The Orlando Magic won 36 games in 2004-05. Last season the Magic also won 36 games. So it might appear that this team is simply treading water. Actually, although the record suggests otherwise, it looks like this team is making progress.
As one can see HERE, the roster last season was not without productive players. The leading talent was Dwight Howard. For the season he produced 17.6 wins (Wins Produced is explained HERE and HERE), a mark that ranked 11th in the league. Howard was also one of the most productive players on Team USA. So clearly Howard is a player the Magic can build upon.
Unfortunately, beyond Howard, the Magic had virtually nothing else at the power forward and center positions last season. There is hope that Darko Milicic, the player famous thus far for being selected by the Pistons in the 2003 draft before players like Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, might begin to produce. Milicic produced 0.070 win per 48 minutes (WP48) – average is 0.100 – for the Magic last season in the first extended playing time in his career. Granted, that mark is still below average. Still, it did rank as one of the highest levels of productivity the Magic received from a front-court performer not named Howard.
One should note that during the World Championship games Milicic did post a per-minute Wins Score of 0.274, a higher mark than Brad Miller or Elton Brand, and an above average mark if posted in the NBA. So there is hope that Milicic can play productive basketball. If he can produce at such a level in the NBA in 2006-07, the Magic might have the makings of a formidable starting frontcourt.
Moving beyond the center-power forward position, at small forward the Magic – at the moment – still have Grant Hill. Unfortunately, it looks like the career of Grant Hill is nearing an end. As detailed in an earlier post, Hill had an outstanding career cut tragically short by injuries. If Hill ever did make it back from numerous injuries, he would clearly help this team.
Even without Hill, the small forward position offers some value. Hedo Turkoglu was slightly above average, and Trevor Ariza has been productive in his career thus far. All this suggests that the cupboard is not bare at the small forward slot.
The backcourt has been strengthened by a series of moves in the past few months. First came the trade of Steve Francis to the Knicks, a move that installed Jameer Nelson as the clear starter at point guard. Nelson produced 0.151 wins per 48 minutes (WP48) – average is 0.100 and Francis only offered 0.108 – so Nelson was clearly an upgrade.
Furthermore, Orlando also brought Carlos Arroyo from the Pistons. Arroyo offered a WP48 of 0.143 in limited time.
The moves the Magic made in mid-season appeared to pay-off. After 60 games the Magic’s record last year was 20 wins offset by 40 losses. Over the last 22 games, though, the team won 16 games. Certainly it appears that the additions of Milicic, Ariza, and Arroyo – coupled with the ascension of Nelson to the role of primary point guard – led to more wins.
In the off-season the team appears to have made further progress. Specifically, the team allowed DeShawn Stevenson to depart for Washington. This move probably helps Orlando since Stevenson offered virtually nothing to the Magic last season. First round draft pick J.J. Reddick may not be above average his first season, but he should be able to at least best the productivity of Stevenson.
Looking forward to 2006-07 and we see an Orlando team with a potential starting line-up of Nelson, Reddick, Turkoglu, Howard, and Milicic. Off the bench the team has Ariza, Arroyo and … okay, when you get past these two the team has problems. Pat Garrity, Tony Battie, and Keyon Dooling are simply not very productive players.
Still, going forward one should not expect the Magic to post another 36-win season. In fact, it is possible this team will be in the playoffs once again in 2007.
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