Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 220

Aug 23

Some Inaccurate Criticisms of the Orlando Magic


Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Bryan Crawford of SLAM ONLINE:

The moves that the Orlando Magic made which garnered them a grade of “A” last year is in stark contrast to the moves they made this year which earned them such a low mark. Yes, they’re still a team capable of winning it all, but even with Dwight Howard in the paint, this team is still primarily made up of guys who love to shoot from the outside and a squad built that way will never win a championship. Ever. Allowing your best perimeter defender (Matt Barnes) to leave and replacing him with someone (Quentin Richardson) who plays no defense at all was a real head scratcher. This puts even more pressure on Howard to defend the rim leaving him even more susceptible to foul trouble than he already is. Even with the Q deal and the re-signing of JJ Redick, Orlando did nothing to improve their chances of being a contender for the Eastern Conference crown. The Magic are still going to be a tough out in the East, but another appearance in the NBA Finals seems like a stretch at this point and Stan Van Gundy may find himself without a job after this season.

Three quick notes:

— Nearly everyone is enamored with the offensive philosophy of the Orlando Magic while they ignore that Dwight Howard anchors one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. That’s how the Magic got to the 2009 NBA Finals (first in Defensive Rating during the regular season in that year), and that’s ultimately what will determine whether or not they will win a championship before it’s all said and done. The axiom “defense wins championships” is cliched, without a doubt, but it means something in this particular situation.

— Matt Barnes wasn’t the best perimeter defender for Orlando. Mickael Pietrus was, and still is. As for Quentin Richardson, he does play defense and will likely be a superior fit with the Magic opposed to Barnes. However, one of the main elements that is being overlooked about Richardson is that he is a better shooter than Barnes and that means a lot. It was Barnes’ inability to spread the floor and be a threat on offense, among other things, that made him a liability in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. And given Orlando’s small margin for error in winning a title, those little differences can matter a lot in the grand scheme of things.

— Head coach Stan Van Gundy may see himself without a job after this season? Anything is possible, sure, but it’s highly unlikely that Van Gundy will be unemployed beyond 2011 unless Orlando has a disastrous season. And that is also highly unlikely, even after taking account for the improvements of the Miami Heat and other teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s going to be a tough road ahead for the Magic, but there are still games to be played and nothing is set in stone.

Aug 20

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Citing “those who claim to be in the know,” freelance writer Sam Amico says the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Hornets “have expressed an interest in” working out free-agent guard Allen Iverson. In response, ESPN’s Marc Stein debunks the Hornets portion of that rumor, but says there’s “no word” about the Magic. However, a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told me that Orlando has no interest in the four-time scoring champion, citing the fact that the Magic already have three point guards under contract.”
  • Matt Moore of “The Magic present a stickier alternative. The Magic have Jameer Nelson, with Jason Williams backing him up, and Vince Carter and J.J. Redick locked in at shooting guard. Throw in the fact that the Magic’s system primarily relies on long, athletic shooters and not short, high-usage ball-handlers, and the fit seems like an odd one. Still, if teams are looking for a veteran with some spring in his step that can come off the bench and get buckets, there are worse alternatives than Iverson (and his name is Jannero Pargo). We’ll keep you updated if a team takes the leap of faith on Iverson.”
  • More on Allen Iverson, this time from Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk: “With the Magic, the opposite is true. Orlando already has Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, and Jason Williams at the point, so Iverson would likely play off the ball. In a matter of speaking, anyway; Iverson would likely still be the same high-usage, ball-dominating player he always has been, just slated as Orlando’s shooting guard rather than a point guard. Not that Orlando’s wings are much more vacant. J.J. Redick, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and Quentin Richardson eat, sleep, live, play, and shoot on the perimeter for the Magic, leaving Iverson to scrape up minutes at the bottom of the barrel. […] the Orlando Magic are one of the league’s truly elite teams, and picking up Iverson just for the hell of it isn’t something Orlando is really in a position to do. The Magic already have to contend with the Heat, so there’s really no reason to play with fire.”
  • Mickael Pietrus is the 26th-best small forward in the NBA, according to Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “He adamantly refuses to drive the ball even when his up-fakes from behind the arc send a defender into the front row, but man can this guy defend. Not a lockdown Bruce Bowen-type, but enough of a staunch defender and shooter to earn a starting slot on a great team, and a spot on this list. Pietrus’ shot selection stinks, and he does have the skills to work toward becoming a better all-around player; but for now, this is enough.”
  • Rashard Lewis has played on some of the best offenses in his career.

