Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. On deck, the Orlando Magic.

2008-09 Record: 59-23, first place in Southeast Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: Stan Van Gundy/Pornstache
Key Additions: Vince Carter(notes), Ryan Anderson(notes), Brandon Bass(notes), Matt Barnes(notes), Jason Williams(notes)
Key Losses: Hedo Turkoglu(notes), Courtney Lee(notes), Rafer Alston(notes), Tony Battie(notes)

We've been over this before, so you'll have to excuse me going over the same ground. The point remains, though. The Magic are loaded. Stacked. Whatever.

This team goes a legitimate 12 deep. Cackle all you want about Jason Williams' tats or J.J. Redick's(notes) pomade, but they can play, and they're the 11th and 12th men. Twelve deep.

And at the front of that rotation? The best center in the NBA. An All-Star-level point guard. Vince Carter. A lockdown defender with shooting range. And Rashard Lewis(notes). The best backup center in the NBA. An underrated scoring forward with hops. A white hot shooter that nobody, outside of NBA junkies, seems to know about.

This is a team that went to the Finals last season, and in the offseason upgraded its bench significantly, upgraded its small forward position (or whatever you want to call the Hedo Turkoglu/Vince Carter switch) and traded in an average point man in Rafer Alston for the healthy return of Jameer Nelson(notes).

Think about that last part. How would we feel about the Bucks if they switched Luke Ridnour(notes) for Jameer Nelson? How would we feel about the Sixers if they switched Lou Williams for Jameer Nelson? Well, that's what the Magic have done.

Topping that, Mickael Pietrus(notes) will be better. Dwight Howard(notes) will continue to improve. Nelson's young, so he'll keep getting better. Lewis will stay the same, but Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat(notes) will improve. That's right, they signed Brandon Bass. And Matt Barnes. And Ryan Anderson. They traded for Anderson, who is shooting 54 percent in the preseason. A preseason that saw the Magic go undefeated in eight games.

Want to pick on the Hedo/Vince switchover? Go ahead. I've not been all that happy with Vince myself over the years, and I appreciate what Hedo brings to the table.

But Vince shoots better. From inside and outside the arc. He scores more efficiently and more often. He passes and rebounds the same, and his pure point rating is better than Hedo's.

Also, think back to last season's Finals. Think back to Hedo dribbling against Trevor Ariza(notes), getting nowhere. Working with nothing to show for it. This is something you want to sustain? Why not add a player that's better at, uh, everything?

The only trip up I see with the Magic is a bit of complacency.

Last season's team, I'm sorry, but it overachieved. I'm not telling you that it was worse than an Eastern Conference champion, but by maxing out it's absolute potential, it overachieved. Because no team ever really maxes out like that.

But Stan Van Gundy? He had these guys playing in the Finals every night. He had them in the moment, working, terrorizing teams defensively, and doing what it could offensively.

Does that sustain? Can they keep up this sort of dogged effort for two consecutive seasons? When we say "[young player who is a year older] will improve," we're counting on an improvement from 2008-09, when the player in question gave his all. Does that happen again?

Sure, the added depth helps. If the fervor isn't there, as it was last season, the Magic can fall back on having Barnes and Anderson and Bass and Williams and Gortat around. But they're also going to have to listen to SVG and peel off what he's asking for. Continued defensive commitment, sound spacing, smart play. Inspired play. The play that got you within a few wins of the ultimate payoff last season.

If they want to get back, and decide not to rest on their laurels, we could have Orlando's first championship. If they bank on, "well, Vince is better," then they're in trouble. Huge trouble. Because no team ever wins 60 games just because they're supposed to.

Darkness aside, the Magic are right there. They have Cleveland's number in terms of matchups, and they're deeper and more talented than Boston. The C's without K.G. took Orlando to seven games last season, but that was against Alston, Hedo, et al. This is a much, much better team. The offseason upgrades are hugely significant. In terms of Finals runner-ups, it's almost unprecedented.

That said, the Magic have to be mindful of the work that got them to June in the first place. Without that sweating on their behalf, Orlando would just be a highly-regarded disappointment.

I have a feeling that won't happen on Stan Van Gundy's watch.

Prediction: 64-18

Kelly Dwyer

Will losing Hedo Turkoglu hurt Orlando's chemistry?

