Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
|adj. +/-||net +/-||stat. +/-||PER||WARP||Win Shares/48|
Last year’s record: 52-30
Key losses: Malik Allen, Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Bass
Key additions: Glen Davis, Justin Harper, Larry Hughes, DeAndre Liggins, Von Wafer
Playbook: Click here to learn more about the offense
What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Magic fans begged general manager Otis Smith to trade for Chris Paul after he was made available by the New Orleans Hornets. Paul refused to commit long-term to the franchise, making it clear that he was going to join another team, thus forcing the Hornets to trade him as a result.
The problem is that the Orlando Magic didn’t have the assets to make a realistic run at Paul. Instead, the NBA-owned Hornets traded Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon, Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick, Chris Kaman (and his expiring contract), and Al-Farouq Aminu. Paul to the Clippers meant that Smith couldn’t acquire the second superstar the Magic desperately need to pair with Howard.
In order to appease Howard in a different way, even after saying he wasn’t going to do that, Smith traded Brandon Bass for Glen Davis and Von Wafer. Davis is one of the players that Howard reportedly has wanted on the roster.
In the process of the trade, Davis got a four-year, $26 million contract from Orlando. The deal has been largely panned by the mainstream media and blogosphere because it’s been widely accepted that the Magic gave up the better player in Bass in exchange for Davis and Wafer. Not to mention that Davis now becomes overpaid with his new contract, given that he’s a below-average role player earning a starter’s salary.
Yes, Bass’ basketball IQ is low, he’s a black hole on offense at times (he earned the nickname “no pass Bass” from Magic fans), and he struggles to execute team schemes defensively. But Bass is still a good player mainly because of his ability to score efficiently. No, Bass was never an ideal fit with Orlando because he lacked defensive acumen and he was unable to effectively spread the floor on offense like Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson. But at a bargain contract ($4 million per year), Bass had tangible value around the league.
Here’s the issue with Smith’s trade: aside from being a better defender last season, Davis did almost everything worse than Bass.
|TS%||eFG%||FGA-M / 16-23 Feet||TOV%||USG%||ORtg|
|Brandon Bass||.571||.515||1.5-3.3 (47.0%)||11.5||19.7||113|
|Glen Davis||.499||.449||1.6-4.6 (35.0%)||8.5||20.9||101|
Davis and Bass ply their trade offensively as pick-and-pop players, using the mid-range jumpshot as their main weapon of choice. The difference is that Bass is an efficient jumpshooter, while Davis is not. Bass is also a superior free-throw shooter, which makes him the more efficient player on offense between he and Davis. And even though Bass gets a lot of flack for his utter refusal to pass the basketball once he receives it, and rightfully so, Davis’ assist percentage was not that much better in comparison last season. The only redeeming quality for Davis is that he turned the ball over less.
Did I mention that Bass was a better rebounder too?
As much as Davis’ defensive abilities mean something for the Magic, the fact of the matter is that they’ve gotten worse by acquiring him.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
For Orlando, it’s head coach Stan Van Gundy and Howard.
Long gone are the days in which one of the Magic’s biggest strengths was their depth. In the 2009-2010 season, Orlando simply overwhelmed teams with a 10-man rotation filled with quality players from top to bottom. Not to mention that Van Gundy could plug-and-play Anderson or Bass in their role as that 10th man depending on the matchup for that night.
Last season, a prime example of that excellent depth coming in handy came when a stomach virus plagued the team for a brief period of time in December. In a game against the Detroit Pistons on December 3, without Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus, and Anderson (who suffered a sprained ankle that night after playing for a mere 28 seconds), the Magic were able to overcome the odds and defeat the Pistons by the score of 104-91. Granted, Detroit was one of the worst teams in the NBA but for Orlando to still win without half of their rotation was an impressive feat and exemplified that great depth.
However, a mere two weeks later (on December 18 to be exact), following a swoon in which the Magic lost eight of nine, general manager Otis Smith pulled the trigger on two separate trades which brought in Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, and Earl Clark.
Gone was Pietrus, as well as Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, and Rashard Lewis and as a result, gone was Orlando’s depth.
