Where do we go now? A look at what Orlando needs to do to win a title
The Orlando Magic have been riding an incredible high since really the begining of the 08/09 season. Sure LeBron and Cleveland and Kobe's Lakers dominate the headlines week in and week out of the regular season but the Magic always hung around. They eventually became the Eastern Conferance Champions and put up a valiant effort against the Lakers, but eventually fell 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Flash Forward to last summer as Orlando bring in Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams, Matt Barnes, and Brandon Bass to bolster the roster. The Magic played great in the regular season and swept the first 2 series of the playoffs. However, defense and lack of productive offense did the Magic in against Boston in 6 games. Now Orlando needs to get a game plan together to try to win their first title in the first year of the Amway Center.
Matt Barnes vs. JJ Redick
Luckly for Orlando, they get to keep the majority of their roster intact. On the flipside, this means that it is a lot more difficult to get free agents on the team due to cap issues. this years free agent class is:
Matt Barnes on a players option
Now Its pretty safe to say that Adonal Foyle will retire and either Anthony Johnson or Jason Williams may retire if not both of them could. So at this point, Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy will need to consider which player means more to them. Matt Barnes has been nothing but a positive for Orlando this year and gave them something they truely needed: A mean streak. Barnes is not afraid of anyone he lines up across from and is a semi-productive offensive player. Redick is a bit of a wild card. After being a Lottery Pick, JJ's career has been very up and down. However, the last 2 seasons he has played excellent defense and has gotten a lot of his shots to go in reminding many of his glory days at Duke. Now, the Magic will either sign both and have no room to make any deals, or choose between the 2. This will probably occur and although he has played great, JJ will most likely become trade bait for a sign-and-trade.
In a normal year, there would be nothing to root for as the 29th pick in the NBA draft. This year the talent pool is much deeper and can provide the Magic with a good rotational player that can ride the pine or could be stashed away in the d-league. A player that the Magic could really use is Willie Warren. Warren is whta some call the 0 guard or the hybrid player. He can play the point, but has the range to play the 2. Warren would do a great job as Jameer's backup considering he was a preseason all american and preseason lottery pick before injuries set him back. In the second, look for Orlando to draft guys like Dasean Butler from West Virginia or maybe another big man like Luke Harangody from Notre Dame.
Do not allow Dwight Howard to play at the FIBA World Championship
Everyone in the world knows that Dwight Howard is the most dominant defensive player in the game today. On the offensive side, he has a lot to be desired. On a team that every free agent as well as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Kobe Bryant will not be a part of, it is pointless for Dwight to go to Turkey with a bunch of younger guys and risk injury. Instead, Superman needs to stay in Orlando this summer and work alongside Patrick Ewing to become the best big man on both ends of the court. He has a lot of extra time on his hands now that he won't be playing for a title and he needs to use every available resource to get better. Ewing could leave this team one day to be a head coach elsewhere, so the clock is ticking on the very important relationship between Howard and the hall of famer. Dwight may have some movie gigs lining up, but this team will not grow better until Dwight Howard's offensive game does.
Decide who is expandable
The current Magic team is actually a very good team. Very deep, fits Stan Van Gundy's 3-point based offense, and plays defense with the best of them. Or so we thought. The Magic played great D until losing to the Eastern Conferance Champion Celtics where a lot of flaws were discovered. #1 was that a lot of players did not show up when they were really needed. Vince Carter showed up in game 6 but it was too late at that point. Rashard Lewis was absent the entire series as Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett got every shot to go down when Lewis "defended" them. Not to mention Mickael Pietrus did a 180 from the player that killed the Hawks to the guy on the end of the bench afraid to play against big bad Paul Pierce. #2 was that besides Dwight Howard, defense was hard to come by from the entire team. And #3 was that the Jameer Nelson/Dwight Howard show was not going to bring a title to central Florida. The front office will need to find a way to acquire more defensive wings and a few more big men that can get the job done in the low post.
Mess with Dwayne Wade's free agency plan
Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Joe Johnson, and Chris Bosh are going to all meet up before the start of free agency and discuss where each prospective free agent wants to go and who wants to team up and so on. Tampering, yes but the league has no authority over what its players do on there own personal time. With that said the Magic could be a player for a few of the max free agents. Both Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh have said that they wouldn't mind playing alongside Dwight Howard and start a dynasty. That's all good, but the Magic are way over the cap. The team needs to look into sign-and trade deals to land one of these stars to be Superman's new sidekick.
Operation: Homecoming Round II
Yes we are going to have a deja vu in the Orlando Sentinel headlines this summer. We need to get Amare Stoudemire. Amare played high school ball in the Orlando area and would be a great addition to the team. He plays better defense then both Bosh and Lewis, he can get the same offensive numbers as Bosh, but his rebounds will be down thanks to Dwight Howard. He also comes with a winner's mentality which is absolutely necesary for any further success. He may not be able to shoot the 3, but Stan Van Gundy will have to accept that in order to get another low post threat. Now how do we pull this off? Well Phoenix likes the long ball just as much as we do and they wouldn't mind adding Rashard Lewis to there stable of long range specialists. The Suns also used their lottery pick last year on a player that could be a lot like Amare in Earl Clark. The Magic would probably have to also send Marcin Gortat in order to make the salaries work. Besides, Ryan Anderson has a lot of potential and can make up for the "Rashard Factor" of being a big man with a decent 3-point shot. But in the end, Orlando would be stupid not to pull a deal to acquire Stoudemire.
Threaten Vince Carter with trades
This picture basically sums up Vince Carter's performance in Boston: he was about as productive as Brian Scalabrine on Boston's bench. If you don't know who Brian Scalabrine is, then this example is very self explanatory. VC was supposed to be the guy that was going to hit clutch buckets in the final minutes of playoff games. He was supposed to be rejuevenated after a long, treacherous stint with the New Jersey Nets. He was supposed to be Vinsanity. Unfortunately, he was very up and down and just didnt play that great in the post season. The front office needs to constantly scare him that he can be moved and if the right deal is in place with younger, harder working players, he's gone. Now as a UNC Tar Heels fan, I would love to see Vince win his 1st title with his hometown team. However, as a Magic fan I want 15 guys that are going to go in night in and night out fighting and come playoff time bring 16 wins to central Florida. I want Vince, I want the Larry O'Brien. But at the end of the day, that golden trophy will mean a lot more to everyone then having half-man half-amazing and never getting to the promised land.
Amway Center: The begining of a new chapter for Magic basketball
The Amway Arena was one of the most imposing arenas to visit, especially during Playoff time. The Magic have came close to a title a few times, but no dice. Who knows? Maybe the new venue is all we need to finally get to where we want to be. crazy I know, but consider the following: The last year that Yankee stadium was running, the team missed out on the playoffs and a chance at banner #27. They open a newer, much more advanced stadium and they are World Series Champs again and have a great chance at repeating. Anyways this is what our opening night roster should look like. feel free to give input and comment away!
PG: Jameer Nelson/Willie Warren/Anthony Johnson (assuming Jason Williams retires)
SG: Vince Carter/JJ Redick
SF: Matt Barnes/Mickael Pietrus/(Another wing to be named)
PF: Amare Stoudemire/ Ryan Anderson/Luke Harangody
C: Dwight Howard/Brandon Bass