2008 NBA Preview: #10 Orlando Magic

Offseason Movement: The Magic were courting Corey Maggette for much of the offseason, but settled instead on Mickael Pietrus. With Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis surrounding Dwight Howard, the team needed an athletic off guard who can defend and Pietrus has the potential to be that guy. I say “potential” because the 26 year-old never quite fit in with Golden State, but the Magic are gambling that it had more to do with Don Nelson than Pietrus’ limitations. He’s a good shooter from the corner, and if he can improve his handle, he could develop a nice attack-the-basket game. He has all the tools to be a stopper defensively, but has thus far shown a propensity to commit way too many fouls.
Keep Your Eye On: Jameer Nelson
With Keyon Dooling gone, Nelson will likely be asked to play more minutes than he did last season (28.4). In the playoffs, he responded well to increased PT, posting 16.2 points and 4.7 assists in 33.3 minutes. Nelson is not a traditional playmaker, but he’s a good fit for what the Magic are trying to do. The team needs shooters to give Howard the space to work down low, and Nelson can most certainly shoot it (42% 3PT last season). At 26, it’s going to be interesting to see if he makes the next step or if his game has already topped out.
The Big Question: Does Orlando have enough of a bench to compete with the East’s best?
I really like Orlando’s starting five, but the team projects to have Anthony Johnson, J.J. Redick, Keith Bogans, Tony Battie and Adonal Foyle anchoring the bench. Those names don’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of Eastern Conference opponents. With Nelson, Pietrus, Turkoglu, Lewis and Howard, the team can compete with any group of starters in the East, but it remains to be seen if the bench can hold its own with its counterparts.
Outlook: Good. Orlando has done a nice job of assembling a team that can compete in the East, but I wonder if/when the team will start to pay for the monster contract they gave Rashard Lewis two summers ago. Will it limit their ability to re-sign Turkoglu next year? If not, the team will be way over the cap and limited to mid-level exception-type players for the foreseeable future. If management is will to spend like that, fine, but if they’re going to start cutting costs to stay below the luxury tax threshold, they’re going to have to make some tough decisions. And the team can’t afford to lose a player of Turkoglu’s stature. If the team is going to make the leap and become one of the league’s best, it is going to have to re-sign its stars, draft really well from late in the first round and spend its mid-level wisely.

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