Orlando Magic: Grades and Potential Changes for the Roster
The Orlando Magic had perhaps their most disappointing season of the Dwight Howard era in 2010-11. After a couple of huge early-season trades that transformed the makeup of the team, the Magic became fantastically inconsistent. Outside of a nine-game winning streak early on, Orlando simply did not look like a true Finals contender all year.
After achieving another 50-win season, the Magic were stunned by the Atlanta Hawks in six games in the first round. Having swept this same Atlanta squad just a year ago in record fashion, the Magic were fiercely outplayed. The Hawks exerted more effort, played better team defense and frankly made more shots than Orlando.
It was a disheartening thing to watch for all fans of the team, as everyone but Howard and scrappy point guard Jameer Nelson seemed to crumble under the pressure.
Superstar center Howard had his greatest season and was a legitimate MVP candidate. However, the rest of his team did not consistently match his level of play and it seemed to wear on the team's best player.
So where does that leave this Orlando team, saddled with big contracts for underperforming players and a seemingly unhappy star? What moves need to be made? Who needs to go? Who should stay?
C: No. 12 Dwight Howard
Dwight is simply the straw that stirs the Magic's drink. Without Dwight, Orlando would currently be in the draft lottery.
D12 is a one-man defensive wall who makes life for everyone on the team so much easier. The Magic do not have any notable perimeter defenders to speak of without Matt Barnes or Mickael Pietrus on the roster. Because of this, Dwight is perhaps relied on more than any other player in the NBA to hide his teammates' flaws and he does so almost effortlessly.
Offensively, Dwight made massive strides this season. There is always room for improvement with any 24-year-old, but he added a more consistent jump hook, running hook and drastically modified his footwork.
Howard seemed to be tinkering with a 12-foot bank-shot at times, but it's not quite consistent enough just yet. He still gets a lot of putbacks and lob passes for easy buckets, and is clearly the best big man in the NBA at running the floor and getting behind defenses.
I'm not giving Dwight an A+ because I do think there is still room for improvement to his offensive game. At times, I found myself disappointed with his body language and lack of composure. Everyone forgets he's still young, but to become a truly elite player, he needs to lead by example at all times.
C: No. 35 Malik Allen
Allen was simply a body on the roster, only appearing in 18 games. He added a dimension to the offense with his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers, but was awful in every other aspect of the game.
He's slow-footed, a poor defender and gets out-rebounded every time on 50-50 balls. Thankfully, he was on a one-year contract.
Malik was simply not good enough to play on this team. He's a liability on the defensive end of the court and if Dwight goes to the bench, it's not something Orlando can afford.
C: No. 21 Daniel Orton
Everyone knew that Orton would be a developmental prospect when the Magic took him in the first round this past year. Still, I don't think anyone expected him to play zero games in the NBA.
Sent down to the NBDL in December, Daniel scored 12 points and 13 rebounds in his first game with the New Mexico Thunderbirds. In his second game, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Kind of an ominous first impression for young Orton.
I'm giving Orton the benefit of my own doubt here. He's still an unknown coming into his second season. However, with no actual backup centers on the team, Orlando cannot afford to wait for him to develop for too long.
PF: No. 33 Ryan Anderson
Rhino showed marked improvement in 2010-11. His stats don't really tell the entire story of the impact he had on the team, but Anderson played with tenacity and aggressiveness all year. He fought for rebounds, dove for balls and wasn't afraid to body-up on defense.
He also shot nearly 40 percent from three and occasionally played center.
However, not all was good with Ryan. He had an absolutely terrible playoffs for the Magic. He was tentative and constantly taken to task by the Hawks Josh Smith. It was tough to watch for a guy who played so well all year, but it was also the first time Anderson got major minutes in the playoffs in his career. I think the jitters will be gone as we move forward.
I'm erring on the side of Anderson's regular-season performance, hoping that the playoffs were just an aberration. I like what Anderson brings to the table, and I think he plays very well alongside Dwight.
PF: No. 30 Brandon Bass
Bass was a nice surprise towards the beginning of the year. He finally accepted Stan Van Gundy's plea for him to play better defense and rebound, and got more minutes because of it. After the trade of Marcin Gortat, Bass also began seeing minutes at center.
Despite usually because classified as a hustle player, Bass is more skilled than you would think. He's got a nice mid-range jumper and can drive to the hole against weaker defenders.
The problem was that Bass seemed to get physically and mentally tired down the stretch. He had never played as many minutes in a single season as he did this season, and his hold on the starting PF job slipped a little late. Like Anderson, Bass had a very poor playoffs. But also like Ryan, Brandon had never had such a major role in the playoffs before.
