2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic

2011-2012 Record: 37-29, 3rd in Southeast
Stat Leaders: Dwight Howard, 20.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 1.5 spg. Jameer Nelson, 5.7 apg

Depth Chart

C - Dwight Howard, Daniel Orton (TO)
PF - Glen Davis, Earl Clark (PO), Justin Harper
SF - Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson
SG - Jason Richardson, JJ Redick, Von Wafer (TO)
PG - Jameer Nelson (PO), Chris Duhon

Restricted Free Agents: F Ryan Anderson
Unrestricted Free Agents: G Ishmael Smith, GF DeAndre Liggins

2011-2012 Season Recap: I wrote this in my season preview: "Math lesson. Terrible general manager + disgruntled superstar + past their prime role players + no bench + nervous coach = disastrous 2011-2012 season." That is pretty much exactly what happened. Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy were both unprofessional, childish and embarrassing as the Magic limped into the playoffs and went out with a whimper.

The Good: Next to nothing. Even though he was a huge distraction and a complete unlikable prima donna the entire year, Dwight Howard put up some big numbers, leading his team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Of course, that was until a back injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. The Magic were basically finished after that. Other then Howard, Ryan Anderson was the only player on the Magic to have an impressive regular season. His improved to 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and he showed some excellent offensive skills. Of course, when it's good it's also bad for the Magic, as he is a restricted free agent who should get a big pay day, and the Magic will have a tough time matching. Glen Davis played the best basketball of his life during the playoffs this year, putting up Dwight Howard lite numbers at 19 points and 9 rebounds per game. If Howard moves on he will probably be the starting center next year.

Sure is fun to be a Magic fan these days, huh?
The Bad: Otis Smith has done such a terrible job of building this roster, and he really deserves to be fired. Anderson and Davis aside, the rest of this team is full of past their prime role players making big time money. Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson should all be strict backups at this point in their careers, but they are going to continue to start and provide mediocre production for the next couple of years, because no one is going to touch their contracts. There are no young players to build around on this team because the Magic have wasted draft picks since Dwight Howard was selected. JJ Redick is the only player drafted who has a role on this team, and he is extremely overpaid for what he provides. I won't even touch Stan Van Gundy, who should be ashamed of himself for how he handled the 2012 season. He will probably be fired. This team needs a fresh start.

Key Free Agents: The Magic are saddled with bad long term contracts so there is only one free agent of note, and that is restricted free agent and reining Most Improved Player Ryan Anderson. Almost every team in the NBA would love to have a stretch four who can hit three pointers and grab rebounds. I think Anderson, who is only 23, is due for a pretty nice pay day. The Magic are so far over the cap, I think they will have a very tough time matching an offer sheet for him, but they have to try. He is pretty much the only young talent the Magic have to build around.

Projected Cap Space: -$7,073,308. Otis Smith's handiwork has put the Magic in salary cap hell with little way to get out of it. Even after using the amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas, they are still well over the cap and won't be able to add any young talent to this team. In fact, it will be very difficult to match a good offer sheet that Ryan Anderson is sure to receive.

Amnesty Possibilities: None. The Magic used their one time amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas prior to the 2011-2012 season.

Draft Possibilities: The Magic will pick at 19. While they are unlikely to find a starter they should be able to draft a guy who will contribute immediately. This is a very deep draft. They can't afford to waste another draft pick though, so hopefully whoever they draft will pan out. The Magic should try to go high upside here, maybe someone like Quincy Miller, Terrence Jones, John Henson or Marquis Teague. All three guys are very talented but still need some more work and seasoning. Really though, they should just go best player available, since young talent is needed at every position.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Magic really need someone who can create their own offense on the wing, but with no cap space available, they will have to try to find a bargain somewhere and hope they get a steal. Looking over the free agent list I think they could try to get someone like James Anderson, Alonzo Gee or Terrence Williams. This off season won't be about free agency for the Magic. It will be about moving Dwight Howard before every drop of trade value is drained.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: Unfortunately for Magic fans it will have to be status quo, at least on the court. Expect a lot of turnover in the front office, but they will have an impossible time moving most of their bad contracts. Expect to see the same guys out there next year, unless the Magic actually happen to get something for Dwight Howard during the summer. If they do move Dwight Howard a good strategy would be to follow what the Cavaliers did after LeBron James left town. They had a lot of bad contracts, and took on additional money from teams willing to dump, and got a first round pick for their troubles. Orlando has to try to get some draft picks and young guys to develop while the bad contracts expire.

All logos courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net/

Jonathan Carrano

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