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Note to NBA: Start Paying Attention to the Orlando Magic — They’re For Real

Posted by RichieZ23 on May 4, 2010

Are you kidding me?  How are people and the national media not seeing this?  All we keep hearing about as far as title contention is Kobe in Los Angeles, Lebron’s elbow and how healthy he is, and the Celtics and the experience they have.

You don’t hear a thing about the Orlando Magic yet.  And it’s an absolute joke.  Even tonight when they destroyed Atlanta 114-71, it was because Atlanta was tired and Orlando had rest.  Yes that is a reason, but it is also because Orlando is the vastly superior team.

The NBA is an individual driven sport, I think we all realize that.  From Wilt to Kareem, from Jordan to Kobe, the NBA markets individual athletes as their main attraction.  But how are the Orlando Magic not amongst the favorites to win the ‘Ship this year?

Because Dwight Howard couldn’t stay out of foul trouble in the first round?  Because they don’t have Lebron?  Because they don’t have Kobe?

Dwight Howard is the most physically dominating center in the game today, and is the forefront for what Orlando does offensively and defensively. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

You need a team to win a championship, and they’re the best team in the league.  Yeah, I said it, and they are.  They’re the best team, but they don’t have the best player.  I have been saying since March that the Orlando magic were probably going to be one of the toughest teams to beat in the playoffs.  Perhaps people will now take note.  The playoffs are all about matchups and Orlando provides a tough matchup for any style of team playing against them.

They’re better than Boston.  They’re better than Los Angeles, and yes — better than Lebron and Cleveland.

The Beauty of Inside-Outside Basketball

The inside-outside game that Orlando runs on offense with their dribble-drive and three-point shooting combined with the most physically dominating center in the league is impossible to defend when executed properly.

It’s really simplistic basketball when you watch them play.  Throw a beast in Dwight Howard down low who commands a double team, surround him with shooters and space the floor, and watch the offense play pick-your-poison and exploit mismatches.  Then you have their versatile players that bring unique components to the game, and you have an extremely dangerous team.

Do I have to mention their pick-and-roll/pop game?

During tonight’s game with Atlanta, the game was tied in the second-quarter before Orlando went on a 64-20 run and broke the game wide-open.  You read that correctly — a 64-20 run.  It’s what they do, and they do it well.  You pick what you want to take away on offense, and with the amount of playmakers they have, they take what you give them, and allow everyone else to beat you.

They swept the Charlotte Bobcats with their best player playing 26 minutes per-night, and Vince Carter playing like he was a rookie again.

Versatile Players Create Mismatches

Rashard Lewis gives teams fits as if you play him small, he has enough of a post game and rebounding presence to do work down low, but where he really shines is his ability to stretch the floor and rain trey’s, therefore opening up things for Howard underneath.  He was the X-Factor last year in the Cleveland series, and they had no answer for him.  You must respect his shot, yet he is still athletic enough to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.

Rashard Lewis gives the Magic a weapon to stretch the floor and exploit mismatches. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jameer Nelson is one of the best scoring point guards in the league, and is playing with the utmost confidence right now.  But he is also an underrated passer who can make the right decision regarding shoot or pass and will find the open man.  Vince Carter has the athletic ability to create shots and offense for other teammates, and plays the role of closer in tight games.  Matt Barnes and Mickael Peitrius are good perimeter defenders who are scrappy energy players.  Peitrius is also more than capable of stepping out and hitting shots from deep, although does not offer much when trying to create his own shot.

Ryan Anderson, Marcin Gortat, Jason Williams, and J.J. Reddick give the Magic a quality bench, and both Williams and Reddick can hit the trey along with the rest of the team.  Ryan Anderson is the absolute perfect fit for the Magic, as he was throw into the trade from New Jersey that sent VC to Orlando this past offseason.  Orlando did not look at him as throw-in at all.  They saw yet another big man who was able to step out and hit the three ball to offer matchup problems to fit their gamestyle.  Gortat is a perfect backup to Howard, as he provides energy and hustle, while also providing great effort on the boards and in the low post.

Howard may not be the best offensive center in the game, but he is the most dominant.  He is too strong to be bodied up down low by anyone his size or smaller, yet when you put a big body on him, he has quick enough feet to face the basket and make a move.  It is why the signing of Shaq didn’t make as much sense to me as it did everyone else.  Cleveland lost the playoff series to the last season Magic because they had no answer for Rashard Lewis, or Dwight Howard.  Rashard was stepping out and draining three’s and, Dwight was doing work against Cleveland’s bigs, especially Zydrunas Ilgauskas who was not fleet-footed enough to stay with Dwight.  Shaq is not going to be able to stay with Dwight Howard either when he faces the basket, and Hickson and Anderson Varejao are not strong enough to stop him down low.  The only thing that changed was getting Antawn Jamison to match up against Rashard Lewis, but he is hardly known for his defense.

