The latest Pro Basketball Prospectus is now available for purchase as a PDF download, with a print release via Amazon.com scheduled for the near future. The Prospectus includes extensive breakdowns for every NBA player and team and features an introduction by Indiana Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard.
The Prospectus, aided by its proprietary SCHOENE projection system, forecasts the Orlando Magic to finish with a 26-56 record in the first season of their post-Dwight Howard rebuild, with Arron Afflalo serving as their best player, posing 4.3 Wins Above Replacement Player. The 26-win projection places Orlando 13th in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only Southeast Division rivals the Washington Wizards (25 wins) and Charlotte Bobcats (19 wins).
Bradford Doolittle, who authored the Prospectus chapter on Orlando, notes that trading Howard and hiring coach Jacque Vaughn were only the first steps for general manager Rob Hennigan to take as he reshapes the Magic: next is clearing more payroll and reloading with younger talent. According to Doolittle, Orlando ranks 10th in age (28.4 years old) and 16th in future salary commitments ($128 million).
Doolittle isn't terribly optimistic about Afflalo, the best player Orlando received in return for Howard, because Afflalo regressed significantly as a defender following a strong 2010/11 season, after which he secured a five-year contract worth $37.8 million. "If he is able to re-establish the defensive reputation that got him the money in the first place, Afflalo becomes worth keeping around or a potential trade chip," writes Doolittle. SCHOENE names Sean Elliot as the player most comparable to Afflalo.
Rookie forward Andrew Nicholson, like Afflalo, is another key part of Orlando's rebuild. "As the Magic searches for upside, complementary pieces, Nicholson is no sure bet," writes Doolittle," but he’s got a skill set to watch and the potential to be a sleeper surprise from the most recent draft class." SCHOENE is less bullish on Maurice Harkless, whose draft rights Orlando acquired as part of the Howard trade: "Harkless is more an athlete than a ballplayer at this point," he says, but notes that it's entirely appropriate for Orlando to "target high-upside players like" Harkless early in its rebuild.