It's hard to believe so. And any pangs of regret in letting Turkoglu stray to Toronto for ridiculous money (five years, $53 million) should be forgotten once Vince Carter hits his first game-clinching jumper.

The Magic essentially traded Rafer Alston (who would have chafed at working as a backup behind Jameer Nelson), Courtney Lee, Tony Battie and the right to not overpay a 30-year-old Turkoglu for Carter and Ryan Anderson. Battie wasn't playing much anyway. Alston's minutes would have dropped, and upgrading Lee for Anderson and Turkoglu for Carter will pay huge dividends. Tinkering with a contender always leaves some people uneasy, but these were sound moves.

— KD, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

SLAM Online: "Perfect reserve Barnes is a cat who will do whatever it takes to get his playing time — floor burns, take charges, pick fights ... whatever. Dude's a workhorse, and not so shaky offensively. I think of him as another Mickael Pietrus. Bass, I've liked him for a while now, but could never endorse him because he played for that A-hole in Dallas! He's a workhorse, and there's nothing more to say. He's going give Dwight an extra push in his game at practice. Maybe the push Dwight needs to get that killer mentality. [more]

HOOPSWORLD: "If summer league was any indication the best player acquired this summer might be the 6-10 [Ryan] Anderson. He is an absolute monster and will be a nice weapon off the bench for the second unit. Anderson will get a long look in preseason and likely even more minutes as Rashard Lewis serves his 10-game suspension for violating the league's anti-doping rules. Anderson could emerge as the sixth man for the Magic and his ability to score, rebound and hit 3-point shots will make him a must-watch player this season." [more]

The Baseline: "An aging Shaq? Sheed off the bench? Only the Lakers, who grabbed Artest and will have Bynum back healthy, can really claim to have made anywhere near the upgrades the Magic did. Just sit and look at their roster for a second. They're totally underrated when, if anything, the Magic should have us so frothed up we've got them overrated. Oh, and lest we forget, their coach, one Stan Van Gundy, was a legit candidate for Coach of the Year last season and can get even Rashard Lewis to commit to defense. What am I missing here? Is Vince Carter still so loathed or resented that he must taint any team he comes to? Is everyone still worried about their offense, specifically Howard's role in it, when they'll have their second-best player back healthy and have added an elite scorer? This team should win a championship and it's absurd that anyone's lukewarm or less than bullish about them. We should be falling at their feet and wondering how even the Lakers can match their depth." [more]

Devo, "Through Being Cool"

Remember that time the Orlando Magic went to the NBA Finals, riding on a wave of good tidings all around the Internet? It was last season. People were loving Dwight Howard. They had a silly forward who kind of played point guard and enjoyed him some pizza. Their coach looked like a Mario Brother. The Magic were a happy fun time! Yay! They'll still be good this year. Really good. But they traded for Vince Carter, crown prince of :( among basketball fans ages 20-35. Not cool, dudes.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

Dwight Howard requires special handling in fantasy, thanks to his category-killing foul shooting. In H2H, he's a mid-first round pick — you punt free=throw percentage, ignore turnovers, and build on his massive contributions in boards, blocks and field-goal percentage. It gets dicey in roto, however, as it's a rare situation when you can win a league while being worst in a scoring category. My advice would be to stay away (in roto). The team has swapped out Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter, and he'll be as motivated as ever on a contender near his hometown. V.C. was a model teammate last season for the Nets and, before you worry about his taking shots from his Magic teammates, consider the fact that his career assist% (23.0) is better than Hedo's single-season high (22.9 in 07-08). Target Carter in Round 3.

Rashard Lewis is the league's highest-paid 3-point specialist, but he certainly excels at what he does. His line plays particularly well in roto, thanks to consistently good efficiency. His 10-game suspension to start the season has pushed him into the fourth round in drafts — if you can get him any later, it's a bargain. Jameer Nelson was on his way to a stellar season before suffering his shoulder injury. Don't expect the percentages to pick up exactly where they left off (50/45/89), but go ahead and grab him in Round 5 and expect solid production. Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson, Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes will all see excess minutes while Shard sits out the first 10 games, but it's hard to foresee consistent minutes for any of them once he's back in the mix. Marcin Gortat would be a serious fantasy asset as a starter on another team — on the Magic he's a 12-minute reserve.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

DavidBlaine: Honestly, I've seen better. #Magic #NBA #holdsbreath
about 12 hours ago from TweetDeck out of thin air!

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