In an earlier post, I mentioned 11 things that would keep the Magic from winning the NBA Title. In this post, I’m going to tell you why the Magic will win the NBA Championship in 2009-10.
11. Ryan Anderson was more than just a “throw in.”
So far, Ryan Anderson has been known as that “other guy” in the Vince Carter trade, but he’s so much more than that.
Anderson and his classmate, beloved former Magic Guard Courtney Lee, actually posted similar numbers during the 2008-09 season but because of Orlando’s success, no one mentioned Anderson’s name. They will now.
After missing the first preseason game, Anderson had exploded. He’s shooting 45% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. He showed off his range by going 6-of-9 in Orlando’s win over New Orleans Tuesday night. He is also averaging a respectable 4.3 rebounds per game in just 20.8 minutes per game.
Anderson has worked his way into the Forward rotation and according to Head Coach Stan Van Gundy; he even has a chance to start.
10. Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick have built on last year’s postseason success.
Mickael Pietrus saved his best basketball for the postseason last year. He scored 10.5 points per game, played excellent defense on some of the best wing men in the NBA and made big three-pointer after big three-pointer.
Pietrus has followed his break-out postseason with an excellent preseason, averaging 14 points per game. He is shooting 52.6% from the field and 57.1% from beyond the three-point line. He has scored 19 points in each of his past two games.
Redick was always known for his shooting, but after defending Ray Allen well and playing good all-around basketball, Redick is becoming a complete player.
Redick is averaging 12.3 points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game. Van Gundy has singled out Redick as having had a good defensive game on more than one occasion during the preseason. The only thing that JJ is missing is shot (he’s shooting just 36% from downtown in the preseason and has a career average of 38%), but JJ’s history should so that he probably just needs to get into a consistent rhythm.
9. The Magic should be just fine when Howard gets into foul trouble.
Of course the Magic hope that Dwight doesn’t trouble staying in games because he picks up many dumb fouls and has a lot of ticky-tack calls go against him, but when it does happen, the Magic should not panic.
Marcin Gortat is an excellent backup Center. Actually, he’s the best backup Center in basketball. Gortat is following an excellent summer playing for Poland in EuroBasket 2009 with an excellent preseason. He’s averaging 8.0 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, and 2.2 blocks per game in just 23 minutes per game. He has averaged 12 points per game and 11 rebounds per game over his last three games because he has seen an increase in minutes.
The Magic have a starting Center backing up the best Center in basketball. Can’t ask for any more than that.
8. Vince Carter does in fact, still have “it.”
Vince Carter has as many critics as any player in the NBA – and has for quite some time. Some critics say that Carter is not a good defensive player, is lazy, injury-prone and possess skills that are quickly declining. Well, they’re wrong.
Carter has not missed more than six games since the 2004-05 season and only had one season (’04-05) when he played in less than 50 games. Carter played 36.8 minutes per game and still had excellent averages of 20.8 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game and 4.7 assists per game. Carter should put even better numbers playing for a team as good as Orlando.
Carter still looks like an explosive and has played pretty good all around basketball. He just struggling from the beyond the arc, but went 3-of-5 in his last game and seems to be finding his shooting stroke.
7. The off-season acquisitions of Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass have made Orlando a much tougher team.
The Magic have been known as a rather soft team since they haven’t really had another banger outside of Dwight. Well, now they do and his name is Brandon Bass. And luckily for the Magic, Bass has no problem being a garbage man. Matt Barnes was another key signing that the Magic made during the off-season. Barnes has always been known as a hard-nosed player who will do anything to protect and defend himself and his teammates.
It’s just the way I play and the way I’ve been brought up. I was always just real rough. That kind of just translated over with being an enforcer and an intimidator. That’s just who I am. It’s not like I’m going out and trying to pick fights or anything but I’m just a tough-minded, tough-nosed kind of guy and I’m not going to let anyone push me or push any of my teammates around.
Toughness will be key for a team that was dominated in the pain in last season’s Finals loss to the Lakers and now has to deal with Kevin Garnett back in the Boston lineup and Shaq in Cleveland.
6. Dwight Howard has developed a better offensive game.
Adonal Foyle discussed the steps he has taken to help make Dwight into a better all-around player at media day.
Dwight obviously is a phenomenal talent but I think last year probably did more for his game than anything else. Dwight has a good game and he has proven it but when you are capable of dunking the ball every single time, you don’t think you have to use a lot of the other stuff you’ve learned. But I think from the experiences from playoffs and the finals, I think what that did is just show him that you use these skills not because you have to but because you should because when you do need them, you have to be able to call upon them. That’s more than anything what I think he will get from the experience from last year. Not being able to do what he wanted to do and having 10 people sitting in his lap and forcing him to do something different. He will understand that when we push him and when we tell him, “you’re not getting a dunk, I’m not going to let you get a dunk,” it’s not about me just trying to be mean, it’s me making sure that he can walk with these other big guys.