Aug 20

When Hedo Turkgolu Was the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2008

Aug 20

Daniel Orton in an Orlando Magic Uniform


Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Not a bad photo from Daniel Orton. Yes, I’m a few days late with these photos so bear with me.

Aug 19

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “There is a theory being perpetrated by ESPN’s Skip Bayless that the Van Gundy brothers are simply trying to heap undue pressure on the Heat. If it were any other coach but Stan Van Gundy, I might buy it. StanVan Gundy, at least from my experience, calls them as he sees them, much like his brother Jeff Van Gundy does as an analyst. The fact is, the Heat have put together a virtual Dream Team of talent. Of course, nobody knows how all of these gifted players will mesh together, and the Heat still have to go out and prove they can win a championship. But, on paper, they are the best team ever assembled in the modern-day NBA.”
  • Josh Cohen of cautions fans to be wary of trade rumors.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Can you consistently knock down free throws? If so, you stand a good chance of beating Dwight Howard in H-O-R-S-E. And if you have the money, you can get to play him. Howard is auctioning off the chance to play H-O-R-S-E against him to raise money for Usher’s New Look Foundation. That organization trains youth to be the leaders of tomorrow, and in doing so increases their chances of graduating from high school and going on to college. It’s a good cause, a good place to put your money.”
  • Want to know a team that does an excellent job of defending pick and rolls? Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook says it’s the Orlando Magic: “Orlando is one of the best teams against the pick and roll, and in my opinion they are the best at hedging screens.  This is because they have bigs in Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis who can show and get back to their man quickly.  The goal of hedging is to force the defender to either pick up his dribble or turn towards the middle of the court.  Doing this prevents the ball handler to get the rim and makes a pass harder.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie ranks Vince Carter as the 23rd-best shooting guard in the NBA right now: “Yes, I had him sixth last season. Why? Ask any Nets fan who watched him in 2008-09: Carter was a borderline All-Star that season. Not last season, where he floated and occasionally helped and absolutely disappeared in the playoffs. Carter has an all-around game, he can still rebound and make the pass while working a screen-and-roll, and he’s still a threat to shoot his way toward 37 points every so often. But he just never applied himself when the going got tough. Pity.”
  • In the same rankings, J.J. Redick is pegged at 17th. Go figure.
  • Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie: “I don’t know what’s gotten in to the Van Gundy family, but they seem to be suffering from an acute case of Heat stroke. Miami Heat pun zing, for sure. First, Jeff spouted off about Miami breaking every conceivable team record in the history of the NBA, which is to be expected because he’s paid to have opinions. Now, his brother Stan, the Orlando Magic coach — is refusing to take sides against the family and echoing Jeff’s sentiments. Those crazy Van Gundys and their outlandish predictions. […] In actuality, Stan isn’t totally crazy. I’m not entirely convinced that Dwyane Wade is better than Scottie Pippen. Offensively Wade tops Scottie, no doubt. But when it comes to the other half of the game — defense — there was no better or more disruptive perimeter defender, ever, than Pippen. That’s a big deal, and I’d be willing to offer a tie on that comparison. Furthermore, I will concede Toni Kukoc is not the equal of Chris Bosh, but Bosh’s corollary should probably be Dennis Rodman who is better at rebounding and defense than Bosh, just as much as Bosh is a better offensive player. We can call that one a wash as well, or give a slight nod to the Heat if you’re feeling generous.”

Aug 19

Playbook: The 1/5 Pick and Roll


Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

The 4-out/1-in offensive scheme that the Orlando Magic employ is the foundation of an offense that features Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and others. But there are also other plays that the Magic run with frequent regularity.

Like the 1/5 pick and roll.

The pick and roll is like a common household appliance — every team in the NBA runs it to varying degrees of success. The analogy is probably not the best one, but the point is that pick and rolls are the bread-and-butter of many offenses in the league. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has made it his job to utilize the pick and roll as much as possible. And its worked for Orlando.

Up to this point, the Magic of this era are best-known for riding the 3/5 pick and roll with Hedo Turkoglu and Howard all the way to the NBA Finals in 2009. The zenith of the play’s effectiveness was displayed against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, where Turkoglu had a field day initiating Orlando’s offense from the pick and roll. The Cavaliers were helpless to stop it.

