Otis Smith (as usual) seems calm and confident about the 2010/2011 NBA season with his current roster. Despite the machinations in Miami (and to a lesser, quiter extent, Chicago) you can't really blame him. The Orlando Magic have essentially overachieved over the past two seasons (the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals not withstanding).
Arguably, the second-biggest talent on the Magic is Stan Van Gundy. The production he's achieved every year since joining the team has been nothing short of incredible. Granted, on the one hand, the limitations of the 4-1 offense were exposed last season by Boston (and would've been annihilated by the Lakers, had we reached them). But this was, in large part, due to Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis failing to show up.
This was also due to Dwight Howard's one-on-one game, or lack thereof.
It will be interesting to see what SVG cooks up this season. A safe assumption is that he'll factor in a more traditional offensive scheme against certain match-ups. But, individually speaking, I wonder where we may see improvement, and what impact it could have on this team as a whole.
Here are a few guys I'll be looking out for. Please share your thoughts as well.
1. Vince Carter.
Recently, Smith talked about Carter and how he needed a little more time to adapt to SVG's offense. It seemed fairly clear last season that Carter wasn't entirely comfortable on either end of the floor. After an entire career as the best player on horrible teams, I imagine joining the Magic would require some adjusting. But how much? Where might we see some growth? Carter isn't getting younger, and appeared a lot slower and less agile last season. Realistically, this decline will only continue.
2. J.J. Redick.
I've always been a JJ Redick skeptic, but his performance in the '09 Playoffs (particularly the ECF) was undeniable. Can't speak from first hand knowledge, but I assume he's the hardest working player on the team. His growth over the past four years has been incredible, both as a scorer and defender. Can we expect bigger and better from Redick in '10? I'm very curious where his ceiling is. Based solely on his play in the '09 ECF, I'd almost be inclined to start him ahead of Carter.
3. Dwight Howard.
Obvious. On the one hand, Kendrick Perkins is a fierce defender. On the other, Dwight Howard is Superman. I know he doesn't have that natural 'soft touch', and in no way do I mean to discredit what his efforts on defense and rebounding do for this team. But the offense has got to improve. Effective low-post offense requires far more skill than talent (assuming you've got the size).
I'm not going to question his work ethic or dedication, but I do hope the ECF gave him a wake up call. Even if Howard is never a great offensive player like Hakeem, he has a lot of room to improve on his footwork, timing and shooting touch. It can't feel too good to realize the "secret weapon" used to defeat you was essentially calling your bluff on offense.
I'm lumping these two together for the sake of ease. Needless to say, neither had much of a chance to showcase their abilities last season. The last time Gortat was called to deliver (that I can remember) was in game six of the first round of the '09 Playoffs, and he rose to the occasion (11 pts on 5/8 shooting, 15 rebounds).
Brandon Bass has an outstanding mid-range shot, and the size to command some respect inside on both ends of the floor. He never looked comfortable playing in SVG's system, but perhaps this will change. I definitely think he's capable of surprising people and proving his worth, if he's used effectively.
5. Rashard Lewis
What is the ceiling on this guy? Based on age alone, his best years are likely behind him. He's a great fit in the 4-1 offense, but when the 3s aren't falling, I'd like to see Lewis become more aggressive. He absolutely turned it on in the '09 Playoffs, which makes me wonder if his flu symptoms last season were legitimate.
But the fact remains, he's got the size and skills to score pretty much any way he wants. Hard to think we couldn't use him even more effectively, particularly when we're running a more traditional offensive scheme.
6. Chris Duhon
I'm a Chris Duhon skeptic. But I do trust Otis Smith, and playing in Orlando gives Duhon a tremendous amount of weapons. He's an intelligent game manager, and it's hard to think he'll chuck bricks like he did in NY when he's surrounded by perimeter weapons, with the best center in the NBA waiting underneath. He could end up being a great addition, if he is willing to do as he is told.
No idea here. I'm concerned about Otis Smith's enthusiasm here, the same way I was last summer when he brought in Vince Carter. He's an old man. He may still have a nice shooting touch, but if he get separation from his defender, what good is it? Same thing on defense. Who, exactly, can Q-Rich stay in front of these days? Vince Carter, maybe?