Believe it or not, the NBA's regular season is this week. To get you ready, Crossover Chronicles will be profiling a team each day for the next few weeks. This week is the Southeast Division. Today is the Orlando Magic.
2011-12 Record: 37-29
Key Losses: Dwight Howard (traded to L.A. Lakers), Ryan Anderson (traded to New Orleans), Jason Richardson (traded to Philadelphia)
Key Acquisitions: Arron Afflalo (traded from Denver), Nikola Vucevic (traded from Philadelphia), Al Harrington (traded from Denver)
|Jameer Nelson||Arron Afflalo||Hedo Turkoglu||Glen Davis||Nikola Vucevic|
|Ish Smith||J.J. Redick||Al Harrington||Andrew Nicholson||Gustavo Ayon|
|E'Twaun Moore||DeQuan Jones||Maurice Harkless||Josh McRoberts||Kyle O'Quinn|
The Dwight-mare is over. And everyone is relieved.
The Magic are looking forward to a year without drama and a fresh start. Fans have surprisingly latched on to the new vision Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn have presented. They have embraced the players who stayed, including the re-signed Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis. There is quiet optimism about the future, no matter the trials it might take to get there eventually.
Everyone recognizes there is a long road ahead and the Magic are no longer one of the league's elite by virtue of one player on the roster. But unlike most rebuilding teams, this team is full of veterans that have big-game experience and are not going to just tank into that good night. This is a team that seems like it will play hard and keep fighting. Whether that continues after the team starts losing a lot is another question.
Orlando is led now by Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo, three players who have established themselves in this league and will be looked at to provide a bit more than at any time int heir careers. Additionally, J.J. Redick is a solid player who seems to have expanded his game and is ready for a new role.
There is a lot of opportunity for a lot of players on this revamped roster. And it is an opportunity that all clearly want to take advantage of. That means this will be a motivated team ready to play hard and surprise.
Perhaps the thing that gives the Magic its greatest hope might also be its greatest long-term weakness.
Orlando has a lot of veteran players, but those veterans will take playing time away from young players such as Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn and E'Twaun Moore. These are the players the Magic likely really want to develop further this year and figure out if they are part of the future plans. But it is hard to justify throwing them into the fire when there are so many stalwarts ahead of them. Those positions will be given up stubbornly and the Magic want to avoid creating a losing culture.
So if those players are going to be the heart of the Magic roster then what can they provide?
Many of them have already established decent careers and are going to be asked in Orlando to do more than they had done previously. In other words, the Magic are going to have teach old dogs some new tricks. As that saying suggests, that is not easy.
Arron Afflalo is a nice player who is still developing, but few see him as a top-scorer on any team and someone who can consistently create his own shot. That is what Orlando is asking him to do. The Magic are also asking for Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu to revert back to their 2009 form when the Magic went to the Finals. Neither has gotten close to that since then. And the Magic are likely asking Glen Davis to anchor the defense and be a post threat.
It is possible they can step into these roles, but consistency is the question. And that does not get into the mess that the defense should be in with few rim protectors and little in the way of solid perimeter defenders after running a defensive scheme completely reliant on Dwight Howard's prowess.
Things get ugly when you ask why the Magic made the Dwight Howard deal they did. It was not for competitive purposes — Orlando wanted to restock through the Draft. It was not for cap relief — Orlando took on Arron Afflalo and his contract with four years left and Al Harrington with three years left.
So what purpose was it for? Orlando could have gotten the package that Houston used to net James Harden.
That is a question everyone is asking. Quite clearly, Dwight Howard's demand and refusal to sign an extension anywhere outside Brooklyn or Los Angeles killed Orlando's ability to make a really favorable deal. The Magic, in the end, wanted to move on more than get a good deal as the relationship was completely untenable between superstar and franchise.
So the Magic are left in limbo it would seem for the next two years at least. Orlando will not be able to go after free agents until 2014 likely and have to be very smart with the team's future decision making and planning to get back to a competitive level.
Have thoughts or predictions on the Magic? Leave them in the comments below or drop us a line @CrossoverNBA on Twitter or join the discussion by using the hashtag #MagicDay. We will be back with a closer look at the Magic throughout the day.