Cohen: Magic in NBA Finals in 2013?

By Josh Cohen
May 16, 2012

ORLANDO -- Hey Magic fans, I have some really encouraging and exciting news.

It’s very possible the Orlando Magic could become the favorites to advance to the NBA Finals next season.

Sure, the Magic just got ousted in the First Round of the playoffs and yes; there is plenty of ambiguity regarding the future of Dwight Howard and others on this roster.

But, I am telling you, the Magic are much closer to this altitude than you presently realize.

Here are the reasons why I know this:

  • The Derrick Rose injury and elongated recovery time (8-12 months) has essentially eliminated the Bulls from contention. Aside from Rose, Luol Deng will probably miss a portion of next season after he has surgery on his left wrist.

    Good luck to Chicago, which is over the salary cap, relying on Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and CJ Watson for a majority of the season to remain a championship caliber team.

  • Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will both be unrestricted free agents this summer, Paul Pierce, while still effective, is steadily declining as a result of age and injury and if the Celtics are removed from the playoffs in the conference semifinals, don’t be surprised if Rajon Rondo is traded this offseason.

    Boston is on its last legs and it wouldn’t shock me if it decides to start a rebuilding project after this season.

  • The Chris Bosh injury is absolutely hurting the Heat. And while it still seems like a long shot to happen, if Indiana can stun Miami in the conference semis, don’t be shocked if the Heat buckle this summer and split the Big Three.

    I had a prediction before this season started and it was that if Miami does not reach the NBA Finals for a second straight year, it would make a drastic change in the summer of 2012.

    Imagine all the turmoil and dissatisfaction that would encircle the Heat if they were eliminated after just the second round of the playoffs. Would they come to the conclusion that they must trade one of their stars for a package of valuable role players?

  • If somehow it’s Indiana and Philadelphia in the conference finals, which would defy all logic considering the history of the NBA, you really think Orlando with a healthy and motivated Howard would be alarmed by either of those adversaries?

    Listen, it would be absolutely remarkable if the Pacers and Sixers were both still playing in about two weeks, but after the first two games of their respective series, why would I not be all that surprised any more?

    Based on matchups, Indiana and Philly seem to be in a very contented position.

    With Roy Hibbert and Davis West down low, the Pacers have a colossal size advantage against the shorthanded Heat. Miami continues to prove it does not have the supporting cast to contend with such a deep and multifaceted team like Indiana. It has to hope LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are unstoppable, especially down the stretch, to ultimately deflate a very confident Pacer team.

    The Sixers, meanwhile, are just significantly more athletic than the Celtics. Philadelphia has flourished in transition after the first two games and has been stifling defensively.

So here is my point to all this:

If Howard is still wearing a Magic uniform next season and if the supporting cast makes further improvements, Orlando sure looks like a threat to be the best team in the East in 2012-13.

Ryan Anderson, though a restricted free agent this summer, is blossoming. J.J. Redick just finished the best season of his career. Glen Davis was absolutely sensational after Howard was dealt his back injury. Jameer Nelson, who could opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, seemed to find his stride in the late stages of the season.

If Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson can each have bounce back seasons next year, it sure would seem the Magic have every position covered to contend in a very shuddering conference.

Maybe I am dreaming too much, but with all of these implications, I don’t think it is far-fetched to insinuate that the Magic could be at the top of the East next season.

Considering all the circumstances in the East, do you think the Magic could turn out to be the best team in the conference next season?

Considering all the circumstances in the East, do you think the Magic could turn out to be the best team in the conference next season?

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