Now that the Orlando Magic's regular season has ended, it's prudent for us to look ahead to the playoffs; that's where we're headed. But we should also look back at from where we came. With that in mind, here are my reflections on the season preview I wrote in October.
Here's something about the defense, which I listed as one of the Magic's strengths, in particular:
According to 82games.com, 69% of the Magic's opponents' field-goal attempts last season were jumpers. For comparison, the league's overall top defensive team, the NBA Champion Boston Celtics, forced their opponents to take jumpers 70% of the time. The Magic's number may increase, as [Mickael] Pietrus is faster, younger, and stronger than either [Keith] Bogans or [Maurice] Evans, and thus should be able to stay between his man and the basket on most nights.
As it turns out, the Magic's defense forced opponents to take jumpers 69% of the time this season as well, so I was wrong in that regard. But note that last year, opponents tallied assists on 62% of their jumpers. This year, that number plummeted to 52%. That datum corroborates something I noticed this season: the Magic force their opponents' offense to stagnate, leaving them no choice but to try to play a one-on-one game. To me, that's the main reason why Orlando indeed finished tops in the league in defensive efficiency this season.
Make the jump to see what I royally screwed-up regarding the Magic's backcourt.
What isn't in my preview: Jameer Nelson. Yeah, I got that one wrong, only mentioning him as one of "the Magic's top-flight perimeter shooters," and later commenting on his "yips in last year's Game 4 versus Detroit." As we know, Jameer improved dramatically and earned a spot on the All-Star team. When he went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, experts (rightly, I might add) dismissed Orlando's title hopes. Magic GM Otis Smith noted that last year, pundits said the Magic couldn't win with Nelson at the point, while this year they said they couldn't win without him. Hmm. Two weeks later, Smith dealt three little-used players and a first-round draft pick for Rafer Alston, salvaging the season. Hooray.
Here's where I really messed up. I had the shooting guard situation all wrong. Regarding Courtney Lee:
He's going to have to earn his minutes and maybe he'll be ready to play in meaningful situations next season.
He wound up starting 42 games for the Magic, more than any of their other shooting guards. And he was terrific, relative to expectations.
Regarding J.J. Redick:
[T]here's a great chance he'll be the first man off the bench on opening night, and may play up to 20 minutes a game. I think he's due for a great year.
Indeed, Redick joined Tony Battie as the first men off Orlando's bench that night. And he indeed carved out a role in the rotation, averaging a career-high 17.8 minutes a game. He drilled a game-tying three-pointer to send the Magic to overtime in a game against the Bobcats which Orlando went on to win. He was noticeably quicker and stronger.
But he also had the worst season of his career. Maybe it was the rough start, when he missed his first 11 shots in the first 51:54 he played, that shook his confidence. Either way, his Player Efficiency Rating, usage rate, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and points per 36 minutes all hit career-lows; his turnover rate was a career-high, and has increased every season. I don't mean to rag on J.J., whom I like, but the Magic could have used more out of him.
My overall prediction for this season was 55 wins and 27 losses. For the second straight year, I underestimated the Magic. But the team won 59 games, the second-best total in franchise history, and won its second consecutive division title. It's hard to complain about those results, especially considering the mid-season loss of Nelson.
I believe it's fair to say that the team probably exceeded your expectations as well. The season, to date, has been a success. The playoffs start Sunday. Let's see if they can build on it.