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It’s May and the Orlando Magic aren’t playing basketball right now.
The last time the Magic weren’t playing basketball in May was in 2007 when they were swept by the Detroit Pistons in the first round, which was Brian Hill’s final year as the head coach. Once head coach Stan Van Gundy arrived, Orlando became accustomed to continuing their season beyond April to the months of May and June but not this time around.
Instead, the Magic are spectators and sitting at home after losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
As such, it seems appropriate to look back at what happened in the postseason for Orlando and chime in on Dwight Howard‘s future with the franchise. So without further ado, welcome to Magic Basketball’s first in-house roundtable discussion.
Credit goes to Matt Scribbins for the questions.
If ifs and buts were candy and Zaza head-butts, the Magic would still be in the playoffs. What is your #1 if?
Nate Drexler: It would have been nice to see a healthy Magic team in the playoffs. If Gilbert Arenas was at 100 percent for the second half of the season, for instance, things would have played out differently. I only say it because Hibachi is a tremendous player, and the reason so many people are frustrated with his huge contract and poor play is they know what a huge impact he can have on a team. As for this season, he was dead wood. That is why my biggest “if” is having Gilbert mentally and physically peaked for the playoffs.
Danny Nowell: The biggest if, for me, is what if Hedo Turkoglu had been the same Hedo Turkoglu that propelled the 2009 run. I know, I know, it’s easy to make him a scapegoat—and it’s not like he’s getting younger, so maybe his decline is strictly about aging—but what else would the Magic have realistically been able to get that they needed? Jameer [Nelson] showed up in spurts, Dwight had an historically good series; I think the key could have been a big ball handler that was aggressive when he needed to be and a creator when he didn’t. Hedo’s play was almost the direct inverse of that.
Matt Scribbins: The Magic would still be in the playoffs if they had a legitimate option on offense besides Dwight Howard. With help from the Basketball Reference database, I learned only seven players since 1947 have made 20 or fewer shots while attempting 68+ in the playoffs. Hedo Turkoglu did just that this post-season and bricked his way into the record books. Hedo, one of the worst shooters in NBA playoff history, actually out did himself and provided his worst playoff shooting performance ever.
What is Orlando’s #1 goal during off-season (excluding locking up Dwight Howard)?
Drexler: Find someone who is a beast on the perimeter. You have to start thinking “big three,” in a sense. The answer is not in acquiring a flashy point guard, and the Magic already have a solid point guard in Nelson. Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, and Vince Carter were theoretically moves in the right direction, but it is time to grab a real scoring option in the shooting guard or small forward position. “Weed out and rebuild” should be the motto for the offseason. Otis Smith needs to try and dump Arenas, Turkoglu, [Jason] Richardson, as he deals with Dwight’s departure and establish an entirely new program. That might even include parting ways with SVG and his Dwight-centered offense.
Nowell: I think the Magic have to find a way to get back to their earlier identity, spacing the floor and surrounding Dwight with shooters. I think the key might be involving Ryan Anderson more. That dude can really ball, and he provides the team with a stretch guy with a fairly high IQ who has shown flashes of excellence. Also, I think I may try and convince Gilbert Arenas that NBA players who move to Turkey receive massive, impossible to turn down tax incentives.
Scribbins: They have to get some value from Gilbert Arenas. Hopefully, he will be healthy enough to produce at a high level on the court. He has literally never played worse during his NBA career than he did last season in Orlando. I image he will only be better next year, so that is a plus. If the team can’t look at Agent Zero anymore, they should ship his monstrosity of a contract somewhere and start to reassemble a contending team.
What are the odds (%) Dwight stays in Orlando, and why?
Drexler: Zero percent. Dwight is gone, and I would be surprised if he has not already purchased some real estate in either Los Angeles or Chicago. Dwight, like many of the other superstars in the league, is a winner, and when you do not win, you leave. The first round exit has to be the straw that broke the camels back for Dwight, and I cannot see anything that anyone could wave in front of his face to tempt him to stay. Dwight loves Orlando, yes. He loves the people, and is a loyal guy, but when push comes to shove, why would any player (much less the most valuable player) want to put up with streaky shooting, Gilbert Arenas-esque trades, and early playoff exits any longer than he has to?
Nowell: I’m not inclined to believe Dwight stays in Orlando barring a major change—like GM. I can’t imagine being Dwight Howard and thinking the team has done a good job of giving me players to compete with. In a way, what the Magic have done with Dwight is a little worse than what happened with LeBron; the Magic had their system, based on floor-spacing and Dwight’s unique defensive capabilities, and they gutted that system. However, I have no idea what Dwight will actually do. I’m naïve enough, I suppose, to believe he is earnest when he talks about his affection for the Magic, but this is a matter of human will. I also have no idea if the Magic find some miraculous way to acquire another A-lister, but I suppose it’s always possible. So, because I refuse to make definite statements about where a 25-year old wants to work, I will say fifty percent.
Scribbins: One percent. It’s not looking good. The Lakers playoff performance, and reported bizarre off-court issues, might make the Lakers even more gung ho about bringing in Dwight. Let’s hope Chris Paul’s wife seeks a job at Disney World and forces a trade to Orlando a la LaLa’s New York City wish for Carmelo Anthony.