ORLANDO MAGIC PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
2011-12 might be the most intriguing season in Magic history. After last year’s first round ousting by Atlanta, Orlando starts the year with major personnel question marks. The primary storyline of the season is whether center Dwight Howard will be traded. Orlando’s first offseason move was using its amnesty provision on Gilbert Arenas, wiping his remaining $62 million off the payroll. Orlando also swapped Brandon Bass to Boston for Glen Davis, and re-signed Jason Richardson, ensuring a perimeter scorer. Jameer Nelson returns at point, but without a true backup. Veteran Chris Duhon will spell Nelson on Christmas Day. Hedo Turkoglu hasn’t played to the level of his contract the past two years, but the Magic hope he can approach his 2008 form again. The biggest hole is the lack of a backup center, and Howard will be under tremendous pressure to stay out of foul trouble. Orlando’s roster looks similar to last year: a collection of solid players, but no real second option. Also, an absence of individual defenders (besides Howard) is concerning. Coach Stan Van Gundy has a decent amount of talent to work with, but probably not enough to contend for a title. Much of Orlando’s season will depend on how the team reacts to the distractions from the Howard situation.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Dwight Howard played almost 38 minutes per game last year, and will play a similar amount without a reliable backup. Daniel Orton will get a few minutes per game to spell Howard, at least at first, but most of his time will be determined by foul trouble. Glen Davis and Ryan Anderson will both average 25-30 minutes, with Anderson opening as the starting power forward and Davis backing up both him and Howard. Hedo Turkoglu logged 34 minutes per game last year, and will play the same role this season. Jason Richardson will see 30-35 minutes as the starting shooting guard, but look for J.J. Redick to play solid sixth man minutes and be asked to play some point. He should get 20-25 minutes a night. Jameer Nelson will see more than the 30 minutes per game he averaged last season without a true backup this campaign. Chris Duhon should see 5-15 minutes per game. Quentin Richardson and Von Wafer will not begin the season in the rotation, but will get chances at some point in the season, and could play 5-10 minutes a game. As raw rookies, DeAndre Liggins and Justin Harper will see very limited time to start the year. If camp invitees Larry Hughes and Gabe Pruitt make the squad, they would be insurance options, at best.
Dwight Howard: Howard is obviously the headline for Orlando coming into the season. Whether he remains part of the team or not, his fate will be the primary factor behind the team’s outcome this season. Howard has finally become a complete center. His offense will never catch up to his defense and rebounding, but he has developed solid post moves and footwork, and expanded the use of his left hand last season. His mid-range shot is still shaky, but showed some promise last season. As long as Howard is confident in his offensive repertoire, he should have another monster year. Trade rumors can be a distraction, but it won’t hinder his play considering he somewhat wants a trade and is in a contract year.
Daniel Orton: Orton will be asked to play a bigger role for Orlando this year, and will get time as Howard’s backup. Orton didn’t appear in a game last season as rookie, partially due to a knee injury he had operated on as recently as September. Orton says he feels the best he has since college, but hopefully he can stay healthy.
Ryan Anderson: Anderson is an ideal fit for Stan Van Gundy’s perimeter-shooting friendly offense. He provides the luxury of spreading the floor with his three-point shooting (39 percent last season). Even though he’s not a defensive presence at 6-10, his rebounding improved last year, despite playing next to Howard. As long as Howard is drawing double teams, Anderson will be a lethal 3-point shooter and should easily average double digits.
Glen Davis: Davis will back up both Anderson and Howard at times. Davis can certainly score, averaging 12 points off the bench last season in Boston. He provides tremendous energy, and has developed into a strong low-post defender (especially help defender), despite being undersized. Davis was brought in partially because of Howard’s affinity for him, but he is also a defensive upgrade from Brandon Bass.
Hedo Turkoglu: Turkoglu really impressed in the first few days of camp and could be poised for a bounce-back season. According to the head coach, Turkoglu has been more focused in the first few days of camp than in his entire time under Stan Van Gundy. Turkoglu said, “This is a new year for me, I’m starting here at the beginning.” If he can find his 2008 form, when he averaged over 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists, he will be a huge asset, although his play over the last couple seasons makes it hard to believe he can produce like that again.
