending his early years in Toronto with a fledgling Raptors squad and more recently with a quick fading New Jersey Nets team, Carter has done his share of complaining about his surroundings.
Now, in the twilight of his career, VC is finally playing for a true contender. Carter will need to adapt to his new role, where he is no longer the focal point of the offense and will be looked to for some veteran leadership.
Behind Vince on the depth chart is former Duke sensation JJ Redick. JJ has been less than sensational with Orlando but does provide a sweet shooting hand off the bench.
Orlando signed Morris Almond from Utah, however, Almond doesn't look to make much of an impact at the shooting guard position.
Vince Carter is going to have to mature as a team player and outspoken coach Stan Van Gundy may be just the guy to see that that happens.
The 3 spot is the biggest question mark for Orlando, but for a good reason, almost every player on the team can play here. For the purpose of this preview, we will use the projected depth chart from the team site.
Starting at small forward is French-Caribbean swingman, Mickael Pietrus. Pietrus is starting to live up to the potential Golden State saw when they drafted him 11th in the 2003 NBA Draft.
In addition to solid offense, Pietrus provides pesky defense and emotional intensity. He stepped up big when it mattered most in last year's playoffs.
Another name to watch here is Matt Barnes, a journeyman that has landed in O-town for the next couple of years.
Barnes was part of the Golden State Warriors squad that made a splash in the '07 playoffs, bumping top seeded Dallas out of the first round as an eight seed. Barnes has a knack for knocking down threes and can also slide over to the 2 spot if needed.
Linton Johnson was also added to the roster in the off-season.
Mickael Pietrus makes the most sense at starting SF on paper but will probably end up contributing most coming off the bench as the Magic's ^th man.
Rashard Lewis was a scoring machine in Seattle. When the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, Lewis moved even further, to Orlando.
In his first two seasons with the Magic, Lewis has consistently put up impressive numbers. With the departure of Hedo Turkaglu, the 6'10" Lewis will likely spend even more time at the PF spot, and lees time at his more comfortably SF position.
Free agent addition Brandon Bass looks to make a splash here as well. Signed away from Dallas, Bass has been given a four year deal.
Bass will help add some defensive presence that the Magic have been looking for. Bass is an important part of a deep Orlando bench.
Another notable pickup is Ryan Anderson who comes over as part of the Vince Carter deal. Anderson has looked outstanding in the Summer league and preseason.
It should be interesting to see what kind of impact Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson add off the bench this season.
In the position that causes most teams problems, Orlando is decidedly stacked.
Franchise played Dwight Howard enters his fifth season as one of the most dominating players in the NBA. Howard is a monster on the boards and puts up more than his fair share of points for a offensively loaded Magic team.
One knock on Howard is that he doesn't have an effective "go-to" move in the post and relies to heavily on dunks. We'll see if any improvements are made this season as Dwight continues to work with coach Patrick Ewing.
Howard's backup is one of the best in the league in Marcin Gortat. The "Polish Hammer" would probably start at the 5 for a few NBA teams.
Orlando went out of their way to keep the big man around for a while, matching the Mavericks five year offer. When Howard needs to rest or gets in foul trouble, the Magic need not worry about taking a major hit and have confidence in the 6'11" breakout Gortat.
Former Golden State number eight selection Adonal Foyle rounds out the Center position. "The Chef" is not too shabby for a third center.
This will probably be the most important season in Dwight Howard's young career. Will he step up and lead his team to victory in the NBA Finals for the first time in Orlando Magic history? We shall see.