Bass showed he could be a solid rotation player for Orlando. He needs to improve his conditioning, though. If Orlando hopes to make deep playoff runs, they cannot afford a player like Bass to slow down late in the year.
SF: No. 15 Hedo Turkoglu
Three years ago, Hedo was the NBA's Most Improved Player and considered an All-Star snub.
What happened since then?
Going to Toronto and Phoenix and finding out that he needed Dwight more than Dwight needed him may have been a confidence-buster for Turk. He seems to have gotten lazy and slower. All year I couldn't help but think to myself that he looked fatter than he did during his first stint with Orlando. Like most of the Magic players, Turkoglu had an extremely poor playoffs.
Hedo seemed to be able to rekindle some of the chemistry he once had with Dwight at times, but it wasn't consistent. Turkoglu also used to be a clutch shooter. Where did that go? The fact that Hedo's on the books for over $22 million over the next two years makes the situation even more dire.
SF: No. 5 Quentin Richardson
At this point in his career, Q is nothing more than a bench player who sees few minutes. Still, in the minutes he gives, Richardson has proven to be a capable defender. His shooting percentages were awful during the regular season, but that can be attributed to the lack of minutes given to him and the fact that he's a rhythm shooter.
I don't know that he has an active role on this team anymore.
Nonetheless, he's a team leader and towel-waver on the bench. Richardson serves an important role as a mentor to the younger guys and still provides lots of effort on the court. I would like him more as a chemistry-plus guy if he wasn't so overpaid.
SF: No. 3 Earl Clark
Earl Clark was a throw-in from Phoenix received in the Vince Carter/Marcin Gortat for Jason Richardson/Hedo Turkoglu trade.
Clark seemed lost early on, but always gave maximum effort. This was a good sign. When given minutes, Clark performed admirably as a defender with length and had the ability to finish around the basket. Inexplicably, Stan Van Gundy seemed to mess around with Earl's minutes a little too much and he was never really given the chance for proper development.
I really like Clark's potential. If he can develop a perimeter shot, I think he can be a very valuable piece. He's decently athletic, has great size for his position and plays with all-out effort on both ends.
SG: No. 23 Jason Richardson
J-Rich was arguably the most inconsistent player on the Magic roster this season. At times, he would get hot from outside and shoot the Magic back into games. Other times, he would make stupid mistake after stupid mistake on offense and would struggle to get around opposing teams' picks on defense.
I like what be brings to the table in theory, but too often he would fluctuate between great Jason Richardson and bad Jason Richardson.
In the playoffs, it was mostly bad Jason Richardson. He was goaded into receiving a suspension by Zaza Pachulia and was a non-factor in the games he did play. I never thought I would say it, but I would have much rather had Vince Carter than Richardson in the playoffs.
Richardson was barely more effective than J.J. Redick at SG last year, and no offense to J.J., but that's saying something. Jason's contract expires this year, however, so he may not be brought back.
SG: No. 7 J.J. Redick
J.J. often gets a pass from fans because he is a fan-favorite, but I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by his play to this point. He's a streaky shooter who plays with excellent effort, but he's not worth the $20 million dollars over three years that was given to him.
At best, he's proven to be a solid bench player worthy of keeping defenses honest, but his absolute disappearance during the playoffs this year was alarming. I need to see more clutch shots out of J.J.
J.J. is a good player, but it's time for him to produce numbers and hit clutch shots, something he does with too much irregularity. While he never seems intimidated, his confidence in his shot seems to come and go too often.
PG: No. 14 Jameer Nelson
Jameer has certainly become the second-best player on the team. He's also gravely underrated around the league, and I believe does not get enough credit for all the things that he does well.
Meer is lightning-quick, has deep range and possesses an uncanny ability to stop and pop. No. 14 also has superb ball-handling ability and can take over on offense for stretches at a time. It's such a shame that he wasn't completely healthy back in 2009 against the Lakers in the Finals, as my gut tells me the Magic would have been far more competitive in that series.
Jameer is also Dwight's best friend on the team, and that cannot be understated.
Jameer was, outside of Howard, the only player who played effectively against Atlanta on a consistent basis. One of the truly underrated players in the NBA right now, Nelson is currently hitting his peak and I think he could actually get a little better before leveling off to an extent.
PG: No. 1 Gilbert Arenas
Agent Uno came over in a trade with Washington that reeked of desperation. Shipped over for fan-favorite Rashard Lewis, this transaction seemed like change simply for change's sake. The teams were doing nothing more than swapping huge contracts.
Arenas hadn't played a consistent number of basketball games in three years because of injuries and suspensions—and it showed. His conditioning was way off, he had no explosiveness whatsoever and his shooting touch was completely gone.
