The Magic played through last season under the burden of not knowing what would happen with their franchise player Dwight Howard. The team finished with a 37-29 record, good for sixth in the East, but they ultimately fell to the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
In the off-season, Orlando replaced general manager Otis Smith with Rob Hennigan, and their coach Stan Van Gundy for Jacque Vaughn. They also finally dealt with the Howard situation by trading him away. Now the team begins a rebuilding process.
Hopefully the Magic enjoyed their playoff appearance because it might be a while before they visit the post-season again.
Points from the Point - Last season Jameer Nelson averaged 11.9 points per game, which was third on the club behind Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson. With both players gone, Nelson will be called on to potentially be the team's top scorer. Nelson is more skilled as a scorer than a playmaker and he should be comfortable taking on his new role, while facilitating the offence.
For the second time in franchise history the Magic lost the NBA's best centre this summer as Dwight pulled a Shaq and joined the Lakers.
New Man On The Bench - This is Vaughn's first stint as an NBA head coach and he hasn't exactly been handed the keys to a high performance vehicle. At 37-years-old, Vaughn is only three years removed from his playing career and he certainly understands what players are going through, but this will be a learning process for him. Vaughn's best attribute may be that he's a players' coach, which will be a far cry from the Magic's previous coach Van Gundy. The hope is that Vaughn will be able to relate to his young roster and capture their respect as the team grows together.
Chemistry - With so many new players on their roster, the new-look Magic will take time bond both on and off the court. Nelson is a constant carrying the ball, but the rest of the lineup is in flux, especially up front as Al Harrington and Glen Davis are the only real veterans along side first and second year players like Nicholson, O'Quinn, and Nikola Vucevic. Figuring out the right combinations and giving the young players their minutes to develop is no easy task for a first year coach.
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Just lost the game's best centre and didn't get much back.
Aaron Afflalo finally gets the Magic on the projections board at 97th overall.
Major Hole on Defence - Howard can cover up a lot of mistakes defensively and with him out of the picture Orlando's defence will need to readjust. The Magic will work hard and that's half the battle on the defensive end, but talent comes into play as well and they lack a big man that can strike fear into opponents. Vucevic is the only true centre on their roster and he is as inexperienced as they come, despite being a second year player. This is another challenge for Vaughn and his staff to figure out early in the year.
X Factor: Aaron Afflalo
The biggest piece the Magic received in the Howard trade was Afflalo from the Nuggets. The shooting guard has been hampered by a hamstring injury, but once healthy the team hopes he can be a star for them. Afflalo has improved each season he has been in the league and averaged 15 points per game last season on a deep Denver squad. Afflalo will join Nelson and J.J. Reddick to form a decent backcourt in Orlando.
What to Expect
Whenever a team trades away their franchise player, you can expect a serious regression. Orlando isn't fooling themselves into thinking they are a contender in the East, but they are hoping that their new roster can come together quickly to be competitive on a nightly basis. Staying in the mix for the eighth spot in the East is the best case scenario for this club, who will likely battle the Bobcats at the bottom of the East.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
We may never know what Orlando turned down in other trades to make the Dwight Howard deal that they eventually made, but let's be kind and assume that the four-team swap that netted them Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, Nik Vucevic, Al Harrington and picks was the best they could do.
The club still let go one of the best coaches in the NBA and inexplicably re-signed the rapidly-declining Jameer Nelson to a new deal, both moves that serve to cast doubt on the savviness of Orlando's new management team.
Welcome back to the lottery, kids, it it could be a long stay.