Cohen: Evaluating The Talent (Starters)

By Josh Cohen
January 27, 2012


Now that we have all had an entire month to watch the Magic play, it's the perfect opportunity to evaluate each of the players on their performance up until this point of the season.

After reading through my analysis, vote on the grade you think each player deserves. In this edition, I dissect the starters.

Grading System:

A - Excellent; Absolutely sensational; Definitely at a first-rate level

B - Pretty good; Generally content with a few exceptions here and there; Still need some improvement if they want to be a significant contributor this season

C - Somewhat disappointed; Expect more consistency; Hope for major improvement as the season marches forward







Dwight Howard
It may already be a foregone conclusion that Dwight Howard will earn Defensive Player of the Year honors for the fourth consecutive year and it’s very possible he will lead the league in rebounding for the fourth time in his career.

D12 is the ultimate game-changer because of his defensive commitment to protect the paint and his freakish athleticism and dominance at the rim.

Some may even suggest that Dwight deserves MVP consideration because of how much he influences the outcome of games just by his presence alone.

The one blemish, however, is Howard’s declined field goal and free throw percentages. It remains unexplained whether all the distractions regarding his future are hindering his offensive progression.

What grade would you give Dwight Howard for his performance so far this season?
What grade would you give Dwight Howard for his performance so far this season?
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Hedo Turkoglu
At the end of last season and especially after Orlando’s unexpected First Round defeat to Atlanta, there was an overwhelming discernment that the Magic were a one-man show.

While it’s not a secret to anyone that Orlando’s sole superstar is Dwight Howard, the supporting cast is starting to catch people by surprise. And much of that revelation is a result of Hedo Turkoglu’s reliability and playmaking excellence.

Across the board, Turk’s stats are much improved from last season and perhaps more importantly; the 11-year veteran has been generally clutch (expect for Thursday's loss to Boston) in the fourth quarter.

On Orlando’s recent West Coast trip, for example, Turkoglu buried a couple of critical shots in Sacramento and Portland. He also was the catalyst to the Magic’s furious rally in Indiana earlier this week.

It remains to be seen whether Hedo can sustain this kind of play for the entire season or if his recent back spasms and recent history of fading down the stretch will cause this fan favorite to dwindle.

What grade would you give Hedo Turkoglu for his performance so far this season?
What grade would you give Hedo Turkoglu for his performance so far this season?
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Ryan Anderson
Like the report on Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson has virtually come out of nowhere to become one of the most distinctive and irreplaceable power forwards in the NBA.

An early favorite to capture the league’s Most Improved Player Award and a potential reserve in this year’s All-Star Game, Anderson in some ways is Orlando’s MVP at this point of the season.

His long distance shooting has been remarkable (leads the league with 55 3-pointers made) and his relentlessness on the glass has created many second opportunities for the Magic after missed shots.

Similar to how it was for Rashard Lewis during his tenure with the Magic, the floor spacing as a result of Howard’s demand for double teams has permitted Anderson to launch many open 3-pointers.

It’s becoming a widespread debate in Orlando: Is Anderson a cornerstone to the long-term plans of the Magic or he is the perfect trade chip to try and acquire a second superstar to team with Dwight? Or is Anderson one of those types of talents that is so unparalleled and inimitable that he is a must-keep irrespective of what his value is?

What grade would you give Ryan Anderson for his performance so far this season?
What grade would you give Ryan Anderson for his performance so far this season?
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Jason Richardson
By season’s end last year, the conclusion was that amongst all the players involved in the two blockbuster trades, Jason Richardson, by and large, flourished the most. Some could argue Marcin Gortat considering his contributions to the Suns, but J-Rich had the most influence on a team that advanced to the playoffs.

This season, however, a knee injury and a lack of consistent vigor has diminished some of Richardson’s abilities.

When he has played well, though, J-Rich has been one of the Magic’s essential defensive stoppers. Not necessarily recognized for his defensive prowess, the former NCAA champion has generally done an excellent job guarding some of the elite wing players in the league, including Kevin Martin and Kobe Bryant.

It’s only a matter of time before J-Rich starts heating up from the field, but for now, the immense success from his backup, J.J. Redick, has allowed Richardson’s inconsistent play to be somewhat concealed.

What grade would you give Jason Richardson for his performance so far this season?
What grade would you give Jason Richardson for his performance so far this season?
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Jameer Nelson
It was a big inquisition during training camp: would any of Dwight Howard’s teammates suffer from all the trade rumors and requests?

Up until this point of the season, it appears just one player – an important one in fact – has been mightily affected from all this drama and ambiguity.

Jameer Nelson, who reached All-Star status in 2009 before a shoulder injury, was the Magic’s most reliable player during the 2010 playoffs and was the team’s most clutch player last season, has deflated considerably this year.

Nelson is averaging a career-low 8.3 points and has become turnover-prone. However, when he has played well, it has catapulted the Magic to great success.

Against the Lakers, for instance, Nelson poured in 17 points and dished out nine assists in a big victory. He also delivered 16 points in a surprise victory in Portland a week earlier.

It is critical for Jameer to play well if the Magic want to enter the playoffs with a high seed and a heavy dose of momentum.

What grade would you give Jameer Nelson for his performance so far this season?
What grade would you give Jameer Nelson for his performance so far this season?
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