Josh Cohen’s Analysis: If the Glen Davis injury never happened, the Magic………….(fill in blank). Orlando went 1-10 during Big Baby’s absence. While it’s impractical to forecast outcomes of past games if certain players were present, you would presuppose the Magic would have won a handful of those losses. Fortunately, Davis’ shoulder injury wasn’t as damaging as originally thought. With him back and playing just as well as he was before the harm, will Orlando return to familiar form (such as when they were on the verge of being .500)?
Cohen’s Analysis: It is just January. There are more than 40 games left. It’s not too late to make a playoff push. With the Magic almost at full strength, this is the time to really step on the gas pedal. If it can string together an impressive stretch over the next month, Orlando can still be in the mix for a postseason spot. Atlanta is starting to crumble and there are already rumors Josh Smith may get traded. Milwaukee is unreliable and could rapidly decline. It’s too early to throw in the towel.
Cohen’s Analysis: You would assume Danny Granger is on the trading block, considering how well the Pacers have played, particularly defensively, without him. Granger’s absence has allowed Paul George to evolve into a potential All-Star. But come playoff time, Indiana’s offensive limitations may deny them from advancing far. Granger is expected back in early February from a knee injury. Should Indiana look to move him with the concern that when he returns George will revert back to his substandard ways and the team’s chemistry will disintegrate? Or will DG’s versatility and stat sheet stuffing only help its chances?
Cohen’s Analysis: Jameer Nelson recently became the Magic’s all-time assists leader. His stats lately have been stellar. But has Jameer returned to the upper echelon list of point guards? One NBA executive told me: “If there was a start-over draft and every team started from scratch, Nelson would be among the first 10 point guards chosen.” Nelson is very respected around the league and it’s become unmistakable that the Dwight Howard drama last year had a deflating influence on his game.
Cohen’s Analysis: Let’s take this year’s Magic team when completely healthy. That means everyone is ready to go, including Al Harrington who hasn’t played a game yet this season. Would they have beaten the Pacers in last year’s playoff series? Despite extremely shorthanded when Indiana eliminated Orlando in five games, the Magic were very competitive. Subtract Ryan Anderson, who was virtually ineffective in that series, and Jason Richardson and replace them with Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo. Also, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson are much better this season than last. It would be a riveting series.
Cohen’s Analysis: Paul George=Overnight Sensation. In last year’s playoffs, George was practically invisible. Despite the hype and expectations, he didn’t seem to do anything exceptionally well. But with the absence of Danny Granger, the third year swingman has transformed into a dynamic force on both ends of the floor. It’s becoming more and more possible that he will be named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve this season.