Justin Harper: Harper, a rookie out of Richmond, can play either forward position at 6-9. He should get some looks but will start the season out of the rotation. Van Gundy said his biggest adjustment probably will come on the defensive end of the court. As another forward who can hit the three, Harper seems well suited to develop in Orlando’s system.
Quentin Richardson: Richardson started 19 games last season but fell out of the rotation as the year progressed. He underwent surgery in June to repair a disk in his lower back, and is still experiencing soreness. He competed hard at both ends last year, can still shoot the three, and has been a consummate team player regardless of his playing time. However, because of the depth at the wing and his back issues, Richardson might need some injuries to get minutes.
Jason Richardson: Even though Richardson’s points per game averaged dropped to 13.9 last season in 55 games with Orlando (from a career mark of 18.0), Orlando re-signed the 30-year old at 4 years, $25 million. Richardson said he hopes “to get to a new level this season,” although that isn’t something typically done after 30. Richardson is one of the streakiest shooters in the game and is a difference-maker when in a rhythm. With Orlando’s tendencies for kick-out and transition threes and more familiarity in the offense, Richardson will probably improve his numbers from last season, although that isn’t saying much.
J.J. Redick: Redick started his offseason with abdominal surgery in May, although he’s fully recovered. Redick has established himself as a solid NBA player and can do more than simply stroke the three. He has displayed an ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the hoop on occasion, and he needs to keep doing this to create more space on the perimeter. After posting a solid 10.1 points per game off the bench last year, Redick will be the first wing off the bench and contribute similarly this year.
Larry Hughes: Hughes was invited to training camp on a nonguaranteed contract. He has been out of basketball since 2009-10. Of course, Hughes was a productive player for a long time in the league, and could be a valuable insurance shooting guard and perimeter defender if he makes the team.
DeAndre Liggins: At 6-6 with a 6-11 wingspan, Liggins has the tools to become a versatile defender in the association. Van Gundy called Liggins a “very tough, very competitive dude,” who’s “going to go out and defend and work…He’s got a long way to go and a lot to learn.” The Magic have a surplus on the wing, so it will be challenging for Liggins to find minutes, but his raw talent is promising.
Jameer Nelson: Nelson has entered camp significantly trimmer and more muscular. He will be asked to be more aggressive and look to score more, especially in the fourth quarter. He shot over 40 percent from three last year and increased his scoring average slightly, but he has yet to regain his All-Star form from a few years ago. The Magic will ask him to carry a big load without a solid backup, which is concerning considering Nelson is somewhat injury-prone.
Gabe Pruitt: Like Hughes, Pruitt was a training camp invitee. Pruitt played sparingly in Boston before spending the last few seasons in the D-League, where he posted an average of 13.4 points on 43.9 percent shooting. Pruitt isn’t expected to make the roster, but could feasibly contend for a spot due to lack of depth at point.
Chris Duhon: With Gilbert Arenas gone, Duhon will be asked to serve as the second point guard. Duhon has been a serviceable player at times with a high basketball IQ. He has more experience at point guard than any other Magic guard besides Nelson, but will provide little in the box score.
Von Wafer: At 6-5 with great athleticism, Wafer can get to the rim. He averaged 3.2 points per game in his recent stint with Boston, but can still provide a spark on occasion off the bench, as he did with Houston in 2008-09. In nine games with the club Vanolli-Braga Cremona during the lockout, he averaged 20.1 points per game on 57.8 percent shooting. Orlando got Wafer as a low-risk move, but could end up utilizing his scoring ability off the pine.
Ryan Anderson: Anderson has progressed steadily in his first three seasons, and is perfect for Stan Van Gundy’s offense. His rebounding is solid, and he can be very active around the rim. He averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds as Brandon Bass’ backup last year, and his numbers across the board will increase as the starter. Certainly, Anderson will receive ample open looks playing alongside Howard. If Anderson shows noticeable improvement in his ability to create his own shot, he will be a challenging matchup.
Jason Richardson: Richardson played poorly for Orlando last season, and there are worries about this athleticism at 30. For most of his career, Richardson has been depended on to be one of his team’s top two scorers. That role might serve him better, because it enables him to stay involved and develop a rhythm. If Orlando emphasizes him enough, he could still post decent scoring totals. Still, he’ll put up substandard shooting percentages, and will provide no assistance in any other areas.