The Orlando Magic basketball team is a young franchise that really has not achieved a whole lot since making its debut in 1989.
In their best seasons, Orlando were swept swept by Houston in the Finals and Chicago in the Conference finals. A couple unsuccessful transactions and postseason collapses followed, leaving the Magic with the #1 pick in the 2004 draft.
They passed on NCAA Champion and powerhouse Emeka Okafor to get a younger C/F straight from high school, Dwight Howard. This move earned many grunts from fans, until about two years later, when the team developed a nice nucleus around the center and point guard Jameer Nelson.
What happened? I’ll tell you what didn’t happen.
They didn’t sign another flashy, big-name player like Steve Francis, give him the ball and say "Here, win us some games."
Dwight Howard is an excellent player to build a team around. Instead of an incumbent 25 point scorer that doesn’t gel with the team very well, and brings a lot of drama, they take a player they can develop. Howard grew into Orlando Magic basketball. This is just what the Magic needed.
Howard is now the face of the Magic, and rightfully so. He brings energetic play to Orlando, a hard working attitude, a great personality, and, best of all, defense, a perennial Orlando Magic weakness.
With Dwight Howard, Orlando can win a championship. He is an adequate core player. They are not championship-ready yet because Howard is still young and falls in the same category as Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh: players who have the talent but lack the experience to be a Tim Duncan or Shaq.
Last season, you saw veteran Hedo Turkoglu taking the big shots at the end of games. That will be Dwight Howard soon. Nothing against Hedo, he is a huge part of this team, but he doesn’t have the talent that Howard has, so more and more they will be looking to the big man.
Talent wise, Howard will still improve, and even his numbers will improve a little, too. However, the biggest improvement you will see now and over these next several years is his experience. He will be ready to take that clutch shot; he will step up without hesitation and make that big defensive play; and he will have his best game when they need it most.
The team is still lacking depth. They are still doing a lot of character building. What they don’t want to do is rely on Howard like they did with Tracy McGrady. Howard is their team leader, their key low post player, and their defensive dominator. They do not need him to score 25 points per game; they have plenty of scorers.
Most of his points will come off offensive rebounds and dunks. They don’t need him pulling up for 18-footers. They also don’t need him to grab every rebound. Rashard Lewis is a great power forward, and they may as well get their money’s worth out of him. 15-20 points per game and 12-13 rebounds per game is what to look for from him.
Defensively, Howard is their leader. The hope is that the rest of the team develops behind him. 2.5-3.0 blocks per game is a must, and if he manages five blocks per game, then more power to him. They want to get the best from all their players.
Let Lewis drop 20 points and grab eight boards per game. Let Pietrus score 10+ off the bench, and let Turkoglu, Bogans, and Reddick shoot the lights out. Foyle and Battie can provide rest time for Howard, and as far as Nelson goes, they need more along the lines of eight assists and two steals-per-game as opposed to 15 points-per-game.
As you can see, the Magic have the elements to produce a championship team, but they don’t yet have the experience and leadership.
However, they have the perfect man for the job: Dwight Howard, a future hall of famer, is the key to unlock to Championship trophy safe.
He brought a new look to this team. He is very marketable, and he has brought energy to the fans at the Amway Arena that McGrady never brought. He impacts the overall performance of the team more than any of the other players.
As good as Howard gets, the team will get.
The Orlando Magic will go as far as Dwight Howard can take them.