The new-look Orlando Magic made their debut on Monday night and it wasn’t pretty. The Magic fell behind early and lost decisively, 91-81, to the Atlanta Hawks in their first game since overhauling their roster with two major trades over the weekend.
It may only be one game, but the rest of the East already has reason to be concerned about this new-look Magic team. The Hawks made it look easy on Monday and there’s no reason to think that going forward, countless other good teams can’t do the same. One of the NBA’s great superpowers may have just become very beatable.
Before going any further, here are the particulars:
- On Saturday afternoon, the Magic shipped Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a first-round draft pick and $3 million to the Suns for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark.
- Later that day, they sent Rashard Lewis to Washington, straight up, for Gilbert Arenas.
The message was clear. The Magic were losing and they needed to shake things up, so they built an entirely new supporting cast around Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. They’re trying to win a championship, and as far as general manager Otis Smith was concerned, Howard and Nelson were the only two indispensable pieces of that puzzle.
But are these two moves really the surefire route to a title? You need a lot of things to win the NBA Finals, and the Magic might now be lacking a few of them, as explained below.
Obviously the Magic have some size in Howard, who’s a 7-footer and a veritable beast. But they gave up Gortat, Howard’s backup, and Lewis, who was a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams as he’s a 6-foot-10 forward with a jump shot. The Magic have suddenly become really thin up front. Howard may end up playing 42 minutes every night, which will no doubt be draining. If, God forbid, he ever runs into foul trouble, you’ll be seeing an inordinate amount of Malik Allen.
To that end, it makes sense that Smith picked up the phone and found new homes for Carter and Lewis. But to replace them with Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, it doesn’t exactly transform the Magic into the Celtics overnight. If anything, it’s a lateral move. Imagine this team trying to stop LeBron James or Derrick Rose in the playoffs?
Teams need a game plan where everyone understands their role. Nelson, Arenas and Turkoglu all have one thing in common — they thrive with the ball in their hands. What happens when all three play together? Either the answer is “chaos” or Stan Van Gundy deserves a Coach of the Year plaque, pronto. The Magic have a lot of playmakers, but not enough guys that can play off the ball. The inside-out scheme that worked last year with an army of shooters around Howard is a relic of the past. They have to start over from scratch at midseason.
Maybe the Magic will figure everything out. They have a lot of talented players and a good coach leading them, so it’s not out of the question. But when a contending team holds a fire sale in December, it reeks of desperation. Fans waiting for a Magic championship might not want to hold their breath.
Are the new-look Magic in trouble? Share your thoughts below.