Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hoping for Something, but What?: Orlando Magic Season Preview

(A guest post from our resident Orlando Magic fan, El Mariachi. Soak up this relevance now, bud. You're a year away from being a Bobcats-like apparition in the hoops world)

Starting Five: PG Jameer Nelson, SG Arron Afflalo, SF Hedo Turkoglu, PF Al Harrington, C Glen Davis (Tentative)

Key Bench Players: G J.J. Redick, F Moe Harkless, F Quentin Richardson, C Nikola Vucevic, C Gustavo Ayon

Notable offseason additions: SG Arron Afflalo, F Al Harrington, PF Josh McRoberts, C Gustavo Ayon, Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, GM Rob Hennigan

Notable offseason subtractions: Entire team, C Dwight Howard, F Ryan Anderson

For a long time, the Dwightmare had hung over the city of Orlando, souring any semblance of a season, especially in 2011. Change was coming and cast a dark shadow over the entire organization until it was nearly unrecognizable. The firing of head coach Stan Van Gundy felt like a death in the family--the lighting of the fuse that would eventually blow the team apart. The only good thing coming out of the season really was that the team would get some great assets for the inevitable trade of superstar Dwight Howard so that they could rebuild right away. THAT, and the firing of GM Otis “I peed the bed again” Smith.

And here we are with Dwight gone, a new team, and a new head coach in Jacque Vaughn, how can one not be excited? Oh wait, Orlando botched the easiest trade of the decade? That’s right. As an Orlando fan, I seem to block out that out of my memory from time to time.

Honestly being a Magic fan through the last year has kind of numbed me to the whole experience. So much so that the 2012-2013 season has me excited...and that's saying a lot regarding this team. 

Arron Afflalo will be the main scoring option, while Vaughn will utilize the same inside outside play scheme that Van Gundy implemented. Having Dwight inside the lane, and being the most dominant force in the frontcourt this side of the solar system, allowed the Magic three-point shooters to rain down shots from beyond the arc at will without hesitation. This distance shooting would free up Dwight making Orlando a match up nightmare. But now that Howard is gone, the Magic will have to rely on Al Harrington, Gustavo Ayon and Glen Davis to free up the rest of the team which are made up of shooters.

The problem is that those three aren’t anywhere close to being the dominant inside presence that Dwight was for the Magic and won't benefit the team that led the league in three point rate last year. Unless Vucevic immerges as a force down low, the Magic frontcourt isn’t going to free up anything besides a head coaching job. They would more likely lead the league in least points scored, or most GM’s fired.

The good thing is that Vaughn comes from the school of Gregg Popovich. Pop loves to run the pick and roll while working the corner 3s, which is, in my opinion the most effective and underrated play making in basketball. If the Magic can work the high post pick and roll game with Davis or Harrington, Afflalo could set a NBA league record with most wide-open-corner 3s made in a season (especially seeing that he made 40 percent of his three-point shots since his rookie season). He is the only worthwhile piece that Orlando got back in the Dwight trade, so the coaching staff has to find a way to use him effectively if they have any hope of salvaging this team. For the moment, it's effectively Afflalo's team now, which is terrifying and exciting all at once. He is an all around solid-to-good-to-could-be-great player that has built himself into a relative “star”. I don’t think he is quite there yet, but the guy has come a very long way from being drafted with the 27th pick by Detroit in 2007 and then getting buried until he was trade to Denver with cash for a second round pick. He's persevered on the Denver bench, emerged as a solid starter and now has a team that will depend on him for 60 percent of their offense, if not more. I’m kind of joking. 

But not really.

Outside of Afflalo there isn’t much. Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic are still an unknown in this equation. We really have no idea how they will be utilized or how much playing time each will see. Coming into training camp, it's not even easy to name the starting lineup.

As a fan I feel completely lost. Because here’s the thing; to be totally honest, this post was difficult to write because I literally have no idea what is going to happen with this team this season. I have no idea who will start or who will come off the bench or what their record will be like. I’ve had to research most of the players on the roster because I’ve never even heard of them let alone seen them play. The only new guys I’m familiar with is Afflalo and Harrington, beyond that, I’m in the dark. And as a Magic fan, that terrifies me.

There is a big question mark where my enthusiasm for my favorite team in the NBA should be. And that’s a very tough pill the Magic have asked us to swallow since the trade. It’s not like we have a team of nobodies that suck, we just have a team of nobodies whom nobody knows. And for me to be saying this, the loyal Orlando Magic fan, it leaves me pondering how the casual Magic fans feel about this. If I don’t know, they are probably disinterested.

So the way I see it, the Magic are a blank slate right now. There is no telling what will happen with this team and new head coach. This season is going to be an interesting one for the Orlando Magic but

really it’s all upside from here. I mean it can’t get much worse for Orlando.


Best Case Scenario: The Orlando Magic suck. THAT, or Dwight Howard breaks his femur. I don’t think that the latter is likely but the former is most certainly plausible. In order for Rob Hennigan’s Oklahoma City style Blow-It-the-Sh*t-Up plan can work is if the Magic bottom out. The handful of draft picks over the next decade they got in the trade are simply not enough. They need lottery picks and draft picks to start the rebuilding process while they have the “assets”, a term I use very lightly. I’m hoping for a 15-20 win season which sounds terrible coming from a Magic fan, I know. But I’m also right.

Absolute Apocalypse: Other than Dwight not breaking his femur? The Magic being mediocre. My biggest fear for this season is that the Magic are just a middle of the pack team, neither good nor bad. If they hover around 30-35 wins this team will ensure that the Dwight trade will haunt them for decades. And with a team full of potential players and above average guys, this darkest hour in Orlando Magic history is very plausible.

Expected Finish: 3rd in the Southeast Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference

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