2012-2013 Orlando Magic Season Preview
This offseason the Orlando Magic underwent an extreme makeover. From top to bottom, the franchise is almost unrecognizable. Rob Hennigan replaced Otis Smith as general manager, Jacque Vaughn succeeded Stan Van Gundy as head coach and the roster features 10 new players as the organization begins the rebuilding process after the departure of Dwight Howard. For the past five seasons, the Magic have had a winning record, but that likely won’t be the case this season. Orlando is no longer a contender, but rather an up-and-coming team that will have to take a step back before they can take a step forward. The rebuilding process has begun in Orlando and this season will be about stockpiling assets and developing the team’s young talent.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-13 Orlando Magic:
Five Guys Think…
The last thing the Orlando Magic have any interest in doing in 2012-13 is winning basketball games. They want to compete, play hard and improve from within, but all while losing as much as possible. Getting multiple high draft picks is an intricate part of their rebuilding play. For this season, and likely the one following, every win hurts them more than it helps. The veterans will likely get spared of being a part of this process at the trade deadline as management looks to clear the way for the young players to play as much as possible. The Dwight Howard trade will be debated for several years, but Maurice Harkless along with some smart spending and drafting can help the Magic save face.
5th Place – Southeast Division
– Yannis Koutroupis
The bandwagon of those saying new GM Rob Hennigan could have gotten a lot more for Dwight Howard if full, but it’s important to approach this process with a wait-and-see mentality. The Magic will be dreadfully bad this season, that’s true, but the cap room and draft picks that will play out long-term will be the real legacy of the trade. Hennigan has the credentials to warrant a great deal of leeway from Magic ownership, so settle in for what looks to be a multiyear rebuilding process.
5th Place – Southeast Division
– Bill Ingram
After five straight winning seasons, the Orlando Magic are likely going to struggle this year. The Magic are clearly in rebuilding mode and the top priority in Orlando is developing their young talent. In fact, don’t be surprised if veterans like J.J. Redick and Glen Davis are dealt prior to the trade deadline to create more minutes for the team’s promising young contributors. First-time head coach Jacque Vaughn will have his work cut out for him and the Magic will likely lose a lot of games this year. Orlando will compete with the Charlotte Bobcats for last place in the Southeast Division.
4th Place – Southeast Division
– Alex Kennedy
The pieces left over after the Dwight Howard trade do not make an attractive batch of NBA basketball players, but that’s the way the organization wanted it if they were going to lose their All-Star center. The worse they are, the higher their draft pick will be and the sooner they can rebuild their team through the draft a la Oklahoma City and Cleveland. Of course, knowing all that sort of makes the Jameer Nelson extension look a little silly, but they can still be awful even with a veteran point guard. And awful they will most certainly be.
5th Place – Southeast Division
– Joel Brigham
There is a very strong chance the Orlando Magic roster you see entering training camp won’t be the same collection of talent on the year end depth chart. But, until those more-than-likely-to-happen transactions are made, the current roster has enough talent to stay out of the Southeast Division basement. Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Quentin Richardson will all provide veteran leadership, while the constantly improving Arron Afflalo will have more opportunities to showcase his skills. But, at the end of the day this is the start of a very long rebuilding process for the Orlando Magic post Dwight Howard.
3rd Place – Southeast Division
– Lang Greene
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson – Orlando’s two leading scorers from last season – are no longer on the roster, which means that Jameer Nelson will be expected to carry the scoring load for the Magic. Nelson averaged 11.9 points per game as a third option last season, but that number will likely increase this year since the ball will be in his hands more than ever. Throughout the course of his eight-year career, the 30-year-old has shown that he can be a go-to scorer when necessary and he’ll likely be Orlando’s leading scorer this season.
Top Defensive Player: For the last eight seasons, this space has belonged to Dwight Howard. Last year, Howard led the team in steals and blocks, making the Magic a top defensive team almost singlehandedly. Now, with the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Los Angeles, the top defender in Orlando will likely be Arron Afflalo. The 26-year-old is the best player that the Magic received in the four-team trade for Howard, and he has always prided himself on his perimeter defense. Afflalo has developed a reputation for his stifling defense and he’ll guard the opposition’s best scorer on most nights. Orlando’s team defense will take a step back after losing Howard, but Afflalo gives the Magic a solid perimeter defender.
