Ball Don't Lie - NBA

As the NBA preseason marches on, Ball Don't Lie looks at all 30 teams, outlining off-season transactions, projecting win totals, spinning tracks, and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Today, the Orlando Magic.

Last Season: 50-32 52-30; lost in second round of playoffs to Pistons

Key Players Added: Mickael Pietrus (free agent), Anthony Johnson (free agent, fountain of youth), Dwayne Jones (free agent), Courtney Lee (draft)

Key Players Lost: Carlos Arroyo (overseas), James Augustine (waived), Keyon Dooling (insulted by Magic, traded to the Nets, insulted by Lawrence Frank's height), Maurice Evans (free agent, signed with Hawks), Pat Garrity (retired), Pat Garrity's chair (lonely)

Kelly Dwyer's Endless Grey Ribbon: It's hard not to love this team's immediate rotation, it features two players who are at the absolute peak of their careers (Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis), a franchise guy who gets better game by game, and a point man who is going to thrive in a system that won't force him to look over his shoulder as the game drones on.

And there's a reason Jameer Nelson won't be looking over his shoulder, because the Magic are only going seven-deep these days. The rest of the rot is just that. And that's not a problem if you're playing in the postseason, but the Magic won't be. For a few months, anyway. More on that later.

Still, overall for this year, I'm not seeing many problems. Don't be fooled by what might seem by a pessimistic win prediction coming from my end, because this team and its slim rotation is made for the playoffs. I can't wait to see this squad working at peak form this spring.

Until then, I'm not expecting the Magic to traipse through the regular season. The team did pretty well with injuries last season — Hedo, Dwight Howard, and Lewis missed but a single game combined in 2007-08 — and the team topped out at 52 wins. They lost a batch of close ones, which usually means the team is better than the record indicates, but a deeper East and a nick or two along the way could keep the win total in the mid-to-low fitties.

Howard's legs are a bit of a worry, and please stop laughing. Yeah, the guy has Supermannish tendencies, and cats his age seem to need next to no time to recover from game to game, but fatigue has to catch up with Howard at some point.

It's easy to point to the fact that Dwight won't turn 23 until December while claiming that physical freaks like him seem to have a boundless supply of energy and … well, yeah, they don't. He's been playing throughout the summer since 2006, and even with the return of Tony Battie (again, quit with the laughter, it hurts), the kid is bound to get winded at some point.

29-year old Turkoglu should be able to sustain his career-best production from last year, and though I don't expect Rashard Lewis to knock in 41 percent of his three-pointers again in 2008-09, I'm guessing that his rebounding (which fell last year) will jump back to his pre-2007 level as he gets more and more used to spending time at the power forward slot. Or not. It's Rashard's call. Analysis!

Shooting guard is still an issue. Keith Bogans is a good defender, I think he's a bit overrated in that end, but he doesn't hurt the team and he hits a respectable amount of his three-point shots. He also cannot create a shot to save his life. Mickael Pietrus is a very good defender, possibly underrated, and he hits a fair amount of threes too. Can't create a shot. I think Courtney Lee was a wasted draft pick, and J.J. Redick will never see playing time. Odd, unenviable, situation.

Meanwhile, Brian Cook should be better this year. There's no rhyme or reason for why he struggled in Orlando last year, because he was made for this team. Don't rebound, stand on the perimeter, shoot three-pointers. This year, it sez 'ere, he makes 'em.

The whole team better make it this year, because though Howard and Jameer Nelson are still a pair of whippersnappers, this is the best Hedo and Lewis will ever play. And unless the Magic can sell high on their two forwards (don't bet on it), this will be the best chance at getting to the Finals that we'll see out of this crew, as presently constructed. This isn't to say that Howard and Nelson won't have their chances once a new supporting cast arrives a few years from now, they will, but this has to be the year. Has to.

I like their chances, though. Playoffs success often depends on having a solid short rotation, and the Magic do have a great one. It's getting to May that might be the problem.

Expected Record: 53-29


A Look Inside Stan Van Gundy's Closet:

Real Talk, Blog Talk (aka excerpts from other blogger team previews):

Bleacher Report: "For the past three offseasons, Jameer Nelson has flown his Orlando Magic teammates to his hometown of Philadelphia for a week-long event in which the team goes bowling, attends comedy clubs, visits Atlantic City, gets competitive in team paintball fights, and more. Ah, the life of a professional athlete. But all jealousy aside, Nelson doesn't just plan these activities because they're fun. He does this because he understands the importance of team chemistry. His team get-togethers allow the players, both veterans and new acquisitions alike, to bond in a relaxed setting and become comfortable with the people that they'll be seeing very much of throughout the 82-game season. As a writer who has covered the Orlando Magic for the past four seasons, I've watched these players develop both chemistry and trust in one another that have been instrumental in their recent success."

HOOPSWORLD: "Mickael Pietrus was a nice signing, but Courtney is going to be the two guard of the future for the Magic. He embodies everything the Magic were missing. He can score in bunches, he's a solid defender on the perimeter and he's a heck of nice guy, which matches the Magic's community friendly image. Courtney, as a rookie will become the player the Magic thought they drafted in JJ Redick. Courtney also makes JJ expendable before the regular season gets underway. Between Pietrus and Courtney, the Magic have shored up their biggest weakness, the two guard spot, now and for the future."

Andre Gomes: "Orlando should stand up this season and be a serious contender to win the Eastern Conference, after all the team was just beaten by Boston and Detroit last season and they maintain the same team structure. Howard will once again be the team’s superstar and it would be great for him if he could improve his FT %, which is curiously lower than his FG%! The roster seems to be lacking depth, the team is young, so the chances of they get plagued by injuries is lower, but if that happens, this may be an huge problem for the team."

Associated Wax: Ronnie Lane, Lucky Seven

Michael Bay's Twitter Season Projection:

michael_bay: For my next trick, I'm going to transform JJ Redick into a young Larry Bird. With dynamite, of course.
about 4 hours ago from web

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