Among the concerns for the Orlando Magic as they embark on a new era in team history is how they'll manage to defend. Dwight Howard won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards manning the paint for Orlando, stonewalling his man in the post but also scrambling opponents' pick-and-rolls and hauling in missed shots. Now that he's with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that the team has dismissed defensive-minded coach Stan Van Gundy, Orlando--which has had the league's second-best defense, in aggregate, over the last five seasons--finds itself at a bit of a loss.
As Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports, new coach Jacque Vaughn is tasked with building a solid defense without a single player approaching Howard's caliber. One of his focuses as the exhibition campaign continues is installing that defense.
"For the most part, we want to keep guys out of the paint," Vaughn said, "and that's going to be the base of our defense."
As Robbins notes, the Magic don't have any rim protectors, as new centers Gustavo Ayón and Nikola Vučević ranked in the bottom third in blocked shots among centers in 2011/12. Further, Orlando's wing defenders aren't known for their ability to keep their men in front of them. Though shooting guard Arron Afflalo earned a reputation and a rich contract from the Denver Nuggets for his defensive skill, Synergy Sports Technology rated him as the league's worst defender in 2011/12, and the Nuggets allowed 1.8 fewer points per possession when he was on the bench, according to NBA.com/stats.
"It is a team defense based around five guys being in the right position at the right time," Vaughn said, explaining his defensive principles. "It's help-oriented. But, at the same time, there's a responsibility one-on-one."
In two preseason games, Orlando has allowed 68 points in the paint on 54.8 percent shooting. It's blocked only six of its opponents' shots, and has allowed 54 free-throw attempts.