Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
And the grand finale.
I gathered writers, the best of the best in the blogosphere, to participate in a roundtable discussion and answer some of the most pertinent questions concerning the Orlando Magic as the 2010 NBA Playoffs are set to begin.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop
Tom Haberstroh, Hoopdata
Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk
Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm
Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus
Each individual provided his opinion on Vince Carter‘s potential impact in the playoffs, how things may shake out if the Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, and more.
Who is the x-factor for the Orlando Magic in the playoffs?
Kevin Arnovitz: The x-factor, as he’s long been for Orlando, is Rashard Lewis. If Lewis is accurate from the perimeter, effective at exploiting slower defenders with improved dribble game and able to use his size to post up smaller defenders, then he gives the Magic even more flexibility in the half court.
Tom Haberstroh: Matt Barnes. They’ll need him to do the dirty work. Can he neutralize the opponent’s top scorers?
Kurt Helin: I wanted to go with someone a little more exotic here — Matt Barnes, Rashard Lewis, and those guys will need to have key moments and games — but in the end it’s about Jameer Nelson to me. Dwight is going to be Dwight. But nobody else in the East has a second option as good as a healthy Nelson. Maybe nobody outside the Lakers does (Gasol behind Kobe). And in the playoffs, when things get tight, that second guy comes up huge. Nelson is a shooting guard who can score when the offense breaks down and there are 6 seconds left on the shot clock, and you need that in the playoffs.
If Nelson can come up huge in the playoffs. That’ll be the test. When it comes down to Cleveland in the conference finals — and it will — the Magic will need to pick-and-roll them to death because neither Shaq nor Big Z can defend it well consistently. If Nelson is All-Star Nelson, running the P&R as god intended… well, the Great Cleveland LeBron Freak Out will begin earlier than expected.
Matt Moore: The bench, quite honestly. I could drive it down to Matt Barnes or Brandon Bass or Marcin Gortat or Mickael Pietrus or J.J. Redick or Ryan Anderson but that’s the whole point. It could be any one of them. They’re all capable of producing at an insanely high level, and the 10-15 points they can put in (if SVG gives them time) could be the swing. Mickael Pietrus was the dagger in the ECF last year. In the semis, J.J. Redick’s defense on Ray Allen was the tip of the sword. It could be any one of those guys. That’s the trouble with the Magic. There’s simply no way to stop all of them.
Kevin Pelton: At the risk of copying Kelly Dwyer, this has to be Rashard Lewis. Lewis’ ability to stretch the floor was the difference-maker for the Magic in last year’s postseason, and you can trace Boston’s addition of Rasheed Wallace and Cleveland’s move for Antawn Jamison to wanting to have similar presences. Lewis has had a down regular season and Orlando could really use him to step up at both ends of the floor.