Offseason to do list: Magic

A lot of people forget about the Magic when they think about the Eastern Conference. It makes sense as to why people don't think about them because they are a mid sized market and have not made much noise in the league recently. When the Magic made it to the finals with Shaq and the supposed superstar Penny Hardaway, they had the one-two punch combination we have seen work so frequently for past championship teams. When looking at this Magic team it seems like they have all the pieces. They have one of the top 2 centers in the league in Dwight Howard and a supposed sidekick in Rashard Lewis. They even have a credible third option in Hedo Turkoglu. I say they have a sidekick in Rashard Lewis, but he isn't really a side kick. He is the highest paid player on the team at $17.2 million this year and he makes more each year than Dwight Howard will until the end of the summer of 2013. No one knows how Lewis was able to get Rich DeVos to cut him that kind of check, but he sure is not playing like a $100+ million plus player.

Rashard Lewis gets paid superstar money. He is solid player without question. Lewis is a versatile 4 who can be a spot-up shooter or a creator. He stretches defenses and creates serious matchup problems. Although he makes the most money on the team he wasn't even the team leader in scoring. He was not even the second leader in scoring. Yes, he was the third. He averaged 18.2 ppg and grabs 5.4 rebs a game. He is third on the team in rebs too. He has hit some big shots for the Magic and shows up when they need him to, but there does not seem to be the 'it factor' in his game. He makes superstar money, but has no superstar quality about him. Could he be another Penny Hardaway in the making? A player who thrives off of the big man in the middle? He is clearly incapable of leading a team himself, just ask the former NBA team the Seattle Sonics how that went for them. The problem for the Magic would not be Lewis himself, if it weren't for his enormous contract. He eats up a huge portion of their salary and since he is signed to the end of the 2012-2013 season, he is going to sit on Orlando's books and be completely content every time they get knocked out of the second round of the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy runs plays for Lewis, but that is only because a guy with Lewis' talent should be able to deliver. He is a marginal defender and gets lost during stretches of the game. He did lead the team in steals at 1.22 a game which shows a little life in his defense, and aggression. He holds the key to the Magic's success. If he can improve his defense the Magic can have a good shot at getting deep into the playoffs. If the Magic do not get some results at the end of this coming year expect them to try and dish Lewis elsewhere, but expect there to be few to no offers for his massive contract.

Dwight Howard is the franchise player. If there was a way to switch contracts between players on a team, it would be no more justified than in the instance of Lewis and Howard. At least it would be a little easier to trade Lewis. Howard is one of the last pure centers in the league. He is the poster boy for the next generation of centers. The speed of the modern game has called for Centers to be versatile in more than one area. The 90s glory years for centers that included Shaq, Mourning, Ewing, and Hakeem were strictly post players. They were moderately good athletes, but Dwight Howard represents the future evolution of what NBA centers will be. He is listed at 6'11 and 265 lbs and covered in muscle. He can jump out of the gym, well, at least to the top of the backboard. He is the most credible shot blocker in the game today and poses a huge inside presence that discourages shifty guards from getting easy layups. His numbers are just as big as his physique. He is the leading scorer on the team at 20.7 ppg, 14.2 rebs and 2.15 blks. People forget that Howard won't even turn 23 until December. If his career continues on this upward trend, he will be a Hall of Fame player before it is all over. His career has turned out a little bit different than fellow draft classmates, Sebastian Telfair and J.R Smith, both of which he played against in high school. Dwight Howard played all 82 games this past season and needs rest which means the Magic need some good backup for him. They have Tony Battie who did not play a game this season but made $5.2 million. They also have Colgate's professional sports claim to fame in Adonal Foyle who averages 9.5 minutes a game and an amazing 1.9 ppg and also squeezes in time to grab 1.2 rebs. The Magic need a serious upgrade for the backup center position, but Howard is young enough to carry the load right now.

We have all seen Dwight Howard's ridiculous dunks from the dunk contest from the 2008 All-Star game so I thought posting that would be a little boring. Here is a Vitamin Water ad showing him practicing for the dunk contest.

