Ben Q. Rock covers the Orlando Magic at his blog, Third Quarter Collapse. One thing I know about Ben is that he is all over the place, all of the time. Thankfully, Ben had a couple minutes to answer some questions about the Magic in anticipation of tonight’s matchup for the Wizards in Orlando. Enjoy.
Overall, I’m fairly pleased with the offseason moves. To recap: the Magic drafted shooting guard Courtney Lee, signed free-agent shooting guard Mickael Pietrus, and signed free-agent point guard Anthony Johnson. Pietrus is obviously the highest-profile addition, as he instantly won the starting job vacated by Maurice Evans. Pietrus brings three-point shooting and defense, as Evans did, with the added bonuses of being taller, younger, and more athletic. Right now, he’s not rebounding as well as he should, and his tendency to foul makes his defense problematic, but he’s been a real boon to the offense. I really like the signing so far.
The Magic needed a steady, pure point guard to back up Nelson, who has never played a full 82-game season in his career. Keyon Dooling played himself out of the team’s price range, which is a bit of a bummer because the Magic could really use his defense. But Dooling is not a distributor, and that seems to be the sort of point guard the Magic were after. Johnson fits that role to a T. No, he’s not the best of shooters, but he’s usually mistake-free. All the Magic ask is that he play 15 solid minutes a game. He can do that.
The jury’s out on Lee. He may help this team in the future, but right how he’s out of the rotation. He had a 20-minute stint against the Bulls and has received DNP-CDs in each of the Magic’s other games.
Regarding what Smith can do to put the team over the top, there probably isn’t any single player available who can do that. Antonio McDyess is the closest player to that, which is why I called for the Magic to get in his ear. In the likely event Dice would rather play elsewhere, the Magic may be able to pick up a serviceable rotation player closer to the trading deadline. J.J. Redick, Keith Bogans, and Brian Cook might be on the block, and there’s bound to be at least one team that’d be willing to put up with a few months’ worth of Bogans and Cook, who have expiring contracts, in exchange for salary-cap flexibility. Meanwhile, Redick’s still earning the rookie scale contract, he’s not going to shoot .000 forever, and some team may be willing to give him a chance. So the Magic do have some minor trade assets, as well as one major one in Hedo Turkoglu. But I don’t want to think about this team without him on it, so I’ll just gloss over it.
I might be Jameer’s biggest fan on the blogosophere, but I admit he’s had a shaky season so far. His 16-point, 9-assist effort against Philadelphia on Thursday night is more of what we’re looking for in a point guard. Heck, I think most Magic fans would be satisfied with 12 points and 7 assists a game. He doesn’t have to score as much as he did 2 years ago with Brian Hill, when the Magic’s offensive options were Dwight Howard and Grant Hill; Hedo Turkoglu was an afterthought then.
I can live with 4.6 assists per game from him as long as it means more assists for someone else; someone has to keep the ball moving. The obvious candidate is Turkoglu, who averaged 5.0 last year but is down to 4.4 this year. That’s okay. They’ll both get it going again soon enough.
My attitude toward Nelson is maybe a bit fatalistic: like it or not, he’s locked up for five seasons at an average annual salary of $7 million. He needs to play. And, in his fifth season, he should know how by now. I’m convinced that he does, which is exactly why he should play at minimum 33 minutes a game.
Dwight’s slow start at the foul line is a big concern. He started the preseason 13-of-16, the local media reported it, and then it went off a cliff. It’s just more proof that free-throw shooting is as much mental as it is physical. He needs to get it to at least 60% for the year. None of this Ben Wallace/Josh Boone sub-50% garbage.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, the Magic do not have a shooting specialist on-staff. Dwight’s relationship with Magic assistant Patrick Ewing is fairly well publicized, but Pat’s not there to teach him free throws. He’s there to help get the big fella some post moves, which is something that will be very important later in Dwight’s career–and we’re talking at least 10 years here, he’s only 22–when he won’t be able to rely on his athleticism as much.
But getting back to free-throw shooting, I would like the Magic to hire a specialist. I advocated their doing that in an early August post. Brendan Haywood and Dave Hopla indeed appear.
Game Score Prediction: Magic 100, Wizards 92
- Points: Hedo Turkoglu. The highest scorers against the Wizards in each game this year were wing players: Richard Jefferson, Richard Hamilton, Vince Carter, and Jamal Crawford. Meanwhile, Turk is due for a breakout game, and he did manage 39 against them in a loss last season.
- Rebounds: Dwight Howard. Next question.
- Assists: Turkoglu. I anticipate he’ll have the ball in his hands for most Magic possessions, and if he gets hot early, as I suspect he will, his teammates can count on him to draw defenses away from them, then dish to them for the open look.
Thanks again to Ben Q. Rock of Third Quarter Collapse. Be sure and check out his preview of tonight’s game between the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards.