Saturday, August 22, 2009

What Will Become of J.J. Redick?

Think back to 2006.

J.J. Redick was a captain of a highly ranked Duke team, set an NCAA record for most 3-pointers made, broke Duke's career scoring record, and became the all-time ACC points leader, as well as the leading scorer in ACC Tournament history.

He also was the recipient of 13 postseason awards, including the Naismith College Player of the Year award and was an Associated Press First Team All-American.

Come back to 2009 and Redick's basketball life has been turned upside down.

Drafted number 11 overall by the Orlando Magic, many thought that while Redick may not be an NBA All-Star, his great shooting would help open up the floor for Dwight Howard and he would be a grand asset to the team.

Redick himself thought he knew what to expect of his role in Orlando.

"I think I'll be a role player like 80 percent of the players in the league are. I don't expect to be a star, I'll just shoot, be a team player," he told the Charlotte Observer.

He could not have anticipated what his role became.

Since he entered the league Redick has struggled to earn minutes. In the regular season he has appeared in only 140 games out of a possible 246, started in only five, and logged a career average of 14.4 minutes per game.

Certainly not what you would expect from such an accomplished college player.

Some of Redick's biggest critics have said that he is not a capable defender and that he is not athletic enough to create his own shot.

While they are fair criticisms, Redick is still an extremely gifted shooter with a very good basketball I.Q. that he deserves more than to be buried on the bench, and when he's been given an opportunity he's produced.

The 2008-09 season was by far Redick's best.

All of his starts came this season, he averaged 17.4 minutes, and scored a career high 382 points. Even though his scoring average was only six points per game, he reached double figures 15 times, including a season high 17 points January 9 against Atlanta, where he played 20 minutes and shot five of seven from the field-- including four of five from beyond the arc-- and even pulled in four rebounds.

He was even given an opportunity to showcase his abilities in the playoffs.

He played in 16 playoff games, including eight starts, for 20.4 minutes per game also averaging six points a game. His best overall performance was in the first round against Philadelphia, where he started in place of the injured Courtney Lee. He played 31 minutes, scored 15 points, shot five of nine from the field, pulled in three rebounds, and handed out four assists.

Redick has publicly voiced his frustrations. While not trying to be a distraction, he has asked his agent to look into possible trades.

"We want to see what's out there," Redick told the Orlando Sentinel, "I want to stay here, but it's been frustrating."

This is where the J.J. Redick saga gets confusing.

While Redick spends most of his time on the pine, Orlando has said repeatedly that they have no interest in trading Redick, even though a number of teams have reportedly called inquiring about his availability.

The franchise claims that they like Redick as a player and do not want to let him go, yet at the same time he still has trouble earning regular minutes, no matter how he performs.

What is to become of J.J. Redick?

One possibility was that his increased minutes in the playoffs was an audition, for both other teams for a trade in the offseason or for his position in Orlando for the upcoming season.

It looks like neither will pan out.

Orlando traded for shooting guard Vince Carter, signed free agent small forward Matt Barnes, and signed power forward Brandon Bass which will push Rashard Lewis back to the small forward position.

Carter and Lewis are going to start, and they will be backed up by Barnes and Mikael Pietrus. Orlando could also go with two point guards in the backcourt together at some points during the game with starter Jameer Nelson and backups Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson.

Redick will most likely get some extended looks while Lewis begins the season serving a ten-game suspension for testing positive for an elevated testosterone level.

Yet once Lewis returns it is very difficult to determine where Redick will land.
Will Orlando continue to keep him on their bench, unleash him when they feel necessary, and hope he moves up on the depth chart?

Redick is in the last year of his contract and could be moved before the trade deadline as other teams try to stockpile cap space in preparation of the huge summer of 2010. However, if Orlando is having another successful season it's hard to imagine they will tinker with their roster and move him, especially if no one is significantly injured.

To expand on that, if Redick does not get the playing time he thinks he deserves, it's hard to imagine he'll stick around in Orlando after the season knowing that other teams are interested in his services. In this case Orlando would also get nothing in return for a player they at least claim to put a lot of stock in.

It remains to be seen what Redick's role with the Magic will be. What we do know is that Redick can produce and no matter what happens he will behave in a professional manner.

It will be interesting to see if we ever come close to witnessing the 2006 J.J. Redick again.

