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

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