2010-11 NBA Preview: Orlando Magic
The Magic’s game plan: Dwight Howard and threes. A lot of threes. A never ending onslaught of threes.
In fact, after a second-round exit from the playoffs, the Magic took a good, hard look at their team and decided that they needed even more three point shooting. So, the team said goodbye to Matt Barnes (2.6 attempts per game at 32%) and said hello to Quentin Richardson (4.7 attempts at 40%) and Chris Duhon (3.9 attempts at 35%). Now, nine of the team’s 13 players shot at least 35% from the three point line last year. And they all take a lot of three point shots.
It’s a plan so simple and straightforward is probably too simple and straightforward to win a title. But if you’ve got a certified man-beast down low who has heat vision and can slam dunk a basketball with his junk, why the hell not build a team to take advantage of that.
The Depth Chart (It’s Threetastic)
PG Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, Jason Williams
SG Vince Carter, J.J. Redick
SF Mickael Pietrus, Quentin Richardson
PF Rashard Lewis, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass
C Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Daniel Orton
The all too common take on Dwight Howard is that his free throw shooting is the fantasy version of kryptonite – a weakness so glaringly bad that it is enough submarine an entire fantasy team. And it’s true that his 59% shooting from the line on 10 attempts per game is the sorriest display of shooting since Shaq was in his prime. There are many people who flat-out refuse to draft Howard (especially in roto leagues) because of the added difficulty of building a team around his horrible FT%.
But to say that Howard is undraftable is straight up libel. Last year, I looked at building a team around Howard that could actually win the free throw percentage category and found that it is difficult, but not impossible to do. While it does take a concerted effort to build a team around him in roto leagues, simply pairing him up with a couple great FT shooters makes a team that is at least average in that category. And in H2H leagues it’s even less of a problem since punting categories is an option (and in my opinion is a good strategy since no team can win every single category consistently).
But all is not perfect with DH. His offensive game regressed slightly last season, as his scoring decreased from nearly 21 a game in 2007-08 and 2008-09 to only 18 last season. His FG% actually went up to an incredible 61% last year, but it came on only 10.2 shots a game. In fact, all the Magic’s starters took fewer shots per game last year compared to the previous season, thanks to the Magic’s strong bench. JJ Reddick, Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams and the rest of the Magic bench got a lot of run and had a more important role with the team last season.
So ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much Howard works out with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer; the Magic’s offensive approach and team depth are not likely to change anytime soon. Expect Howard to have a similar year as the last as the shots are just not going to be there for him.
If there is one thing the world doesn’t need more of, its words written about Vince Carter (and oil spills. The world probably doesn’t need any more oil spills). So quickly, Carter (who is 33 years old) saw a significant drop in minutes, points, rebounds and assists in his first year with the Magic (but he did play in 75 games). His 16.6 points, 3.9 boards, and 3.2 assists were his lowest season averages, well, ever (yes, his rookie season was even better), and they play more like a slightly better version of J.R. Smith than the Vince Carter we knew. He finished last season ranked #87 on the GMTR rater and is still worth a back of the draft selection if you don’t mind all the baggage that comes with it. I’d just as rather let someone else take the baggage.
Good thing the Magic re-signed Jason Williams as their third PG, because Jameer Nelson has had a problem with a little thing called ‘staying healthy’ over his career. Last season’s 65 games has been the norm for Nelson. Considering he’ll have both Chris Duhon and Williams to share minutes with, there are much more consistent and safer sources of assists and threes in drafts than Nelson.
Ben Q. Rock attempts to make sense of the Magic’s possible SF/PF rotations over at Orlando Pinstriped Post. Basically, Brandon Bass’ grumblings about wanting more playing time has led the Magic front office to postulate that Bass could see more time at PF this season while Rashard Lewis moves to SF (after spending all of 18 minutes on the court together in that capacity last season).
However, there are a number of problems with this scenario (which Ben lays out in detail) the most glaring of which being that the Magic already have a power forward in Ryan Anderson who is both better than Bass and is a better fit with the team. So if Lewis plays more SF this season (a dubious proposition to begin with given his defensive limitations) expect Anderson to get additional minutes, not Bass.
So, what does this mean for fantasy purposes? Much like Vince Carter, Lewis is a long way from his peak 3-4 years ago and his slide has been steep. He’s still going to hit a crapton of threes (2+ a game) but less than 5 boards a game from a PF is pathetic and the rest of his stats other than FT% are on the decline. He’s still very draftable, but no longer a guy I’d go out of my way to try and get.
With Lewis unlikely to make a permanent move to SF, either Mickael Pietrus or Quentin Richardson projects to be the starting SF. Pietrus started last season as the starter, but was eventually replaced in the lineup by Matt Barnes. While Pietrus is a nice defensive-minded wing, the numbers suggest that Q-Rich is a better starter for the Magic. Either way, expect the two players to split time at the position and have minimal fantasy value. If I had to pick one of these guys to draft I’d make Q-Rich, who should thrive in the three-happy Magic offense despite being inconsistent as all hell. He’ll hit a ton a threes this season and is a better rebounder than Pietrus.
Some bigwigs at ESPN made the inevitable Ryan Anderson = Troy Murphy 2.0 comparison, which makes sense because Anderson is white, can hit the three and exudes goofball. But while Brandon Bass using the offseason to complain about his playing time, Anderson is participating in three-a-day workouts to get his body more NBA friendly. It is going to be tough for Anderson to carve out more than 20 minutes on this deep Magic team, but he is only a Rashard Lewis injury away from having a breakout season.
My two cents on Brandon Bass is that he’s buried again by Stan Van Gundy as the team’s third PF. Bass can be a decent player is the right system – he has a good mid-range jumper and can defend one-on-one (two things low on the Magic priority list). Eventually he’ll get his wish and be traded away to a team that will give him more of an opportunity to play. That opportunity isn’t going to come in Orlando.
Chris Duhon was barely fantasy relevant as a starter on one of the best fantasy teams in the league. Forget about him as a backup. It’s likely that J.J. Reddick steals a few more minutes from Vince Carter this season, but unless you are a huge fan of Kyle Korver’s skill-set, leave Reddick on waivers unless (until) Carter gets hurt. The Magic’s first round draft pick, Daniel Orton, is as raw as [edited for the safety of children].
So, for the guys we want to draft… Here’s your official GMTR Guidance (for a 12 team league):
Dwight Howard – 2nd in H2H/3rd in roto
Rashard Lewis – 6th/7th
Vince Carter – 9th/10th
Jameer Nelson – 10+
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