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State of the Magic: Midseason Report

January 18, 2011

 

The theme coming into the season for the Orlando Magic was supposed to be continuity.  With a full season behind them, learning each other’s strengths, weaknesses and personalities was supposed to be the cure to the playoff collapse of last season.  Chemistry was supposed to be the solution.  Well, so far throughout the 2010-2011 the only continuity has been change and the chemistry turned out to be volatile.  The Magic have utilized ten different starting lineups already, thanks to a massive stomach bug and the substantial December mega-trades.  Far from consistent.

Where we’ve been:

The season so far has certainly felt like a roller coaster.  After starting the season 15-4, the team would begin to struggle mightily in the month of December going 1-5 before the big trades on December 18th.

Out were Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat and in were Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.

The team has gone 10-5 with its new roster and those 5 losses came at an average of less than 5 points per game.  Included in those 10 games was a franchise-high-tying nine game winning streak.

CATEGORY BEFORE DEC. 20 (26 games) DEC. 20-PRESENT (15 games)
Points 96.6 ppg. (2,511 pts.) 105.1 ppg. (1,576 pts.)
Opponent points 92.8 ppg. (2,414 opp. pts.) 97.7 ppg. (1,465 opp. pts.)
FG percentage .464 (920-1,982) .467 (568-1,216)
Opponent FG percentage .443 (904-2,040) .450 (544-1,208)
3-point FG percentage .352 (217-617) .415 (169-407)
Assists 18.3 apg. (476 assists) 22.7 apg. (341 assists)

 

As you can see from the chart, while the offense has improved greatly since the trades, the addition of Jason Richardson, Gilbert and Turk has decreased the overall team defense to an enormous extent. 

Where we are:

After 41 games, the Magic lay at 5th in the East and hold a slightly above mediocre 26-15 record.  As it is today, the Magic are probably not considered as a serious threat to fully challenge the Lakers, Heat or the Celtics.  The 9 game winning streak was promising, but as the team has lost 3 of its last 4 on the road, the team’s shortcomings have been exposed.

The team is still learning who they are and Coach Stan Van Gundy still doesn’t seem to know exactly how he wants the team to look.  When asked after the recent loss to the Thunder, in which the Magic got off to a now normal slow start, Stan said, “I just think that maybe we’ve got the wrong group playing. I don’t know. We’ll have to look at that. Or maybe they need to do something to get off to better starts. But it seems like we’re down 10 every night playing out of a hole.”

The two obvious things to look at in the starting lineup are the PG situation and the PF situation.

Jameer Nelson vs Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Bass vs Ryan Anderson

Jameer Nelson since Dec 20th  
MPG FGA FG% FTA APG TOV DRtg PPG
29 8.6 43.90% 1.8 5.7 2.2 105 10.7
               
Gilbert Arenas since Dec 20th  
MPG FGA FG% FTA APG TOV DRtg PPG
22 9.5 35.90% 1.5 4.1 2.4 101 9.2

 

What the Magic need from their starting PG is someone to facilitate the offense and bring a sense of urgency to the team on defense.   Gilbert, while having the better overall defensive numbers hasn’t proved that he can take smart shots on offense and It is hard for me to imagine that he could lead the team better at this point than the team’s co-captain.

Brandon Bass since Dec 20th  
MPG FGA FG% eFG% RPG DRB% DRtg PPG
26 9.2 50% 50% 5.3 16.70% 104 11.3
               
Ryan Anderson since Dec 20th (13 games)  
MPG FGA FG% eFG% RPG DRB% DRtg PPG
24 8.6 46.4% 60.3% 6.1 19.10% 100 12.1

 

These stats present a much more valid argument that a change may be needed.  With Rashard Lewis on the floor, Brandon Bass made more sense.  However, with Turk manning the SF position and handling the ball more, Ryan Anderson gives them the stretch four mismatch which worked so well in 2008-09.  On top of that, Ryan is a better rebounder than Brandon and an equally ordinary defender.

So this is where we are.  Eerily similar to where the Magic were at the beginning of last season, yet now with a much more talented, and cohesive, basketball squad.  Dwight is an MVP candidate in the middle and the rest of the guys are learning to either play with him or adjust to the new talent next to them.

There are decisions to be made still and Stan and the team must find a cure for its slow starts and defensive woes. 

I am not one for saying sit tight and let’s see what happens, but unfortunately that is where this team is at right now.  Practice, playing time, and buying into Stan’s philosophies will be the keys to how much further the team develops.

Player Grades:

A’s:     

Dwight Howard – MVP candidate and the rock of the team.  Somehow still undervalued.

B’s:     

J.J. Redick, B+ – No drop off at all after his contract extension.  Career high in points and 3P%. Also, has been Orlando’s most consistent player outside of Dwight.

Jameer Nelson, B – Scoring down from all-star season but averaging career high 6.7 assists. Must continue to be more aggressive and drive the ball to the basket.

Jason Richardson, tentative B – Orlando’s second leading scorer per game has come up big during 4th quarters.  Defense HAS to improve in order for the Magic to be taken serious.

Hedo Turkoglu, tentative B – BALL. Hedo has the ball and is creating and that has been a very good thing. Turk went from averaging 2.3 assists in Phoenix to 6.2 in Orlando and most importantly, the TurkOOP’s to Dwight are back! Still, as always, needs more control with his shot selection.

Brandon Bass, B- – Defensive rotations and forced shots keeping him from being a B+.  Having his best year as a pro and it’s gotten to the point that when he misses a 15-foot jumper, we all get confused.

Ryan Anderson, B- – His hot play of late makes me want to give him an A, however, let’s not forget that there was a reason that he wasn’t cracking the rotation for a good chunk of the year (only played in 23 of 41 games).  As long as he continues to rebound the basketball and make shots, his minutes will continue to improve.  Another interesting stat: The Magic are 17-6 when Ryan plays.

C’s:     

Gilbert Arenas, C – Gilbert is coming into a unique situation so it’s hard to kill him for struggling a bit.  It’s obvious his explosion isn’t what it once was, but that doesn’t excuse the often horrendous shot selection.  The shades of brilliance are there though and you never know when Hibachi may heat up.

Quentin Richardson, C- – The only thing keeping Q from being a D is that he is one of the greatest bench cheerleaders I have ever seen.  Even though he has lost all of his minutes, he hasn’t complained once and is still the team’s biggest fan.

D’s:     

Chris Duhon and Jason Williams – Both players have had limited minutes and Jason specifically has struggled with injuries thus far.  They were unable to provide the added bench presence needed to spell Jameer and although their play hasn’t been turrble, it still was a big disappointment from what was expected.

Incomplete:      Earl Clark, Daniel Orton and Malik Allen



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