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Team Preview: Orlando Magic

By Kevin O'Brien, RotoWire.comView: All Team Previews

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE

Trevor Ariza will look to grab the starting shooting guard spot this season.
(Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Magic began last season with one of the league’s best records, finishing November at 18-6. However, they quickly regressed due to injuries and inconsistency and had to fight to get into the Playoffs. They earned the eighth seed in the East but were swiftly swept out of the Playoffs by the Pistons. Following the season, head coach Brian Hill was relieved of his duties. The Magic actually agreed to a contract with the University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan as Hill’s replacement, but Donovan changed his mind several days later and the team hired Stan Van Gundy instead. To add some veteran leadership and a proven scorer, the Magic went out and signed the summer’s biggest prize, Rashard Lewis. He will replace Grant Hill at the small forward position, a huge upgrade considering where both players are at in their respective careers. The team also picked up veteran center Adonal Foyle to provide some defensive toughness in the post. Dwight Howard, one of the league’s best young players, and Lewis give the Magic a combo that rivals any duo in the Eastern Conference. The team will also look for big things this year from Trevor Ariza, J.J. Redick, and Jameer Nelson. If the Magic get the production they expect from their three guards, they should give the aging Heat a run for their money in the Southeast Division.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION

Dwight Howard will see between 35 and 40 minutes a game, but they will be split up between the center and power forward position. Tony Battie will miss a good amount of the season with a torn rotator cuff. Adonal Foyle will play his customary 10 minutes of solid defense each game, and Marcin Gortat will probably only see garbage minutes if anything. Rashard Lewis will play about 40 minutes each game and can play anywhere from swing guard to power forward. Hedo Turkoglu will likely see a slight reduction in time due to the team’s versatility, but he should still play 20-25 minutes at the other forward position to begin the season. Pat Garrity and James Augustine barely saw any minutes last season, and they should probably expect the same this season considering the team’s off-season frontcourt acquisitions. Jameer Nelson will play around 30 minutes each game at the point guard position with Carlos Arroyo taking the remaining minutes behind him. Trevor Ariza and J.J. Redick should see a boost in minutes this year. Ariza will likely start at SF, while Redick might see about 15-20 minutes per game. The progression of both Ariza and Redick will force Keyon Dooling and Keith Bogans to give up some minutes. Dooling has the ability to play both point and shooting guard and is a natural scorer, and Bogans could log a few minutes at the small forward position as well.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS* = Projected Starter

CENTER

* Dwight Howard – ORL [C]: After playing with Team USA and the rest of the best players in the league this summer, it’s easy to see that Howard should be mentioned among the league’s elite. Last season, Howard increased his field goal percentage and points per game for the third consecutive season. He also played in every game and has yet to miss one in his three-year career. This season, expect Howard to see more touches in the post as defenses will be forced to extend to Rashard Lewis’ three-point range. He should average about 20 points per game, but he could easily score more if he shot better at the free-throw line, a problem which drops him a few spots in fantasy rankings. Still, expect Howard to be among the league leaders in rebounding and blocks.

Adonal Foyle – ORL [C]: Foyle will be counted on as the team’s best rebounder off the bench and its best post defender. He has blocked almost two shots per game during his career, but he doesn’t really offer anything else in terms of fantasy production.

Tony Battie – ORL [PF]: Battie has started every game in which he’s played for the Magic the past two seasons. However, he has a torn rotator cuff and will likely miss most of the season.

Marcin Gortat – ORL [PF,C]: Gortat will provide the Magic with a big body off the bench, but he’ll have a difficult time finding minutes in his rookie season.

POWER/SMALL FORWARD

* Rashard Lewis – ORL [SF]: The Magic got the biggest prize of the offseason in Lewis, and big things should be expected out of him in his inaugural campaign with the club. After sharing shots with Ray Allen for the past five seasons, Lewis will finally take over the role as primary scorer. Lewis got a head start in that department last season, recording the highest scoring average of his career. He should reach 25 points per game this season and also provides solid percentages and a lot of three-pointers. Lewis just turned 28, so he is set to have one of the best seasons of his career. Lewis will make a lot of people happy as a second or third round pick this season. Beware that the Magic might slot him at PF with Battie out, which could extend his position eligibility to SF,PF.

