Orlando Magic: Early Observations in The First Game Since The Blockbusters

Mustache GangContributor IDecember 21, 2010

A few early observations from the new look Orlando Magic:

Starting lineup of Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass, and Dwight Howard. No surprises there. We expected Gilbert Arenas to come off the bench.

Turkoglu just looks happy wearing an Orlando jersey. He is an active defender, and his chemistry with Howard still remains. He saw the lob to Superman before the spin, but somehow Jason Collins disrupted it (New Jersey fans: yes, Jason Collins even had a dunk tonight). You still have to wonder whether his energy on the defensive end will continue beyond these first few minutes, games, etc., as he will most likely be the one covering LeBron James and Paul Pierce when the time comes.

Jason Richardson is not the ball stopper like Vince Carter was. First possession he catches it on the wing and doesn't have to think. The ball went straight into the post. When he is open, it has been a catch and shoot. If this first half is any indication, he's a good fit for this offense. He had quite a few shots go in and out in the first quarter.

Agent Zero (He's now wearing number 1) came in at the five minute mark and on his first possession buries a three pointer. Coming in for Nelson, it looks like Stan Van Gundy wants the ball in his hands on offense. When Arenas and Nelson have been in the game together, the ball has been in Gilbert's hands as much as Nelson's after the ball crossed half court. He just hasn't had much interaction with Dwight.

Brandon Bass looks fine in his spot as the starting power forward. He is hitting is midrange jump shots, and I'll take his efficiency (1.35 PPS to Richard Lewis' 1.13 PPS) and hustle over Lewis' range, because that's about all you're getting nowadays with Lewis.

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JJ Redick is playing with a chip on his shoulder. He has always felt under-appreciated in Orlando, and they just brought in a few more wings to take even more playing time away from him. Chris Duhon and himself could be the trade pieces moved if the Magic decide they need more size. For those that didn't know, JJ was second in the league last year in offensive rating (team's points per 100 possessions while on the court) with 123. He is also leading the Magic this year (team rating is 106, his is 118).

Seeing as how Malik Allen came off the bench before Van Gundy moved Hedo over to the PF spot, you can easily tell small ball is not what the Magic want to do. Getting Ryan Anderson back will help the depth at PF, but they are still looking for a center to replace Gortat's minutes. Currently, they are looking at names such as Brendon Hayward and Joel Przybilla. However, the problem hasn't been on the defensive end...yet. It's been on the offensive end. Plus, there are only so many teams the Magic won't be able to go small with Bass and Anderson playing together.

Dwight Howard might be the main motivation behind all the moves, but he's going to have to bring his A-game as well. His post game on offense was pretty bad early on. It looks like they need to go back to that pick and roll game. The defense has been there, though, as his ability to protect the rim is allowing the wings to play physical on the perimeter, which is what the new guys are buying into.

The team is struggling offensively, but that is to be expected. The guys are just getting used to playing with one another, and Van Gundy is trying to find which sets are working. The lack of rhythm has led to a lot more isolation than desired but their pick and roll game will improve as time goes on. One thing to look for down the road is the ball in Turkoglu's hands more often. He might have the best vision of the perimeter players and would prevent him from spotting up on the three point line, which he hasn't been as effective doing recently.

Overall, you have a bunch of new teammates trying to play together for the first time. They all look focused, but so did Vince Carter when he first played in an Orlando jersey. The true test of their effort and intensity will come months from now. It's easy to play hard that first night as opposed to night in and night out. Orlando's defense looks to be fine, and a rotation of Nelson-Arenas-Richardson-Turkoglu-Bass-Howard will be able to get you some points when it all comes together.


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