Cohen 8-Ball: Magic Playoff Push Path
January 14, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: It’s obviously going to be a difficult challenge, but any aspirations of advancing to the playoffs are still feasible. The Magic will have to overcome that recent 10-game skid. Saturday’s victory over the Clippers has pumped some energy back into the team. Click NEXT for details on what it will take for Orlando to make a serious push for a postseason slot.
Cohen’s Analysis: The Magic will almost certainly need to be fully healthy and if Glen Davis and Al Harrington are each effective in their returns, one could argue that Orlando has more depth than any of its main challengers for a final playoff spot. Before Big Baby’s injury, the Magic were soaring. Can they get back to that altitude?
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s stating the obvious, but the Magic need to get real hot soon. If Orlando can string together an impressive finish to January, confidence will rise and the front office may examine the trade deadline differently. The Magic’s upcoming schedule is somewhat friendly. Over the next two weeks they play home games against Indiana, Charlotte, Dallas and Toronto and road contests vs. Washington and Detroit. All winnable.
Cohen’s Analysis: While it’s still premature to declare which teams are locks to be in the playoffs, it would take some major collapses to derail a handful of clubs from advancing. Let’s assume Miami, New York, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago, Atlanta and Boston all qualify. The one other team presently above .500 is Milwaukee, which would currently be the final team to proceed to the playoffs. With Scott Skiles resigning and some ambiguity as they approach the trade deadline, could the Bucks crumble?
Cohen’s Analysis: Even if the Bucks or any other team currently above the playoff line disintegrated, the Magic would still have other competitors chasing a final postseason spot. Both Toronto and Detroit have improved since their revolting Novembers and if Andrew Bynum returns and is productive, Philadelphia can certainly make a push.
Cohen’s Analysis: It remains very vague as to what the Magic will decide to do, if anything, at February’s trade deadline. There have been consistent rumblings since the summer that J.J. Redick could be available considering he will be a free agent in July. Clearly, if Orlando opts to try and acquire some sort of compilation of draft picks and young unproven talent in exchange for veterans, the focus becomes the draft in June and player development.
Cohen’s Analysis: The Magic’s schedule suggests it will be a brutal March. Eleven of the 16 contests are against opponents that would presently be in the playoffs if they started today. And that naturally doesn’t include the Lakers, who make their one and only appearance at Amway Center on March 12. In that month, Orlando will make trips to Miami, New York, Oklahoma City, Indiana and Atlanta.
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s a debate that has been on replay since the season started essentially, but is it more beneficial for the future of the Magic to sneak into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed or endure more standard growing pains and secure a higher draft pick? On one hand, a playoff berth, amid all the disparagement from critics following the Dwight Howard trade, would enthrall the entire NBA universe. Exceeding expectations would significantly raise optimism. On the other hand, teams that fall in the middle of the pack are generally victims of the “Dead End Trap,” which implies that it is very difficult to crawl out of being a pedestrian one-and-done playoff team.