Top Playmaker: Jameer Nelson has always been more of a scorer than a playmaker even dating back to his days at Saint Joseph’s. He’s a shoot-first point guard who often looks for his own shot, but he’s still the top playmaker on the Orlando Magic’s roster. E’Twaun Moore and Ish Smith are the only other point guards on the roster, which means Nelson is the only experienced floor general in Orlando. Last season, Nelson had 5.7 assists per game, which was the second-highest average of his career. He’s improved as a distributor in recent years, but this season may be difficult for Nelson since the Magic’s roster is lacking offensive weapons.
Top Clutch Player: Last season, J.J. Redick was the Magic’s top clutch player, averaging 27 points per 48 minutes of clutch time, which is defined as less than five minutes in the fourth quarter or overtime when neither team is ahead by more than five points. Redick only started 22 games for Orlando last season, but he was usually on the court to finish games. Several years ago, Hedo Turkoglu was the Magic’s go-to player in clutch situations, earning the nickname “Mr. Fourth Quarter” for his late-game heroics. However, he hasn’t been nearly as effective in recent years and recently Redick has been the player to step up when the game is on the line.
The Unheralded Player: Maurice Harkless isn’t a household name, but he’s someone to keep an eye on this season. Orlando insisted that Harkless be included in this summer’s blockbuster trade because he has a ton of potential and could eventually develop into a star. The 19-year-old left St. John’s after his freshman season and while his game is somewhat raw, he has all of the tools to be a great player. Harkless also has an outstanding work ethic. Coming out of college, the knock on him was that he couldn’t shoot the ball. In response, Harkless was one of the first players to arrive at the IMG Basketball Academy during the pre-draft process, where he changed the mechanics of his shot and perfected the new stroke. By the time he started working out for teams, he was knocking down shots from all over the court. Executives and coaches were stunned by the progress he had made in such a short period of time. Harkless has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay because of his length, athleticism and upside. It remains to be seen what kind of impact Harkless will have during his rookie season, but he’s someone that Orlando is hoping to develop and start down the road.
The Best New Addition: Arron Afflalo has many fans within the Magic organization and he’s a big reason that Orlando pulled the trigger on the four-team trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers. The Magic believe that Afflalo can develop into a star and love what he brings on both ends of the court. He has improved significantly every year that he’s been in the league and, at 26 years old, he still has untapped potential. Afflalo acknowledges that he still has developing to do and each summer he works extremely hard to expand his game. This offseason, Afflalo followed an intense conditioning program and focused on improving his offensive game. In Denver Afflalo emerged as one of the team’s leaders. Expect him to do the same in Orlando, where he’ll have a larger role and every opportunity to succeed.
– Alex Kennedy
Who We Like
1. Jacque Vaughn: Whenever head coaches are fired, teams usually look to replace the outgoing coach with someone from the opposite end of the spectrum. Stan Van Gundy was the epitome of a disciplinarian, screaming at his players and pointing out every mistake. Jacque Vaughn is the epitome of a player’s coach, relating to his players and developing strong relationships in the locker room. Vaughn is a first-time head coach and the Magic are hoping that he can become the next Doc Rivers or Monty Williams, a former player who can earn his team’s respect and experience success. Those around the league expected Vaughn to become a top candidate several years down the road, but few expected the 37-year-old to land a head coaching job just three years after his playing career concluded. However, the Magic were very impressed with Vaughn after several interviews and believe he can lead the team throughout this rebuilding process.
2. Andrew Nicholson: Throughout his four-year career at St. Bonaventure, Nicholson was dominant and oftentimes carried the team on his back. He was one of the most consistent players in the nation and, because he stayed in school for so long, he should be able to contribute from day one in Orlando. Throughout the pre-draft process, executive after executive said to keep an eye on Nicholson and identified him as the gem of the draft class. In the Orlando Summer League, he showed why so many executives had fallen in love with him. He averaged 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, and was named to the All-Summer League First Team. In Orlando he’ll have every opportunity to succeed because there will be available minutes and touches.
