Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily predicts a 63-win season for the Orlando Magic. His reasoning is simple:
I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago.
That sentiment appears to be the consensus, at least from here. I predicted 63 wins, and Kelly Dwyer went with 64, in large part because the Magic won 59 games last year with a less talented roster. More from KD in a moment. First, more Vince Carter business.
Washington Post columnist/ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon says the Magic are among the five teams contending for a championship this season; the others are Boston, Cleveland, the L.A. Lakers, and San Antonio. But he's not as bullish on the Magic as he is on those other teams, due to Conventional Wisdom. Here's what I mean:
The only player [of the big names the contenders added this summer, a list that includes Celtics reserve swingman Marquis Daniels] being counted on to deliver at a level he's never delivered is Orlando's Vince Carter, whose theme should be: "Son, you're incredibly overdue."
Orlando is the team that's clearly taken on the biggest risk; yes, even bigger than the Lakers taking on [Ron] Artest or Cleveland taking on Shaq [O'Neal]. Orlando's best player is Dwight Howard, but the player most important to the team's success was Hedo Turkoglu, whose willingness to facilitate teammates is not a trait associated with Carter. But Orlando may have scored a coup with the acquisition of Brandon Bass, a tough guy, to play power forward alongside Howard. Still, Turkoglu's loss is going to hurt.
The "Conventional Wisdom," as I employ it here, refers to the school of thought that emphasizes intangibles and privileges traditional lineups. As such, the Magic are worse off now because Carter's not the sort of "glue guy" Turkoglu is, but they could be better off starting Bass alongside Howard and, thus, moving Rashard Lewis to small forward.
What struck me about Wilbon's take on the Magic is the bit about Carter being more selfish than Turkoglu. If Carter's so averse to sharing the rock, why'd he post a higher assist rate and lower turnover rate than Turkoglu last season? This point dovetails nicely with the next story in today's news post...
...which is Brian Schmitz's profile of Carter. Emphasis mine:
He’s something of a loner, never had an entourage and has been an unselfish player despite all the all-star fanfare. [Magic coach Stan] Van Gundy even had to order Carter to quit trying to fit in during training camp, stop passing up shots to ingratiate himself with teammates.
For another thing, he’s matured since his young, foolish days, when he wrestled with then -Toronto Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell and wanted out of Canada so badly his motivation waned.
Former Magic Coach Brian Hill has said that Carter was the most coachable player he’d ever been around while an assistant with the New Jersey Nets the past few years.
There's no merit to the claims of Carter's unwillingness to be a team player, statistically or otherwise.
Nevertheless, the NBAPET prediction system does not like the Magic's chances this season, picking them to finish 49-33, which would be their worst record in the Van Gundy era. Why? Carter.
Orlando's forecast is held back by the introduction Vince Carter into the Magic mix. NBAPET isn't a fan.
At the same link, you'll see that the SCHOENE prediction system is a bit more kind to the Magic. The differences between the two systems are outlined in the post.
As promised, more from Dwyer, who posted this rundown of unusual preseason statistics today:
The Magic won all eight of their games, while downing teams by an average of nearly 18 points per game. Just saying.
The team shot 41.6 from behind the arc, Dwight Howard had room enough to shoot 62 percent from the field ... but, sure, they'll miss Hedo Turkoglu's "spacing."
Just for fun, here's his note on the New Jersey Nets:
Rafer Alston shot 25.6 percent from the floor, and previews still list him under the "Key Losses" tag for the Orlando Magic.
Marc Stein of ESPN posts his first power rankings since below training camp. Despite posting an 8-0 record in the preseason, the Magic have dropped from second to third to account for Lewis' 10-game suspension to start the season. The Lakers remain at the top, while Boston overtook Orlando for second.
There's never a good time for a 10-game suspension, obviously, but the Magic -- with no less than a dozen guys vying for legit PT -- should handle Rashard Lewis' absence as well as any team in the league could.
Just for fun, here's a visual representation of each team's home- and road-stands in the coming season. Orlando's longest homestand is 5 games, while their longest road trip spans 4. In other words, its slate is pretty mild, with no wild variations in either direction.
Good news from Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who reports that the Magic will wear their black, pinstriped alternate uniforms this season:
Mid-'90s pinstriped throwback set for the Magic. Yes, we've all seen that throwback before, but there's no denying that it looks better than their current road uni. On-court debut: Dec. 2.
Orlando will host New York for the black-uni debut.
C is for cape. The one Dwight "Superman'' Howard wears got stepped on in the NBA Finals. Howard, who averaged 15.4 points in Orlando's NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, compared to 20.6 during the regular season, will look to bounce back while keeping his cape out of harm's way.
Howard’s form is impeccable, with size, strength, and athleticism like few would ever believe. He’s a tremendous athlete, and in that way he symbolizes sport. As a concept, sport is often thought to exist on somewhat of a continuum, with play existing on one end and spectacle on the other. Yet somehow, Dwight seems to experience the game with the ludic joy of a five year old in the yard while also setting new standards for NBA theatrics. Howard inexplicably exists at both extremes. He has blown apart the very fabric of sport as we know it in only a handful of seasons, and he’s done it while flashing that trademark smile.
Not many teams coming off of a Finals appearance: A) get better the next season and B) aren't even the 2nd-biggest favorites to represent the conference in the Finals again. But that's where Orlando is. Carter was a fantastic addition and he makes them a stronger team; at the same time, I'm not sure they would be favored head-to-head against Boston or Cleveland if they played again today.