By Josh Cohen
November 4, 2012

In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.

ORLANDO -- First, let’s again applaud the resilience and effort.

It was a slothful first half, but the Orlando Magic slammed on the gas pedal, powered up the intensity levels and stormed past the Phoenix Suns for their second straight win to start the season.

Another victory to help silence the critics.

Let’s, however, zoom in on three of the stars from Sunday’s come-from-behind triumph.

First and foremost, forget all the initial disparagement he endured for the first half of last season after coming over from Boston, Glen “Big Baby” Davis is a justifiable impact player these days.

If you want to get to the nitty-gritty and rank the best power forwards in the league right now, Davis almost certainly has to be listed in the top 10.

This is an immense honor considering the number of elite power forwards.

Real quick in no particular order: Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin.

Those perennial or soon to be perennial All-Stars are more established and probably more talented than Davis.

But, I would categorize Big Baby as better and more quintessential than Greg Monroe, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Al Jefferson, Al Horford, Luis Scola and David West, who are all top players at the same position.

I am classifying Josh Smith a small forward and Tim Duncan a center although both do play the power forward spot at times. Perhaps eventually rookie Anthony Davis can join the conversation.

After his monster 29-point, 10-rebound performance in the season opener on Friday against the Nuggets, Big Baby dazzled again with 22 points and eight rebounds on Sunday and was the catalyst in Orlando’s outstanding third quarter.

Despite the residual scrutiny and conviction by some that the Celtics still got the better end of the trade with Brandon Bass, Davis has a strong chance to be an Eastern Conference All-Star this season.

And disregard stats, Big Baby’s unremitting hustle and determination tends to inspire and motivate his teammates and all the fans at Amway Center.

Slide over to the backcourt and you can’t help but rave about the dynamic shooting guard duo.

Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick are evolving into legitimate difference-makers. Afflalo has a glossy repertoire and is terrific on both ends of the floor, while Redick will undoubtedly be a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year honors this season.

So many cynics condemned the Dwight Howard trade and implied the Magic didn’t get enough talent in the deal. You can argue that Afflalo, at this moment, has had the biggest influence on any of the four teams involved in that blockbuster transaction.

With Andrew Bynum injured, Andre Iguodala and his Nuggets struggling and Howard winless (going into Sunday’s action) and still dismal from the free throw line, it’s not an exaggeration to claim that Afflalo has been the best player in the trade.

Redick, meanwhile, has been the subject of trade rumors and some wonder if the Magic will consider dealing him by the deadline considering he is in the final year of his contract.

But with the kind of rapid improvements he is showing and the abililty to do anything he is asked on the floor, Orlando will certainly have to contemplate trying to lock Redick up long term when he becomes a free agent next summer.

If he can sustain this kind of success all season, Redick will be worth every penny of his inflating value on the open market.

Sunday’s victory helped underscore the growing development of Davis, Afflalo and Redick.

Hopefully soon, the national audience will get a closer look at these three and begin to give them the kind of respect they deserve.

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