Photo Credits.
Top: AP Photo/ David Zalubowski
Left: AP Photo/ Bob Levey

Friday, August 21, 2009

Orlando Magic Doing Disappearing Act with Roster

Do you recognize the prospective 2009-2010 Orlando Magic, following their first NBA Finals appearance since the 1994-1995 season?

After losing the championship to the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando has tinkered with their roster quite a bit.

The big three of Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Rashard Lewis remains intact but the supporting cast is greatly different.

Gone are Hedo Turkoglu, Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie. Taking their places are Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams, Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, and Vince Carter. While some of these names aren't very big, their impacts on the Magic winning their first title in franchise history could be huge.

Ryan Anderson will replace Tony Battie as the backup power forward.

Last season was Anderson's rookie year and it's tough to tell how he will progress, but he was much more productive than Battie was. Anderson started in 30 games, although Battie was more durable, playing in 11 more games.

Anderson's numbers were significantly better in points, rebounds and free throw shooting percentage-- something that was Orlando's Achilles heel in the finals-- as well as having more steals and assists per game and an equal number of blocks per game.

Jason Williams will help with the depth at the point guard position, especially after the team traded away Rafer Alston.

As a younger player, Williams had great court vision but his decision making was subpar. Now, he is a year removed from playing, taking off last year because of family reasons, and could be a bit rusty.

However, he played for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy in Miami, and helped the Heat win the championship. His experience will help guide a young team, and he will push Jameer Nelson to be even better.

Matt Barnes is a versatile forward who can play either the 3 or 4 spot, depending on where Orlando needs help for the night. He is a solid contributor on the offensive side of the ball, but is even better defensively. He, along with Mickael Pietrus, will give Orlando a strong defensive presence on the perimeter.

Brandon Bass may be the biggest acquisition for Orlando this offseason, Vince Carter included.

Bass is a very physical and tough post player, who is a good rebounder. While he is a wide body, he still is an athletic player who will be able to run with Orlando's up-tempo offense.

Bass also has a good mid-range jump shot, which will perfectly compliment Dwight Howard. He will provide a strong post presence alongside Superman while also being able to step outside and free up space for him. Bass is also a career 83% from the foul line, including shooting 87% last season.

Also, starting Bass at power forward will allow Rashard Lewis to slide back to the small forward position, where he will be much more effective shooting from the outside without worrying about banging around in the post with more physical bodies.

Bass is the power forward Orlando has needed, and at 23 years old, he will fit in well with Howard, Nelson, and Lewis for many years to come.

The biggest splash Orlando made this offseason though was getting Vince Carter.

Last year, Orlando lived and died by the three-point shot. If the outside shooters got cold or out of rhythm, the Magic were in for a long night. They didn't have anybody that could take the ball from the outside and drive inside with authority and consistent success to stop the slide.

That's what Vince Carter will do.

Vinsanity is a prototypical slasher. He is a playmaker who can create his own shot off the dribble. If Orlando's shooters start to get cold, the team can get the ball in Carter's hands and let him take over the game.

However, the question about Carter is which Vince will show up?

Carter has a reputation as being a moody player. If he isn't happy, he won't be productive. He also has a tendency to just disappear from games.

He's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of player. When he's on his game, Carter is a force to be reckoned with, a game changer. However, when he's in a poor mood, he goes through the motions and brings down the entire team.

How well Orlando does this season will have a lot to do with which Carter shows up. Right now though, it's fair to believe that Carter will be motivated by joining such a talented and successful group and will do what it takes to push Orlando over the edge.

While these personnel changes are upgrades and fill in needs that were obvious holes in the finals, one concern is that all these moves will temper with the chemistry the team has created.

Every year at the trade deadline, general manager Otis Smith is usually slow to pull the trigger on any move because he doesn't want to temper with the team chemistry.

However this summer has seen the team undergo a big transition.

Will the players be able to mesh?

Courtney Lee and Dwight Howard were close teammates. Will Lee's departure effect Howard, similar to how trading Mike Miller soured Tracy McGrady's attitude, or how getting rid of Cuttino Mobley bothered Steve Francis?

Only time will tell. For now, the remaining players will have to be confident that the front office did what they had to in order to ensure that this year the team would be hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy instead of watching someone else do it.

Change can be a good thing, and Orlando's changes may mean an NBA title.

Photo Credits.
Vince Carter: AP Photo/ John Raoux
Ryan Anderson: AP Photo/ Carlos Osorio
Jason Williams: AP Photo/ John Raoux
Matt Barnes: AP Photo/ Paul Connors
Brandon Bass: AP Photo/ LM Otero