New Orlando Magic Players Help Offense with Passing as Their Shots Elude Them

On Saturday, Otis Smith, the Orlando Magic's President of Basketball Operations, announced he had traded for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Earl Clark because "all of those guys have the ability to come in and move the ball and score the ball." Though Orlando is just 1-2 in its games with the four new players, they've at least improved the Magic in the passing department. In those games, those four have tallied 38 of Orlando's 68 assists, correcting a problem that'd played a strong role in the Magic's owning an offense that ranked league average at-best in the first quarter-to-third of the season. Passing and ball control are problems coach Stan Van Gundy's had with his team since training camp; even after the first preseason game, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel noted in his game notebook at the time, Van Gundy had talked about improving those issues.

Say what you will about the reinforcements' poor shooting--they're 34-of-95 (35.8 percent) from the floor--but you can't fault their ability to find open teammates. Arenas, Clark, Richardson, and Turkoglu have combined for 38 assists and just 15 turnovers. Arenas and Turkoglu have handled most of the secondary ballhandling chores, and both figure to massively upgrade Orlando's ball-movement over Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, their predecessors in Orlando. Further, the acquisition of Arenas keeps the turnover-prone Chris Duhon, who had served as Jameer Nelson's backup at point guard for much of the season, off the court until extreme garbage-time.

The playmaking infusion has benefitted Dwight Howard the most. Newcomers have assisted on 12 of his 28 field goals since the trades. They've also done well to find Brandon Bass (8 of his 16 field goals) and J.J. Redick (6 of his 15 baskets).

While scoring and field-goal accuracy have troubled the new guys, it's clear they haven't missed many beats from a passing standpoint since their arrival. The Magic, who rank among the league's most turnover-prone teams this season, also rank near the bottom in assists per game. We can attribute some of the latter to the nature of their offense, which generates plenty of one-on-one post-ups for Howard.

The passing is even more impressive when one considers Orlando has yet to install a new playbook to accommodate Arenas, Turkoglu, Richardson, and Clark. Redick estimated last night the team ran just five different plays against the Spurs, meaning it will have to thrive in fastbreak situations in order to score on most nights, at least until the team develops better halfcourt chemistry. If they're doing all this with an incomplete playbook, what might they do in two or three months from now, when everyone's more comfortable within the offense and the team has developed more chemistry?

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