Hedo Turkoglu – ORL [SF]: Turkoglu will man the other forward position for the Magic alongside Rashard Lewis. He has been the team’s best long-range threat during the past three seasons, but that role will now belong to Lewis. He would have more value if he rebounded more - and at 6-10, he should - but he’s never averaged even five boards a game in any season. Turkoglu will still score some points and pump in some threes, but his numbers will probably take a significant hit this season.

Why? Turkoglu typically plays on the wing, and the addition of Rashard Lewis and the development of both J.J. Redick and Trevor Ariza mean that someone has to lose minutes. He will likely begin the year as a starter but could easily find himself on the bench if Redick and Ariza both force their way into the starting lineup.

Pat Garrity – ORL [SF,PF]: Garrity is coming off his worst season as his professional. He only averaged eight minutes a game last season and will have a difficult time finding the court again this year. Garrity used to put up big three-point numbers, but now he’s been relegated to one of the last spots on the bench.

James Augustine – ORL [PF,C]: Augustine will give the Magic an athletic defender off the bench but will struggle to find minutes behind a crowded frontcourt.

POINT/SHOOTING GUARD

* Jameer Nelson – ORL [PG]: Nelson’s numbers declined last season even with an increase in playing time. He should see an improvement this year as the Magic figure to be a lot better than they were last season. Nelson should set career highs in points and assists this season and already provides a good free throw percentage. If he can get his field goal percentage back to a respectable level, Nelson should be primed to have a much better season than he did last year.

Why? After a disappointing season last year, Nelson will be looking to improve his game in 2007-08. His assists should go up with the addition of Lewis, one of the best shooters in the league, and the offensive development of Howard. Howard will command even more attention from opposing defenses this season and allow Nelson to see more open shots on the perimeter.

* Trevor Ariza – ORL [SF]: Ariza is an intriguing player who could really see a big improvement in his overall numbers this year. He was just beginning to play well in December when he got injured and lost almost a month. He came back and played decently down the stretch, giving the Magic hope that he could become a good player for them this season. He has good size and is a good rebounder for a guard, but he won’t make many threes, and his free throw percentage is horrendous. However, he did shoot over 50 percent from the field last season, a very good clip for a guard. Ariza will likely increase his scoring to somewhere between 10 and 15 points per game and should have his best season yet. With Battie out, Ariza will likely slip into the starting shooting guard role with Lewis stepping into the power forward position.

J.J. Redick – ORL [PG,SG]: Redick struggled through his rookie season, battling injuries and not seeing much playing time. However, as he did in college, he worked hard in the offseason to improve his game. He isn’t very quick and isn’t a very good defender, but there aren’t many guys in the league with a better long-range shot. If he plays about 25 minutes a game, he could score at least 10 points per game and put up good three-point numbers and percentages. A lot of his numbers will depend on if he starts or comes off the bench, which the Magic have yet to determine.

Carlos Arroyo – ORL [PG]: Arroyo is probably the Magic’s best pure point guard, but he isn’t the shooter that Nelson is. He can get the ball up the floor and doesn’t mind passing off to his teammates. His assists should increase this season, but he doesn’t get the minutes to be a strong fantasy contributor.

* Keyon Dooling – ORL [PG]: Dooling can play several roles for the Magic. He can play point guard and is also a good shooter. He might lose some minutes this year, but he’s an able scorer who isn’t afraid to shoot the ball. He'll likely start at shooting guard for the Magic to begin the season.

Keith Bogans – ORL [SG]: Bogans will find playing time hard to come by this season as the Magic have a lot of guys they like ahead of him. He can score but is a bit undersized and can’t shoot as well as the other swing players.

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