However, a lot of people forget the devastation caused by the 1/5 pick and roll with Nelson and Howard in the first half of the 2008-2009 regular season. Before Nelson suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he was the proprietor of the pick and roll and it fueled his All-Star campaign. After Nelson got hurt, it took a while for him to get back to that same level but he reached it in the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

That’s where the 1/5 pick and roll will be examined.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 19

Additional Commentary on Carmelo Anthony

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Via John Denton of

After seeing what transpired in Miami this summer, of course anything can happen in the NBA. But acquiring superstars isn’t easy and to get one you usually must pay a heavy price.

For example, for the [Orlando] Magic to pull off a blockbuster and acquire Anthony it would also mean they likely would have to assume other undesirable contracts. Losing Melo would mean Denver would be starting over, so the Nuggets might also be looking to unload Chauncey Billups ($27.3 million still owed), Nene ($22.9 million still owed) or Kenyon Martin ($16.5 million still owed).

The Magic could trade Vince Carter ($17.3 million) straight up for Anthony ($17.1 million), but it assuredly wouldn’t be that easy. While Orlando holds the team option on the final year of Carter’s contract, few know that there is a $4 million penalty that Carter will get if a team buys him out. Orlando would likely have to throw $3 million (the most allowed by NBA rules) into any trade to make the transaction work.

And for all of his flash, Anthony does have his flaws. He’s an incredible scorer, but he would be taking more shots away from Dwight Howard. And defense and rebounding are but rumors with Anthony. If the Magic could land him without sacrificing too much it would be a no-brainer. But trades of this magnitude are rarely that easy.

It bears repeating that the odds of the Orlando Magic acquiring Carmelo Anthony are slim to none. Even though Anthony, indeed, has leverage in terms of where he wants to go, the Denver Nuggets are still the team that has the pull the trigger. And with the dismissal of Mark Warkentien, vice president of basketball operations, who knows how long it’ll take for the Nuggets to find a suitable replacement. Time will tell.

Oh, but there’s more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 18

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of “I think Miami’s moves have absolutely lit a fire under players all around the NBA, and more specifically ones in Orlando. Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, [J.J.] Redick and others have already pointed out that every summer drill and track session is done with Miami in mind. It’s absolutely on this season between the Magic and the Heat. Those four regular-season games will be emotionally charged and likely tune-ups for the Eastern Conference Finals. One more thought to consider: Orlando’s two strongest positions (center with Dwight Howard and point guard with [Jameer] Nelson) are Miami’s two weakest spots. At the end of the day, Miami will still be stuck using Joel Anthony against Howard and Mario Chalmers against Nelson. That could be just enough of an advantage for the Magic to nullify Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and James.
  • Color me skeptical about that last comment.
  • A look back at Dwight Howard’s time spent in India: “It took the Summer of 2010 for the NBA to once again to make its massive presence felt on the Indian shores, and that presence came in the form name of Dwight Howard. Suddenly, ‘Superman’ became sort of the flavor of the month amongst the basketball circles in India, and for a country full of many, many flavors and masalas, he came in as a hell of a big deal. Dwight was in India from August 10-14, sandwiching his visit here between a couple of visits to East Asian countries like China and Taiwan. Although the popularity of the NBA popularity in India still has a long way to go to match those other countries, it has been growing rapidly in recent years. […] Over the past few days, Howard has brought his message of the joys of basketball to India, visiting Bangalore and New Delhi in his tour. India is a country that sorely lacks modern sport infrastructure and facilities, but Howard said that this shouldn’t deter young players from working on improving their athletic ability.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy on the Miami Heat: “If I look at what the Bulls did winning 72 games and I look at the Heat roster, I am going to tell you that the Heat roster is better than any roster that Michael Jordan played with the Bulls. I don’t think that people predicting them breaking the win total and being in the 70s and the whole thing, I don’t think those are expectations that are out of line based on their roster… Dwyane Wade is certainly, in my opinion anyway, as good as he was, is better than Scottie Pippen. Chris Bosh is better than Toni Kukoc. Mike Miller is every bit as good a shooter as (John) Paxson or (Steve) Kerr or anybody they put there. Plus, he’s 6′8″. If you start going down the list, I don’t think there is any question that the roster the Heat have is as talented a roster if not more so as any roster there has ever been in the NBA.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk thinks Van Gundy is engaging in reverse psychology.
  • Where will Chris Paul play in 2013? Orlando could be a possibility: “Naturally, Paul wants to play with a dominant center, and a PG-C tandem of Paul and Dwight Howard would be devastating, perhaps one of the best in league history — just look at what Paul accomplished with Tyson Chandler as his big man in New Orleans. The Hornets are doing all they can to keep Paul happy, but if he still wants out, they’ll have to listen to offers eventually unless they want a disgruntled face of the franchise. The Magic might be able to deliver the best deal out there, a package starting with All-Stars Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter, who has essentially just one year of guaranteed money left on his contract.”
  • Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference takes a look at which offensive rate stats are the most consistent when players change roles on a team. Paine looks at True Shooting Percentage, assist percentage, turnover percentage, free throw rate, and offensive rebound percentage. Here’s what he found: “As far as the correlations themselves go, offensive rebounding % and assist rate seem to be almost completely independent of a player’s role — i.e., if a player has a good assist rate at 15% possession usage, you can basically expect that to be retained even at 25% possession usage, etc. Perhaps it is because those two stats measure tendency as much as ability, although there’s certainly skill being captured in each as well. True shooting % is easily the least consistent stat when a player changes roles, which seems to back up the concept of skill curves. When a player has a high TS% and a low possession %, it may be that his efficiency is inflated by taking relatively easy shots, attempts that comprise a smaller proportion of his shot selection when he is asked to increase his usage. Along the same lines, turnover rate was the 2nd-least consistent offensive rate stat when changing roles, suggesting that not only is shooting % dependent on the player’s usage, but the ability to avoid turnovers is as well. Finally, free throw rate was in the middle of the pack in terms of correlations.”
  • Can intangibles be quantified? Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus searches for an answer.

