"If the Magic can beat the Celtics, they can beat anyone. They've shown they can beat the Cavaliers and even the Lakers (twice). All the series will essentially be toss-ups because the teams are all so good, so the odds of winning three toss-ups in a row aren't that great. But somebody has to win the championship...it might as well be Orlando."
-- Jon Nichols, Basketball-Statistics
As promised, here is Part II of my interview with Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.
In this final part of the Q/A, Nichols provided his thoughts on the playoff outlook of the Orlando Magic this season, a quick projection of how Jameer Nelson will look next season, and more.
Click after the jump for the full transcript.
Currently, the Orlando Magic are fighting hard to snag the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Magic succeed in holding onto its current playoff position, how would you rate the team's chances against the Boston Celtics in the second round (assuming both teams advanced), given that Orlando, ultimately, would carry a key advantage with an extra home game?
I think in such an evenly matched series, it really is a toss-up. The Magic could use Jameer Nelson, but the Celtics haven't been the same team as last year either. Gun to my head, I think the Celtics may still be the better team, but the homecourt for the Magic negates that. It may sound crazy, but the best team may not win that series. It's all going to come down to how the ball bounces in the last few minutes. So yes, I would say the Magic have a good chance of winning that series. About 50 percent.
Would you agree that the Magic need home court advantage in a possible semifinals match-up, more so, than the Celtics?
Because I think the Celtics are a slightly better team, I think the Magic do need the homecourt more. A game 7 in Orlando is anyone's game. A game 7 in Boston would be quite tough for the Magic. That's not to say Orlando's not a good team. I just think that Boston still is as tough as they come.
It's clear, at least on paper, that the Cavs are the team to beat in the East. It's also clear that the Magic match-up well against the Cavaliers and in the NBA, it comes down to match-ups. If Orlando were to somehow advance past Boston , how do you like the team's chances against the Cleveland Cavaliers?
If the Magic can beat the Celtics, they can beat anyone. They've shown they can beat the Cavaliers and even the Lakers (twice). All the series will essentially be toss-ups because the teams are all so good, so the odds of winning three toss-ups in a row aren't that great. But somebody has to win the championship...it might as well be Orlando.
Who is your personal favorite to win it all this year in the NBA? Why is the squad you chose the team to beat, in your eyes?
I'd have to go with the Lakers. They're already as good as anyone, especially with their improved defense. If Bynum can give them anything if/when he returns, they'll be tough to beat.
Who should win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved, Sixth Man of the Year, & Coach of the Year? If you can, could you give brief explanation as to why each person you selected should win their respective award?
MVP's gotta be LeBron. I'm not really into the MVP discussion, but LeBron is the best player in the league, and that's all that matters to me. Defensive Player of the Year is Howard. Orlando shouldn't be that great at defense, but they are. A lot of credit should go to Howard for that. Rookie of the Year is probably Brook Lopez, although I wouldn't mind if Rose got it. There are just so many good rookies out there. Even the guy that everyone thinks is a disappointment, Beasley, is pretty darn good. Most Improved goes to Devin Harris. Sixth Man of the Year goes to Manu forever and ever as long as he appears in a decent amount of games. Coach of the Year could go to either Mike Brown or Stan Van Gundy for the defensive work they've done with their teams. If I had to choose, I'd pick Brown just because of all the criticism he used to get.
Fast-forward to next season. Let's surmise that the Magic are able to retain Hedo Turkoglu and Marcin Gortat (there are r eports indicating his desire to remain with the team). It's b ecoming in creasingly evident that Orlando will have to enter the luxury tax to retain both players, theoretically, but money issues aside .. how do you like the Magic's chances of winning a Title if the team returns everyone?
I would say their chances would be about the same as they are this year. That is, as good as anyone else's, but far from guaranteed. Howard, Lee, Gortat, and maybe guys like Pietrus and Redick should improve. However, Turkoglu may start to decline and injuries always come up. But if the Magic could field this same team for the next few years, they've got a great shot at winning a championship at some point. That's the luxury of having a guy like Dwight Howard.
Following up on the previous question, which teams do you believe will contend, with Orlando, for a championship next year?
Cleveland will be there for sure. Boston will hang around, but their window is probably closing soon. Atlanta could be a serious contender if they make one or two improvements. Out West, the Lakers and Blazers should be quite good. And I wouldn't ever count out the Spurs or Rockets.
Finally, if possible, could you possibly predict and/or project how Jameer Nelson will look next season? It's seems unlikely that Jameer will be able to continue shooting at such a high rate of efficiency, as he did this season. Like Turkoglu has this year, it's a safe bet that Nelson will regress to the mean, a bit, next year. How much of a hit do you think 'Meer will take a hit, statistically?
It's likely he'll regress, that's to be sure. You don't see guys magically figure things out like he did this season and have it last forever very often. With that being said, his fall might not be too hard. The Magic have a great coach and if they can keep a lot of familiar faces, I think the system will guarantee that Nelson has a pretty darn good season. It all depends on how he recovers from the injury, though.
I want to thank Jon for allowing me to chat with him on a variety of topics. Third Quarter Collapse readers take note; Jon is a bright mind in the field of APBRmetrics and don't be surprised to see an NBA team scoop him up sometime in the future.
Stay tuned early next week when I share my Q/A with Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference. Until then.