3. Al Harrington: With so many young players on the roster, Harrington’s experience and leadership will be important. The 32-year-old will be an excellent presence in the locker room and he’ll also be a key contributor for Orlando. Last season Harrington was very effective coming off of the bench for the Nuggets, averaging 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds. Harrington may not be in Orlando long since the final two years of his contract are only partially guaranteed. Either way, he’ll be valuable to the team: as a veteran leader or a cap-clearing contract.
4. Glen Davis: After back surgery sidelined Dwight Howard last season, Davis’ minutes increased and he thrived in the starting role. In Orlando’s first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, Davis was Orlando’s most productive player, averaging 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. This season, Davis will remain the starter and his touches should increase. While his decision making is sometimes questionable, the 26-year-old has developed into a significant contributor for the Magic and he’s one of the team’s leaders.
5. Kyle O’Quinn: After Norfolk State’s surprising run in the NCAA Tournament, O’Quinn became a household name because of his extraordinary play and hilarious interviews. The Magic selected O’Quinn with the 49th pick in this year’s draft and, just like in college, he exceeded expectations almost immediately. The big man was one of the most impressive players in the Orlando Summer League and he was named to the All-Summer League Second Team. After playing four years of college basketball, O’Quinn is someone who could make an immediate impact for Orlando. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a fan favorite because he’s someone who hustles on every single play and knows his role.
– Alex Kennedy
Orlando’s biggest strength going forward is their flexibility. When Rob Hennigan pulled the trigger on the Dwight Howard trade he was thinking long-term. Rather than trading for a couple of veterans and finishing as the eighth seed in the East each year, Hennigan wanted to rebuild the roster completely so he acquired a number of talented young players and several of Orlando’s bad contracts. Going forward, the Magic have a young nucleus, a significant amount of cap space, plenty of draft picks and a $17.8 million traded-player exception. On the court, Orlando’s strength seems to be their backcourt. While they have unproven players at every other position, Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick is a talented trio of guards who will likely carry the scoring load for the Magic on most nights.
– Alex Kennedy
The Magic are a very young, inexperienced group that will have trouble competing with the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Chemistry may also be an issue for Orlando early in the season since they have so many new players and a new head coach. After losing Dwight Howard, the center position is the Magic’s biggest weakness. They only have one true center on the roster and that’s second-year big man Nikola Vucevic, who has only started 15 games in his career. Orlando’s roster is a collection of role players that seems to lack a go-to scorer so they’ll need someone to step up and produce on the offensive end.
– Alex Kennedy
What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….
Those of you around last year know that, at times, it was not always easy to focus about basketball. But, this season is the start of a new chapter. We have a lot of new faces in this room and from day one we need to work on building our chemistry. I expect our veterans – Al, Jameer, Hedo, Q, J.J. and Glen – to really help our young guys understand the level of work and preparation it takes for success in the NBA. On the floor, we have to make our focus team basketball. We will survive with smart rotations, hustle plays and extra passes. Our youth will not be used as an excuse for not being assignment-sure.
– Anthony Macri and Brett Koremenos
The Burning Question
Will the Magic deal their veterans before the trade deadline?
The Magic are clearly rebuilding and Rob Hennigan has made it clear that he wants to clear cap space and stockpile draft picks. Many executives around the league expect Orlando to trade away some of their veterans prior to the trade deadline. Players like J.J. Redick, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Quentin Richardson were brought here by the previous regime and will be taking minutes away from the players that Hennigan has assembled. He may choose to move these players for expiring contracts and draft picks. This would allow the Magic to play their young players, which would not only further their development, but also increase Orlando’s chances of landing a top lottery pick, while giving Hennigan more cap room or draft picks to work with. Don’t be surprised if the Magic are sellers at the trade deadline.
– Alex Kennedy