Aug 18

Dwight Howard Having Some Fun in India

Aug 18

Carmelo Anthony and the Orlando Magic


Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Via Royce Young of

You’re supposed to believe the Orlando Magic haven’t made any inquiries into Carmelo Anthony’s availability. At least that’s what general manager Otis Smith is telling you.

But we all know better. A tier one superstar is potentially on the block and Smith’s team is in the market for an upgrade at small forward. And as Ken Berger reports , the Magic are one of the teams on top of Anthony’s list. Yeah, I’m sure Smith hasn’t at least asked about ‘Melo’s situation. […]

Targeting Brandon Bass, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus means the Nuggets get a good small forward in return, plus two solid big men, a position Denver has been looking to improve this year. (Denver would need to throw in Renaldo Balkman to make numbers work, but if they’re getting back two bigs, it would need to clear out room in the frontcourt anyway.) Yes, it’s a step down from Anthony, but any time you trade one of the top seven or eight players in the league, it’s going to be hard to get a comparable deal. Actually, scratch that, it’s basically impossible. But Denver’s other option is to let Anthony walk and get NOTHING in return. You know, the LeBron/Bosh exit plan. And teams that could offer really intriguing deals like the Clippers (Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon?) evidently aren’t on Anthony’s radar.

Same song and dance.

First it was Chris Paul, now it’s Carmelo Anthony.

It’s been an interesting off-season for the Orlando Magic, simply because they have been linked in trade rumors to some of the best players in the NBA. Paul is a top five player and the best point guard in the league. Anthony is, admittedly, a notch below in skill and value, but still an All-Star caliber talent. And both players, through various reports in the mainstream media, see the Magic as an attractive destination to ply their trade and join forces with Dwight Howard.

Anthony is the latest high-profile player that wants to take his talents to the City Beautiful.

Should Magic fans expect anything to happen with Anthony? No, but Anthony has something that Paul doesn’t — or didn’t — have. Anthony has leverage in the situation because he’s an expiring contract, and in the midst of deciding whether or not to re-sign with the Denver Nuggets for three years, $65 million. As been pointed out elsewhere, it speaks volumes that Anthony has not signed a new contract with the Nuggets when he’s had plenty of chances to do so already.

What does this mean for Orlando? Not much, other than it needs to be stated that there’s a greater chance, albeit a slim one, that general manager Otis Smith can make a play for Anthony if he chooses to do so. Acquiring a talent like Anthony is always tricky because the stars have to align just right, but there’s one thing that will the Magic as the process moves forward. Anthony, unlike Paul, has a lot of power with the situation.

It’s no secret that Anthony would like to join the New York Knicks if possible, but it’s been reported that Orlando is high on his list as well.

Here we go again.

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