Orlando Magic: 10 Stories Not Involving Dwight Howard
With all of the talk surrounding the Orlando Magic centering around Dwight Howard, it's time to leave Superman alone for a few minutes and focus on 10 other storylines floating around the Orlando Magic franchise.
Orlando must fine a way to win now. With the second-highest payroll in the league, first-round eliminations from the playoffs are unacceptable.
From the front office—too the 15 players wearing Orlando Magic uniforms—it's time to dive into some of the key storylines heading into the 2011-2012 season.
10. Can Rookie Justin Harper Contribute Early?
I think Justin Harper is an all-around great fit for the Orlando Magic and reminds me of a young Rashard Lewis.
Harper averaged 18 points per game during his senior campaign at Richmond, but more impressively he shot nearly 45 percent from three-point range.
At 6'10'', 230 pounds, Justin Harper should see big minutes from Day One at the small-forward position.
Harper is not like most other rookies, having played four years in college, so he is an experienced, NBA-ready guy.
9. Can Chris Duhon Provide Production off the Bench?
Chris Duhon was brought in to be a reliable backup point guard for the Orlando Magic, however, his 2011 campaign was anything but that.
He averaged only 2.5 points and 2.3 assists per game for the Magic in 2011, including a dismal 25 percent from downtown.
Duhon needs to improve upon nearly every aspect of his game in 2011 for him to be a reliable option if Nelson or Arenas go down with injuries, something both of them are known to do.
8. Is Stan Still the Man?
Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy will clearly be on the hot seat during the 2011-2012 season if things start going south early.
It's not a good sign when your franchise player (Dwight Howard) comes out saying certain players should be playing more or less.
Van Gundy needs to utilize his entire roster better next season, not just constantly stick with his seven-man rotation. Earl Clark is a name that comes to mind.
Clark showed great promise during the few minutes he was given in the regular season, and the Magic could have really used his athleticism on the defensive end in the playoffs, where they were knocked out by the Atlanta Hawks six games.
Van Gundy will have his future riding on next year's success or failures, and he must be more acceptable to playing some of Orlando's younger players (Daniel Orton, Justin Harper and Clark.)
7. Is Daniel Orton Dwight Howard's Backup at Center?
Orlando Magic fans did not see much of rookie first-round pick Daniel Orton last season; in fact he never made it on the court.
The Magic need a true backup center for Dwight Howard, and Orton is the player that come to mind.
At 6'11", 255 pounds and only 20 years of age, this should be the season where Orton gets an opportunity to prove his worth in the NBA.
I had the pleasure of talking with Orton at a resent Orlando Magic fan event, and he is beyond ready to get on the court to show fans what he can bring to the organization.
6. Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass?
Brandon Bass was the starting power forward during the 2011 season, but that failed to translate in the playoffs.
Ryan Anderson fits the Orlando Magic offensive system better then Bass, as he can light it up from downtown.
Bass brings more of a defensive presence, but offensively the ball fails to move as fluidly on the offensive end with him in the game.
It could become of a matter of night-to-night matchups for the Magic, but forward Ryan Anderson looks to be poised for a big year if given the minutes consistently.
5. Is J.J. Redick the Starter at Shooting Guard?
With the Magic not likely to re-sign Jason Richardson, that would leave J.J Redick as the only true shooting guard on their roster.
J.J. Redick has grown into a legitimate shooting guard during his five-year career in the NBA, and he looks to finally be the starter from Day One of his sixth NBA season.
Redick averaged over 10 points per game last season while shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the arc.
The Magic will not have many options on the roster to run at the two position, unless Stan Van Gundy elects to go with Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas in the backcourt, something we saw a few times last season.
I feel Redick is better suited coming off the bench as he has too many shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball. But with limited options at the guard position Van Gundy will likely start Redick.
4. Can Hedo Turkoglu Be an Offensive Force?
Hedo Turkoglu falls into the Gilbert Arenas category of overpaid less-than-productive players.
Turkoglu is set to make over $10 million in 2012, despite averaging only 11 points in over 34 minutes of action per game.
The Magic will need Hedo to be more of an aggressive force on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Hedo has his moments when he reminds fans of the player who led the Orlando Magic to the finals in 2008. But he more often not reminds us of a player who is on the decline—despite his salary being on the rise.
If Hedo continues where he left off in the playoff series against the Hawks, (23 percent three-point shooting, 29 percent field goal shooting) Stan Van Gundy should not hesitate to give more minutes to rookie small forward Justin Harper.
3. Josh Smith in an Orlando Magic Jersey?
It's evident that the Orlando Magic front office will need to pull off multiple trades this offseason to have a fighter's chance at winning the East.
Josh Smith has been the much-rumored name the past few weeks, and with he and Dwight Howard being best of friends and past AAU teammates, he would be thrilled to land in the same lineup with Howard.
If the Magic can pull off a trade and land Smith, they would instantly have the most dominant front line in the NBA.
The Magic would likely have to give up a package of either Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson, or Brandon Bass and Nelson. Either way, if the opportunity presents itself, Otis Smith must jump on it.
2. Can Gilbert Arenas Turn Things Around?
When Rashard Lewis was traded for point guard Gilbert Arenas right before last season's trade deadline, the idea was that Arenas would make the Magic better—not worse.
To say Arenas struggled during his time with the Magic last season would be an understatement. Arenas averaged a dismal 10.8 points and only 3.9 assists per contest despite being the highest paid player on the Orlando Magic roster making over $17 million in 2011.
So the question becomes: Can Gilbert Arenas turn things around next season?
It was reported by the Orlando Sentinel that the only thing General Manager Otis Smith wants is for Arenas to stay off the court for a bit during the offseason, something Arenas has been reluctant to do.
It's a good sign for the Magic organization that Arenas is so committed to becoming a productive player again, Otis Smith wants him to stay off the courts for a bit.
Gilbert Arenas only averaged 21 minutes per game with the Magic last season. But even Dwight Howard has come out in the offseason saying that Arenas should have played more minutes last season.
Magic fans have not seen Arenas given extended minutes for consecutive games, and it's possible that he could be the starter next year with Jameer Nelson being rumored to be involved in multiple trades.
Arenas will never be his All-Star self, but if Stan Van Gundy gives him the opportunity to run the offense, he can be a productive player again.
1. Chris Paul
The name that has been on the mind of every Magic fan for over two years now—Chris Paul.
Are the Orlando Magic a real destination for the talents of Paul?
It appears a bit of a long shot unless the Hornets are willing to take on the contracts of either Hedo Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas. But this is the NBA—anything is possible.
The best chance the Magic have of landing Paul is if the new CBA agreement allows a team to part ways with an outrageous contract like Arenas has—then they could hope for Dwight to convince Paul to sign with the Magic in the summer of 2012.
A long shot yes—but a possibility nonetheless.