Last but certainly not least, is they have a great coach in Stan Van Gundy who is looking for gritty defensive effort first and foremost, and unselfish basketball on the offensive end.  On defense the Magic play terrific help defense, and funnel everything to Howard, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, who led the league in blocks.  He is usually waiting in the paint to defend the basket and swat the shot into the stands.  When you combine the demanding nature of Van Gundy as a coach and what he wants his team to do, the personnel the Magic have, and the style of game they play, you have a recipe for an extremely dangerous team that can play different styles of basketball.  They have the defensive ability to play slow it down, they can definitely get out and run, and they can play guard oriented ball, post oriented ball, or always fall back on the pick and roll to Dwight.

Yes Cleveland has Lebron and Los Angeles has Kobe, who are able to single-handedly take over games and series, but they are going to need plenty of help from their teammates to stop the diverse and potent offensive attack, and try to score against the a tough defense which includes the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.


5 Responses to “Note to NBA: Start Paying Attention to the Orlando Magic — They’re For Real”

  1. Josh Q said

    I know what you’re saying, but you might be sucked into the Cleveland trap from last year. Lebron was saying that they were glad they drew the Bulls in round 1 because they would be more of a challenge than the Raptors team with an injured Bosh. Lebron believed they had it too easy in the first 2 rounds last year and were ill prepared when they finally faced a team of their caliber. The Magic aren’t getting the respect because they played a series no one paid attention to (defense-oriented battle with Charlotte) and a team that could barely beat the Bucks (who were out there starting Center and Shooting guard).

    The Cavs this year are better than last year. The acquisition of Shaq on his own will not beat Dwight Howard. But, slowing down a great post player often comes down to depth, rather than individual talent. Between Varejo, Hickson, Big Z and Shaq, they have a variety of guys to make Dwight keeping working on the offensive end, yet also be able to throw fresh legs at him on the defensive side. You can hard foul him, try and get in his head, see if he gets frustrated. Shaq has been taking a page out of Phil Jackson’s playbook, challenging Howard in the media, creating a rivalry. And Jamison is important in that possible scenario. Last year, the issue was that Lebron guarded either Lewis or Turkoglu, and the other person either had to be guarded by someone too small (Delonte West) or too large (Varejo). With Trukoglu out of the picture, Lebron gets Lewis, Carter gets marked by either Parker or Moon. In either case, this Cavs team has much better match-up versatility than last year’s. I wouldn’t rubber stamp either team, but I wouldn’t call the Magic the best yet either. It may be a moot point anyway, given the strength of the West this year.

    • RichieZ23 said

      All good points and I dont expect many to agree that they are the best in the league. Jamison does help Cle a lot regarding their matchups with Orlando.

      But regarding Dwight/Shaq, I still think Dwight is going to draw a double team more times than not, which is sometimes the catalyst for their offense. Otherwise you just give it to Dwight in the mid-post and isolate Dwight on Shaq. He’s either getting in foul trouble or getting blown by for a dunk. You then send the double, and we have ball reversal, lanes opening up, and a dribble drive and/or kick-out three. Rain. Oh no, we missed the three? Everyone was trying to get out and contest the shot that Howard snags the offensive board and slams it home lol.

      They’re just playing with so much confidence right now, it’s insane. I’ve watched 4 of their 5 playoff games and it’s just nuts how well they’re playing…well except Dwight and Vince last series.

      Now I will say I need to calm down a bit as they haven’t played anyone, but this team is seriously rolling right now. I wouldn’t want to play them.

      • Josh Q said

        I tend to agree with Shaq on this point though. He said he didn’t want to double team him. Now, Shaq is being over confident, but it made me think. How much damage can Howard do on the offensive side of the ball? His game doesn’t have the polish of Tim Duncan or Carlos Boozer. Yes, he has improved his offense. But he’s still not a great free throw shooter, and his mid-range is still a little streaky. His season-high was 33 points. I feel like the Cavs could stay one-on-one with him, rotate depth frequently, just make him beat you, keep your guys out to guard the wing. Do you think he’s got the skills to score 50 against solid defenders every night? That would be more than his career-high. He just doesn’t scare me enough on the offensive end to double team and give a dangerous 3-point shooter open looks.

      • RichieZ23 said

        In close-out game 6 of the Cleveland series last year I believe Howard dropped 36 points, because they did not double him and made Howard beat them down low. Howard doesn’t have polish in his offensive game, but he has freakish athletic ability and strength. The reason his season high was only 33 is because he only averaged roughly 10 shots per game. He does suck at free throws and the mid-range game though so he is very limited offensively.

        But if you dont send the double, he can beat you. Not to mention Shaq can’t move in space, and the Magic are as good with their pick n roll/pop game as anyone besides Phoenix.

        I cant wait for game 2 tonight. I’m finding someone to cover the first 2 hours of my shift so I can watch it lol.

  2. Kyle P said

    That photo epitomizes all things good about DWIGHT HOWARD! I feel like I’m sitting in you two’s living room last year with your banter.

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