PACE #19 93.3
OFFENSE: #13 105.5
DEFENSE: #03 98.9
I left Orlando’s preview to be one of the last to be released due to Howard’s situation, as it is likely that he will be traded and his presence or absence is motive enough for this preview to need to be completely changed. Howard was a monster last season, in my opinion he should have been the MVP last year and he only wasn’t because Orlando struggled to be along with the best teams in the league.
The team gave signs early on that they wouldn’t be a real top contender and so, GM Otis Smith pulled the trigger and made two mega trades that gave Orlando Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. The team continued with their offensive problems, as Earl Clark combined to shoot just 42 percent from the field in Orlando, but they showed a better ball movement that helped Howard.
The surprise and the major reason why I believe Howard should have been the MVP last year was the fact that Orlando was still a top 3 defensive team, even though they had players like Nelson, Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson – all of them bad defensive players!
Howard’s influence near the basket is unquestionable as the Magic were:
#1 Defensive rebounding team w/76.89% DF/rate #1 Points in the paint allowed w/35.4 ppg #1 opponents FG’s attempted at the rim w/24.8% (few teams dared to attack the rim vs. Orlando)
In the playoffs, the Magic were upset by the Hawks as they had right keys to beat Orlando: defend 1*1 Howard and let Howard do his damage, but shut down everyone else. The Magic was used to be a potent 3pts machine, but against the Magic for only once they able to hit more than 30% 3pts during the seasons – curiously resulted in a blowout win. Howard’s numbers in the playoffs speak for themselves: 27ppg, 63% from the field, 15.5 boards per game and 1.8 blocks per game!
Going for this season, the Magic will use the same strategy with Howard: a combination with Howard post up skills and a barrage of 3pts shooters, while on the defensive end they will be for sure a top team!
They traded Brandon Bass for Glen “Big Baby” Davis, but honestly I don’t see any big improvement for the Magic and that’s it…as the Magic basically returned with the same from the last season.
Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson didn’t shoot well for Orlando last season, so we can expect better numbers from them. Turkoglu will have his preferred role of a Point Forward that put him on the spotlight when the Magic went to the Finals. Nelson will be once again the Point Guard and really there isn’t more news for this team.
The Magic saw the Heat and the Bulls reach another level last season and they watched this season the Knicks improve their roster this offseason, but they couldn’t do anything to improve their roster as they are stuck with big bad contracts. With Howard they will be a powerhouse team in the East as their defense is really too good, but will it be enough for a Championship run? I doubt about it!