By Kevin O'Brien
Despite the disappointing early-round exit, the Magic only made a few small changes to their roster. Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling moved on to Israel and the Nets, respectively, while Mickael Pietrus, Anthony Johnson, Courtney Lee, and Michael Wilks were added to stabilize the backcourt.
With the core of the team returning, next season looks to be a promising one in Orlando. Dwight Howard has grown into one of the top big man in the league and will only continue to improve as his offensive arsenal evolves. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu combine with Howard to give Orlando one of the top frontcourts in the entire league. Though Miami has to be better and the Wizards should have Gilbert Arenas back in December, Orlando should still have little trouble taking the Southeast Division again. If Jameer Nelson can grow into a consistent point guard and one of the shooting guards can seize the starting role, don't be surprised to see Orlando challenge Detroit and Boston for the Eastern Conference crown.
Rashard Lewis and Hedo Tukoglu will start at the forward positions and each will play about 40 minutes per game this season. Brian Cook will be the first forward off the bench and could see an increase to about 15 minutes per game.
Jameer Nelson will again be the starting point guard, and should play around 30 minutes each game. Anthony Johnson will probably play about 15 minutes per game as the backup point guard; but if Nelson falters again like he did last season, Johnson could steal some of the starter's minuets away. Mike Wilks will likely only see garbage time minutes as the third option.
The shooting guard position will be the most volatile for the Magic this season. Mickael Pietrus will likely start at the beginning of the season and should see around 25 minutes per game, but Keith Bogans was one of Orlando's most-important players last season and could jump into the starting lineup. Bogans will see about 25 minutes per game, either off the bench or as a starter later in the year. Rookie Courtney Lee is a scorer, but like fellow shooting guard J.J. Redick, he will have to prove he can play defense before seeing consistent time in the rotation.
Tony Battie: Battie missed the entire 2007-2008 season due with a torn rotator cuff. A two-year starter, Battie will likely be shifted to the bench following last season's emergence of Hedo Turkoglu. Battie is a nice complementary player for the Magic, but he won't do much for your fantasy team.
Adonal Foyle: Foyle will again be a veteran presence off the bench for the Magic. He'll come in and do the dirty work, but could lose some playing time to both the returning Battie and the younger Gortat.
Marcin Gortat: Gortat saw action in nearly every playoff game last year, a sign that he could be in line for more time on the floor this season. The other backup centers are better defensively and have more experience, but Gortat could see more playing time if his athleticism wins out.
Hedo Turkoglu: With several younger players on the roster and the addition of Rashard Lewis, Turkoglu stood to be the odd man out in the fight for playing time last season. Wrong. Turkoglu responded by posting career highs in nearly every offensive category and becoming the team's go-to scorer in the clutch. He also played in all 82 games for the first time in his career. Turkoglu was one of last season's best fantasy players, but be careful about drafting him too high in your draft. With teams putting more focus on him this season, don't be surprised to see Rashard Lewis get a few more shots while Turkoglu's numbers take a slight hit.
Brian Cook: Cook is Orlando's most-athletic big man off the bench and shoots well from downtown. Still, with Orlando's best players manning the three front court positions, don't expect Cook to be a consistent fantasy performer this season.
Mickael Pietrus: Pietrus signed with the Magic this off-season after spending the first five seasons of his career with Golden State. His playing time diminished last season, so it's not surprising that he moved on to a new opportunity. Pietrus will begin the season as the starting shooting guard, but he'll still be fighting for minutes with Keith Bogans and several younger players. Pietrus put up decent numbers two seasons ago with the Warriors and has the potential to average double-digits in points; but as Orlando's fifth offensive option, he likely won't be more than a role player.
J.J. Redick: Redick just can't seem to find a way off Orlando's bench, mainly because Van Gundy has said that Redick won't see playing time until his defense improves. Orlando's other shooting guards are better defensively than Redick, so don't expect him to play much.
Courtney Lee: Lee was a consistent scorer his senior season at Western Kentucky. He was a first-round pick, but it remains to be seen if he can get his shot off against players at the top level. Lee's career path and size are similar to that of Detroit's Rodney Stuckey, who found himself receiving extended playing time at the end of last season. There are a lot of combo guard-forwards on this roster, but if Lee can develop the way Stuckey did last year, he could force his way into the rotation by the second half of the season.
Anthony Johnson: After spending last season with Atlanta and Sacramento, the veteran point guard is back for his second stint with the Magic. He was signed to be the backup to Nelson, but the Magic have high expectations this season and don't be surprised to see Stan Van Gundy turn to Johnson if Jameer Nelson struggles.
Keith Bogans: Bogans was the starting shooting guard for the first half of last season and despite a January move to the bench, Bogans still saw regular playing time as Orlando's best perimeter defender and played in all 82 games. He also proved to be an effective outide shooter, knocking down 148 shots from behind the arc. Bogans will begin this season backing up Mickael Pietrus, but expect him to see consistent playing time and even start a few games for Magic this year. Bogans won't put up huge numbers, but he doesn't turn the ball over and should be a good source of threes again this season.
Mike Wilks: Wilks will be the team's third point guard. He has been around the league a while but really hasn't contributed too much up to this point in his career. With other experienced and more talented players ahead of him, Wilks isn't likely to see much time on the floor.