The Magic are without a star player for the first time since 2004 when they selected Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick. They traded away their star center this offseason, in a four-team trade that involved the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. The roster is bare, so what can we make of the Magic this season?
The Magic didn’t receive much in return for Howard, other than a few solid role players. No stars, no potential stars, nothing like that at all. They received Josh McRoberts from Los Angeles, Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo from Denver, and Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia. Did I mention that Orlando has a new head coach and general manager, too? Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith were both fired from their jobs during the offseason. The Magic brought in Rob Hennigan to be the new general manager and former NBA player Jacque Vaughn to be the new head coach.
This is Vaughn’s first head coaching job and it doesn’t look promising. This team lacks a lot more than just a superstar. Old veterans and bad contracts like Hedo Turkoglu ($11+ million) have flooded the roster. Six players will be making more than $6 million this season and, in all reality, no player on this roster is worth more than $5 million per year.
Despite my hatred for this roster, I think Vaughn will do a good job with this group of players. They might not win many games, but no one expects them to. They are a key free-agent signing away from becoming relevant again. But for this season, well, it will be a long one and not in the sense that it’s an 82-game season this time.
Point guard(s) – Jameer Nelson: Nelson has been the incumbent point guard in Orlando since he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, then traded to the Magic on draft night in 2004. This will be his first year playing without a dominant low-post player. Nelson is coming off a so-so season in 2011-2012, averaging 11.9 points per game, his lowest total since 2007-2008. I don’t know what offensive system Vaughn will implement this season but, with Nelson being a veteran, I expect him to have another average season, even though his team will have a below-average season.
Armon Johnson and Ishmael Smith will compete for back up minutes.
Position Grade: C+
Shooting guard(s) – Arron Afflalo: He got paid last season ($38.56/five years), and surprisingly performed like he was worth the money. He averaged 15.2 points per game on a well-balanced Nuggets team that led the league in scoring last season. I think he becomes one of the main scorers on this team this season. He is a solid defender but I don’t feel he will change many games for the Magic this season. Overall, he is a solid player, but not a player that will change Orlando’s fortunes this season.
I expect J.J. Redick to receive most of the minutes backing up Afflalo.
Position Grade: B-
Small forward(s) – Hedo Turkoglu: Just a few seasons ago, Turkoglu was one of the better playmakers in the NBA. Then, he thought that signing a rich contract with the Toronto Raptors would be a smart idea. From there, he was traded to Phoenix and then, back to Orlando. He hasn’t been the same since the 2009 NBA Finals and he seems to have lost his basketball spirit in the process. The Magic will need him to be more involved in the offense, scoring-wise, otherwise I think the Magic will look to go in another direction and that means Turkoglu could be on his way out soon.
Rookie Maurice Harkless could see a lot of back up minutes if Vaughn has enough confidence in him.
Position Grade: C+
Power forward(s) – Glen Davis: The Magic has a lot of power forwards on this roster, but I think ‘Big Baby’ is the best one right now. He played very well in the postseason, averaging 19 points per game and nine rebounds per game in the series against the Indiana Pacers. I believe he could have the best season of anyone on the team, in part because there will be a lot of shots available and we all know how much Davis loves to shoot. But, like I said, Orlando has a lot of power forwards.
Al Harrington and rookies Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson will compete for minutes.
Position Grade: C+
Center(s) – Gustavo Ayon: This team doesn’t have a “true” center on the roster, so I guess, by default, Ayon gets the nod? He was a decent player for the New Orleans Hornets last season. I don’t know who else Vaughn would put in at the center position, unless he wanted to go small with (Al) Harrington in the middle or one of the rookies (O’Quinn or Nicholson).
I could see any one of the forwards either starting or playing significant minutes at the center position.
Position Grade: D+
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Jameer Nelson
G: Arron Afflalo
F: Hedo Turkoglu
F: Glen Davis
C: Gustavo Ayon
Starting Lineup Grade: C
G: Ishmael Smith
G: J.J. Redick
F: Maurice Harkless
F: Al Harrington
Bench Grade: C-
Coaching Grade: C (Jacque Vaughn)
I don’t see the Magic making the playoffs this season. They will finish fourth in the Southeast Division.