Website: Believing In Magic
Author: Todd Sikorski
Last Year’s Record-36-46
Key Losses-DeShawn Stevenson, Stacey Augmon
Key Additions-Keith Bogans, rookie J.J. Redick
It’s been a while since the Magic went to the playoffs. Three years to be exact. Not only that but they haven’t gotten past the playoff’s first round in ten years. One can’t fault the Magic organization for trying though. Over the past years, the Magic have brought in proven talent such as Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, and Steve Francis in order to recapture some of the Magic’s glory days when Shaq and Penny Hardaway starred for the team in the early 90’s.
None of that worked out though and that is why the Magic have recently gone in a different direction—youth. Sure, the Magic have plenty of veterans such as Hill and Hedo Turkoglu but the recent emphasis on younger players such as Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Darko Milicic has made the Magic one of the more talked about teams in the NBA.
This new direction has only come about recently with the arrival of G.M. Otis Smith and his brash moves halfway through the season last year are the reason why many are thinking the Magic should make the playoffs this year.
Smith’s trading of Francis and acquiring Milicic and Carlos Arroyo in separate deals improved the team so much that the Magic even made a late run for the playoffs last season by winning 16 of their last 22 games.
Of course, they didn’t make the playoffs but that doesn’t stop the enthusiasm in Orlando. In fact, there is so much enthusiasm in the town one might think Walt Disney will come out of his grave soon and replace his outdated theme parks with Magic-themed parks. Imagine seeing good old Walt designing a new “It’s A Small World” ride with 7-footers Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic dunking basketballs over the ride’s occupants.
Is this optimism warranted? Well, after looking at the current state of the Magic in three important areas, the answer is yes and no.
SIGNIFICANT MOVES IN THE OFFSEASON -The Magic basically made no upgrades to its ending roster of last year. In fact, some think the Magic’s loss of steady shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson will hurt the team. The Magic brass aren’t betting on this though as they think newly acquired Keith Bogans and rookie J.J. Redick will fill in his place fine.
Despite the questions at shooting guard, the real measure of the Magic’s success will be on their decision to stick with their youthful players like Nelson, Howard and Milicic while keeping veterans like Turkoglu and Tony Battie to mentor them. Having them all together for the whole season will be a plus as they should gel together as a unit.
TEAM’S BIGGEST STRENGTHS – It goes without saying but the Magic’s biggest strength lies in the body of Dwight Howard. Howard, who is only playing his third season this year, led the Magic in scoring with 15.8ppg and was second in the whole NBA in rebounding at 12.5rpg. And Howard will only improve as he starts to develop more offensive skills.
Another big strength for the Magic is their point guard play. Jameer Nelson came on strong last season and Carlos Arroyo is such a good backup at the point that he could start for some teams. Not only that but Travis Diener shined in this year’s past Summer League.
Probably the Magic’s most unheralded strength is Head Coach Brian Hill. While Hill is not as hip as other NBA coaches like Pat Riley, he is excellent at developing young talent. Proof of that is his work with O’Neal in the 90’s and now Howard. In other words, he is perfect for this Magic team.
TEAM’S BIGGEST WEAKNESSES—Despite the Magic’s shooting guard questions, the biggest weakness of the Magic might be on the front court. Besides Howard, the Magic will be counting on Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu to put up some quality offensive numbers. While Turkoglu had a solid season last year and is expected to do the same, whatever Hill’s contribution will be is anyone’s guess because of his injuries in the past.
If Hill or Turkoglu are injured or struggle, the Magic will then lean on Tony Battie and Darko Milicic. Neither one of them are offensive threats though. Milicic has the talent to become one but right now he is a work in progress.
Of course, the shooting guard is still a problem and with it the Magic’s three-point shooting. That is why the Magic hope hot-shooting Redick will blossom. However, questions have come up with him about injuries so don’t be surprised if Grant Hill is healthy that he sees plenty of time at the position.
Knowing all this, what are the goals for the Magic this season. Well, with the city’s enthusiasm and last year’s strong finish, anything less than qualifying for the playoffs would be a disappointment.
Will they make the playoffs though? Yes, they should and they might even upset a team in the playoffs if they’re on their game.