After a brief honeymoon phase, in which the Magic tied a franchise-record with nine consecutive wins from December 23 to January 8, reality set in. Turkoglu couldn’t regain his 2009 form and neither Richardson nor Arenas could be the dynamic shot creators Orlando needed. And as promising of a player that Clark was, he didn’t produce enough to warrant extended playing time. As a result, with two trades that didn’t pan out and two free agent signings (Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson) that were total duds, in one fell swoop, Smith robbed the Magic of one of their biggest strengths — depth.
Which leads to Van Gundy and Howard.
With so much roster turnover in recent seasons, Van Gundy and Howard still provide Orlando with a core that is able to compete with any team in the league.
Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the NBA, precisely because he’s able to maximize the talent he has to work with. That’s why, even though the Magic — in their current state — don’t project to be any better than they were last season, you better believe that Van Gundy will squeeze as many wins out of the roster as humanly possible. Among his many talents, maximizing a team’s potential is Van Gundy’s greatest skill as a coach.
As for Howard, he’s a top-two player that’s 26, durable, in his prime, and a perennial MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate. If he plays up to his potential, Howard makes Orlando competitive on a nightly basis by himself.
When it comes down to it, Van Gundy and Howard are the two pillars of support that can be relied upon.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Oh, where to start?
Orlando still needs a shot creator on the perimeter. Smith tried to fix the problem last season with the acquisitions of Turkoglu, Richardson, and Arenas but none of those players fixed anything. Arenas was an utter disaster on the court, cooking up a creative concoction of poor shooting and decision making to form one of the worst seasons for a Magic player in franchise history. Turkoglu’s and Richardson’s crunch-time heroics were a sight for sore eyes after Orlando was unable to rely on Vince Carter in the clutch. However, on offense, Turkoglu was maddeningly inconsistent and Richardson was nothing more than a spot-up shooter.
The Magic also need a back-up point guard and back-up center.
Before Arenas arrived last season, Chris Duhon was Nelson’s back-up and he was terrible. Although Duhon remains a net positive on defense dating back to his time with the Chicago Bulls, his unwillingness to shoot the basketball and his inability to take care of it made him a liability on the floor. Many times Orlando would be playing six-on-four because Duhon was too busy passing up shots or turning the ball over. In the rare instance that Duhon did shoot the basketball, his percentages were awful.
Smith never addressed the need in the offseason so it can be only assumed that he thinks Duhon will regress to the mean and have a bounce-back season. It’s not an outlandish proposition, given that Duhon is normally a back-up caliber point guard at his best. But even if that were to happen, the Magic would be better off with a point guard that’s better than Duhon.
At the back-up center position, after Gortat left, Orlando have been struggling to find a viable replacement. Daniel Orton is the only center on the roster not named Howard but he’s not ready to play, which means that — for the time being — Davis is slated to be the back-up. That’s not going to work, which means that Smith must address this issue or run the risk of wearing Howard down in a truncated season. Howard is nicknamed “Superman” but he’s still human. When it comes to winning basketball games, Orlando has a small margin for error so they can’t afford to overwork Howard.
A perimeter wing defender would be nice as well. At this very moment, the Magic don’t have a lot of good individual defenders on the roster, especially at the wing positions (maybe Liggins can be that guy). This is important because the league is dominated primarily by perimeter players.
In Orlando’s first round loss against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford did whatever they wanted against Nelson, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson, and Redick. Quentin Richardson put up the most resistance but even then he has limitations, given that quicker guards can blow by him off the dribble. That and it’s hard to justify giving Quentin Richardson playing time when he’s unable to perform any better than a replacement-level player. For Richardson to have any value on the court, he needs to be making three-pointers which makes it easy for him to be a liability on the floor when he’s not.
The same logic applies to Duhon. Both Quentin Richardson and Duhon need to bring something of value offensively to allow Van Gundy to make use of them on defense.
Ultimately, some of these weaknesses can be masked by Van Gundy and Howard. Some of them can not and unless Smith is able to plug the many holes on the roster, they’re going to be the Magic’s downfall sooner rather than later.
What are the goals for this team?