Hedo Turkoglu had an absolutely breakout season. He showed that he can make it in this league and is further evidence (not that we need it) that they breed NBA stars. Hedo put up 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rebs and 5 assts in 36.9 minutes a game while only commanding $6.8 million a season. That is a pretty good deal for a player of his caliber. He is deadly when left open and is the beneficiary of defenses that overplay Lewis and Howard. If he continues to produce at this level and Howard continues to grow, the Magic will be a serious threat in the Eastern Conference. Like Lewis, Hedo's deficiency is at the defensive end because he lacks the athleticism to match up to the top players at his positions like Lebron, Tayshaun Prince, and Luol Deng.

The Magic have a pretty solid front court. Their back court is a little less deep, but they have potential. At point guard they have Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo. Arroyo is a free agent now and not under contract, but he made about twice as much as Nelson by cashing in a $4 million check at the end of the last season. Nelson made $1.9 million the last season, but is due to make $5.5 next season and locked in under contract till the summer of 2013. Nelson is a solid point guard who can produce more, and will need to if the Magic want to compete harder in the Eastern Conference. He averages a modest 10.9 ppg and 5.6 assts. Keith Bogans is the 2 guard along with Nelson and doesn't do much else to help the backcourt of the Magic. He averages 8.7 ppg and 3.2 rebs, and gets paid fairly for that production at $2.4 million this past season and will get paid $2.9 million in the coming season. With that kind of salary, don't expect too much out of Bogans.

The Magic's bench does not go too deep. Along with defense, depth is probably the second problem plaguing the team. JJ Reddick, the former Duke legend has not had the opportunities to shine in the NBA. He has only been able to get in for 8.1 minutes a game and averages 4.1 ppg during that stretch, most of which is garbage time. Reddick can offer something to an NBA team, but the Magic do not seem to like what Reddick brings. It seems like they drafted him based on his star power. That is, they drafted him in 2007 for the sole purpose of putting people in seats. Unfortunately for the Magic and Reddick, no one cares about the former Blue Devil and Magic fans want wins, not former college stars. The bad news continues for Magic fans, JJ is locked in under contract until the summer of 2011, but JJ says that he wants out. The Magic aren't going to budge, but that is more due to the fact that no one wants Reddick's services. If JJ got on the right team, he could be a huge asset. There will always be jobs in the NBA for pure shooters. JJ is one of them. He will never be a star like he was in college, but he is good enough to stay in the league if given the opportunity.

The Magic drafted Courtney Lee out of Western Kentucky. I'm not going to act like I know much about Lee or watched him play outside of the tournament. The most I know about this guy is that he busted my bracket when he led Western Kentucky to an upset over Drake (12 over 5's... they get you ever year). The Magic just signed Lee to a $9 million dollar contract that has him until the end of the 2013 season. From what I have heard, Lee was amazing in his pre-draft workouts and has an incredibly work ethic. From those reports, I can make the judgment that he probably has that underdog mentality. He went to a small D1 program, managed to shine during the tournament, make it to the big leagues, and now he wants to prove that he is worthy of all of it. You can't help but root for the guy. If he becomes a credible 2 guard for the Magic, they have a solid team.

The defense and depth of the Magic hurt them. They probably won't be winning conference titles in the coming years, but they will always be around that 3rd or 4th spot in the East. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I expect the Magic to give his one more year, and then seriously explore trade options and dumping players to get cap room. The city of Orlando has been deprived of championship hopes for far too long.



Who says the Bucks play in a small market? Well...is it as small of a market as DC? Here is an article that answers that age old question, is DC better than Milwaukee?

Why does no one want J.R Smith? Tremendous article by Hardwood Paroxysm on why J.R Smith has superstar talent, but needs to get on a team that will guide him.

Haven't you ever looked at an NBA player or coach and said, "Hey, he looks like..." Well, SLAM did too, and some of these players have striking resemblances.

Picture Sources: nba.com (first), slamonline.com (second), bleacherreport.com (third), dwighthoward.com (fourth), orlandosentinel.com (fifth), nba.com (sixth), deadspin.com (seventh), sports.espn.com (eighth)

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