Photo by Fernando Medina
Despite head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s justifiable grumbling about the Orlando Magic‘s defense, or lack thereof, there are many things that are impressive about the team since general manager Otis Smith made two blockbuster trades that — momentarily — shook the landscape of the NBA.
Like Hedo Turkgolu‘s rebirth with the Magic.
After languishing with the Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns as nothing more than a spot-up shooter, Turkoglu has been a player reborn with Orlando. No, Turkoglu’s numbers don’t look drastically different between his stops with the Raptors, Suns, and Magic but rest assured, he has been a different person since rejoining the franchise that made him a household name. Turkoglu has been able to recapture the chemistry he and Dwight Howard have in the pick and roll, while at the same time regaining Van Gundy’s trust in him during crunch-time. And even though Orlando ultimately lost the game, Turkoglu’s game-tying three-point shot against the New Orleans Hornets on January 12 proved that he’s still capable of coming through in the clutch when need be.
It’s like Turkoglu never left the Magic.
And how about Jason Richardson?
The two-time Slam Dunk champion has been a godsend for Orlando, as well.
Richardson has been noted as a player that performs when the lights are at their brightest — examples include his performance in the 2007 NBA Playoffs in the first round upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks as a member of the Golden State Warriors and his tour de force in the postseason last year, aiding the Suns to a trip to the 2010 NBA Western Conference Finals.
There’s no question that Richardson has been unafraid, unlike his predecessor before him at the shooting guard position, to step up and hit big shots for the Magic. Whether it’s been against the Mavericks, Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, or Philadelphia 76ers, Richardson revealed he has ice in his veins when it comes to his three-point shooting prowess in crunch-time.
So far, Turkoglu and Richardson have provided some of the skills the Magic have been lacking when the season began. Gilbert Arenas is a work in progress, but there’s still time for him to get acclimated with Orlando and produce when the time comes.
However, there’s one reason that Smith dealt for Arenas, Richardson, and Turkoglu — to improve the Magic’s offense.
After 19 games, it’s safe to say the moves have been successful in that regard. On December 20, the first game in which the new players made their debuts, Orlando scored 105.9 points per 100 possessions which placed them 15th in the league.
Now? The Magic score 108.6 points per 100 possessions — 11th-best in the NBA.
Sans Arenas, every player in Orlando’s rotation is operating in an efficient manner offensively.
The league average for True Shooting percentage is 54 percent, while it’s 49.9 percent for effective field goal percentage. Surprisingly enough, Howard doesn’t have the highest True Shooting percentage on the roster — J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson do. Given that Redick and Anderson are perimeter-oriented players that rely heavily on three-point shooting, that’s a remarkable feat.
With Rashard Lewis’ departure, all the minutes at power forward have been allocated to Brandon Bass as well as Anderson and their numbers speak for themselves. Anderson has always proven to be an efficient player and now that he’s getting consistent minutes in Orlando’s rotation again, the team has improved offensively.
That’s no coincidence.