2009-2010 Orlando Magic Season Preview
By Ryno of Predictem.com
Last Season’s Record: 59-23
Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jameer Nelson 6-0
SG: Mickael Pietrus 6-6
SF: Vince Carter 6-6
PF: Rashard Lewis 6-10
C: Dwight Howard 6-11
Key Reserves: Matt Barnes 6-7 SF, Brandon Bass 6-8 PF, Marcin Gortat 7-0 C, Anthony Johnson 6-3 PG, J.J. Redick 6-4 SG, Jason Williams 6-1 PG
Current 2010 NBA Championship Odds: 8-1 at Bodog Sportsbook.
The Magic surprised many by defeating the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals and advancing to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers. The Magic proved they will be one of the top teams in the NBA for years to come. Led by Dwight Howard, arguably the best big man in the league, this team has a lot of exciting players. Rashard Lewis came up in the playoffs with a lot of big shots, as did the now departed Hedo Turkoglu. Jameer Nelson had an all-star season, but was injured for the last couple months of the season before returning in the NBA Finals to share point guard duties with Rafer Alson, who is also now gone.
Who’s In/Who’s Out
Turkoglu was a free agent in the offseason and opted to sign with the Raptors. He is a huge loss for the Magic. To replace Turkoglu, the Magic traded Alston and Courtney Lee to the Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. Carter may be past his prime, but he can still score with the best of them. The loss of Alston isn’t nearly as big of a deal as losing Turkoglu because the Magic still have Nelson to run the point. The Magic have added three key role players to their bench - Jason Williams, Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass. Williams will serve as Nelson’s backup at point guard. He is an experienced player who can knock down 3-pointers, a trait that fits in well with this team. Barnes is a long, athletic small forward who can help out on defense and back up Carter and Mickael Pietrus on the wings. He could even start over Pietrus. Bass is an athletic, powerful forward. With the lack of true big men on this roster, Bass is an important addition.
Nelson is a steady point guard with great ball-handling skills and a decent jump shot. He does a great job of running the offense and setting up other players, but he can pick up the scoring load when he has to. He averaged 16.7 points per game last season to go along with his team-leading 5.4 assists per game. Pietrus will likely start alongside Nelson, although either Pietrus or Carter could be considered the shooting guard. Pietrus has an incredible length and usually guards the other team’s best wing player. In the NBA Finals, Pietrus was responsible for defending Kobe Bryant. Williams and Anthony Johnson will serve as backup point guards off the bench. J.J. Redick got some key playing time last season and will be a key bench player once again this season. He is deadly from 3-point range, but is a defensive liability.
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Howard himself makes the Magic frontcourt one of the best in the league. But then there’s also Carter and Lewis. The three of them are the key to this team. Howard is virtually unstoppable because of his strength and athleticism. As he develops his jumper and his post game, he will be even more incredible than he already is. Carter and Lewis can stroke it from downtown. Lewis is extremely tough to guard because of his height at 6-foot-10. He could be the best pure shooter in the league, regardless of height. Howard’s backup will be Marcin Gortat, a 7-footer who stepped up off the bench in the playoffs last year.
The Magic are probably the best outside shooting team in the league. In most cases, the Magic will have three or four players capable of draining 3-pointers on the floor. When Howard gets double-teamed, he can kick it out to the perimeter to an open shooter. If Howard doesn’t get double-teamed in the post, he will usually score, especially against weaker centers. If any player ever gets double-teamed, that means someone is open and this team usually finds that player for an open layup or 3-point attempt.
There isn’t much depth for the Magic down low. Howard will stay on the floor as long as possible every game, but if he has to come out, Bass and Gorcat are the only reliable backups. And neither of those two can have an impact even remotely close to Howard. Lewis helps out Howard on the boards, but the Magic will struggle in rebounding if Howard is boxed out. The Magic also aren’t the best defensive team. They can score a lot of points on offense, but other than Howard and Pietrus, there is often a lack of defensive-minded players on the floor. For the Magic, it usually comes down to outscoring their opponents, not holding their opponents to fewer points.
Betting Odds and Projections
The Magic are listed with 8-1 odds on Bodog to win the 2010 NBA Championship. It’s probably best to stay away from betting on the Magic this season. The odds are inflated because of their run to the NBA Finals last season. But they lost Turkoglu, a key part of their success. Carter won’t have quite the same impact as Turkoglu. The Cavaliers and Celtics have made upgrades and are the clear favorites in the Eastern Conference. It’s going to be very difficult to get past the Cavs and Celtics in the playoffs, and even if they do that they will probably run into the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Magic will likely win their division and they could get to the Eastern Conference Finals, but that’s probably as far as they will go.
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