Towards the end of the season, he seemed to make some progress and hopefully an offseason full of working out and getting back in playing shape will make Gilbert at least 75 percent of the player he used to be.
Gilbert had a rough season last year. He looked like a shell of his former self. His crossover game and shooting ability, once one of the best in the league, was more than rusty.
It remains to be seen if he can regain some form, but his contract makes the situation horrific if he can't and it may cost some people their jobs.
PG: No. 25 Chris Duhon
Duhon, as a third PG option, is outstanding.
In New York, he was perhaps given too much free rein and became something of a chucker. In Orlando, he settled into an Anthony Johnson-esque role as a PG who could play calmly and control the pace.
Like most Magic players, he's not afraid of playing defense, although he did get abused at times. Still, with Gilbert Arenas playing so poorly and having an injury history, it's important to keep a guy like Chris around.
He's not likely to see many minutes on this current team, but Duhon does have a role as an emergency point guard. He's not the type of player who won Orlando games, but he made the smart play seven out of 10 times. That's all you can ask for out of a third-string PG.
What Players Are There To Be Had?
I think it goes without saying that the Magic need to make some roster upgrades if they want to continue to be competitive in the quickly improving Eastern Conference.
With Miami seeming like a juggernaut, Chicago developing playoff chops and New York one move away from being contenders, Orlando simply cannot afford to stand pat. Over the next couple of slides are a few trade ideas I've been mulling around, however unrealistic they may be.
Trade No. 1: Acquiring Monta Ellis
- SG Monta Ellis
- C Andris Biedrins
- $1.4M trade exception
Golden State Receives
- SG J.J. Redick
- PG Jameer Nelson
- PF Brandon Bass
- SF Quentin Richardson
- 2011 second-round pick
- Two future protected first-round picks
Why Orlando Does It
Orlando makes this trade to pick up an elite scorer who can create his own shot and is excellent on the fast break. Picking up a player of Ellis' caliber might entice Dwight Howard to stay, and could make the team a contender.
Biedrins, while overpaid, could be a very nice backup for Dwight (something Orlando clearly lacked). It's risky, but may be necessary.
Why Golden State Does It
They pick up a bunch of solid players who fit their system and allow Stephen Curry to become the de facto superstar of the team. They get rid of Biedrins' large contract, and can afford to do so if they played David Lee at center.
They also pick up a bunch of picks that—should Dwight Howard leave—could become very valuable.
Trade No. 2: Acquiring Steve Nash
- PG Steve Nash
- PG Jameer Nelson
- PF Ryan Anderson
- C Daniel Orton
- Lottery-protected future first-round pick
Why Orlando Does It
Orlando gets an elite name in Steve Nash. He may be on the decline, but he's still considered a great player league-wide. Getting him would perhaps entice Dwight to sign an extension.
Aside from that aspect, Nash would also make every other player on the team much better. He's a defensive liability, but with a player like Dwight behind him, it wouldn't matter as much.
Why Phoenix Does It
The Steve Nash era in Phoenix has run its course. The Suns need to get younger, and this trade allows them to do that.
Jameer Nelson would be an excellent acquisition to replace Nash. Anderson is a very nice player in his own right who is a better version of Channing Frye. Orton and the picks are all to help with the youth movement and add potential to the rebuilding roster.
Trade No. 3: Acquiring Chris Paul
- PG Chris Paul
- SF Trevor Ariza
New Orleans Receives
- PG Jameer Nelson
- SG J.J. Redick
- PF Ryan Anderson
- PF Brandon Bass
- $1M trade exception
- Two future unprotected first-round picks
Why Orlando Does It
Why New Orleans Does It
This is a highly unlikely trade, but if Chris Paul decides to tell New Orleans management that he has no plans of coming back, maybe I could see this one happening.
Jameer Nelson is a decent replacement and the rest of the players are all young and talented with lots of potential. The trade exception can be used in conjunction with the Hornets' other trade exceptions to rack up draft picks. The two future unprotected firsts will help in the inevitable rebuilding process. Getting the underperforming Trevor Ariza's contract off the books would be nice, as well.
What Happens from Here?
There is only one thing that can be said with certainty about this Magic team: Changes must be made if Orlando is to become a contender once again. There are simply too many underachievers and overpaid players currently on the roster, and it is hampering the team's ability to make moves that will have major impacts. Last year's trades proved to be futile, and such mistakes cannot be afforded again.
As much as I like Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith, first-round exits cannot be tolerated while a top three player like Dwight Howard is on the roster. The future of the franchise currently hinges on what happens over the next six months.
I don't think 2012 will be the year that Earth ceases to exist, but it may be the year that the Magic's hopes of contending do.