Dwight expects to be a 70% free throw shooter. If that’s the case, the Magic are going to be in very good shape. I’m not sold on Howard’s supposed jumper but he doesn’t necessarily have to have that jumper in order for him to make a huge leap in his game offensively. If he simply has improved his play in the paint, his scoring average should rise again, like it has in every season so far.
5. Orlando’s defense is going to be even better this season.
The Magic had an excellent defense during the 2008-09 season. In fact, Orlando’s defense ranked 6th in points allowed and 3rd in opponent’s field goal percentage. They also have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight Howard and a Head Coach that always stresses defense first in Stan Van Gundy. The Magic were known for their three-point shooting and Dwight’s dunks, but they played excellent defense.
With Matt Barnes joining Mickael Pietrus as a lock-down wing defender, the signing of Brandon Bass as another big body to defend the paint, the emergence of Marcin Gortat as a shot-blocker and the improved defensive play of JJ Redick, Orlando’s defense should better than ever in Van Gundy’s third season with the team. And you know how the old adage goes: Defense wins championships.
4. Stan Van Gundy is an excellent coach.
Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy has a career record of 223-126 during the regular season and a record of 35-27 in the postseason. With the Magic, he has gone 111-53 with an 18-16 playoff record.
Van Gundy may have been given the nickname “Master of Panic,” by Shaq, but that hasn’t affected him. His players know what kind of coach he is.
Matt Barnes cited “how serious he is about winning” as one of the main reasons he chose to come to Orlando.
Dwight Howard and Van Gundy had a vocal altercation through the media, but Dwight used that to motivate himself. He knows just how good of a coach Van Gundy is.
He has a wild side I would say but they also understand that the only reason he coaches is that he wants to see the best out of his players and he’s going to get on us, he’s going to push us, he’s going to make us mad but Stan, if there’s one thing he’s great at, it’s knowing how to push you. He makes you mad, but he’s pushes you to a point that you want to get mad, but you do what he says. He knows how to coach. He knows how to motivate guys.
Motivation must be Van Gundy’s middle name. After calling out Howard in the postseason, Howard answered by delivering some of his finest games as a pro. He called out Vince Carter for some defensive lapses on the first day of training camp and Carter has responded by playing pretty good defense during the preseason.
If Van Gundy can get the entire team to buy into his defensive philosophy, and I believe he can, the offense will come and the sky’s the limit for the Magic.
3. Jameer Nelson is back.
Jameer played in just 42 games before injuring his shoulder, but Nelson was fantastic. He shot 50% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc. He also shot a career-high 89% from the free throw line. He averaged 16.7 points per game, 5.4 assists per game, 3.0 assists per game and 1.2 steals per game. This incredible stat-line made Nelson an all-star. He missed almost the entire playoffs but returned for the finals. He was obviously not himself and it showed – Nelson scored just 19 total points in the series after averaging 16.2 points per game in the 2008 playoffs.
Nelson looks like he has fully recovered. He was getting into the lane with ease Friday night against the Rockets and has averaged 9.0 points per game, 6.0 assists per game and 3.3 rebounds per game in the preseason. His shooting percentages are down, but he’s using the preseason to work out the kinks.
I think people have forgotten about just how good of a player Nelson is. They should be reminded of it very soon.
2. Orlando has become the deepest team in the entire league.
The Magic will have to play the first 10 games of the season without starting Forward Rashard Lewis. After his return, the Magic will have the deepest team in the NBA. Rashard Lewis has been playing more Small Forward during the preseason so it is unknown which position he will start the season at, but if the Magic bring out a starting lineup of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus/Matt Barnes, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson, that will leave them with a second unit of Marcin Gortat, Brandon Bass, Pietrus/Barnes, JJ Redick and Jason Williams. Ryan Anderson should see plenty of time with the first two units as well. Plus, they still have Anthony Johnson, who is a solid player. No team can match that second unit and no team can match that depth.
1. The entire team wants it – bad – and they will do whatever it takes to win.
At Orlando’s annual media day, every player talked about their desire to win the championship. The loss in last year’s NBA Finals left a sour taste in the returning players’ mouths and the new acquisitions have cited that their desire to win a championship is their reason for coming to Orlando. The team seems to be extremely unselfish. Dwight Howard spoke about just how motivated this team is about winning their first championship.
I told the guys that last season we had a great run but this is a new team. I want our guys to sacrifice, give everything that they have. We want to get back to the finals.
Brandon Bass has a similar win-first attitude and cited his opportunity to play for a championship as his main reason for joining the Magic.
Because I’m all about winning and this organization is all about winning. The team was a couple of plays away from winning the championship. With the new the guys we added and with the core they already have, I think we can win it all this year.