The 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit winds down today with the release of more team previews and cheat sheets.
The Magic has been a team on the rise for a while and, last year, driven by a fantastic offense, it exploded and reached the Eastern Conference semis, before being dispatched by the Pistons in five games.
The only significant addition has been Mickael Pietrus, who could prove to be a nice sleeper, having escaped the ridiculous rotation carousel of Don Nelson in Golden State. Gone are underachieving Carlos Arroyo and bench player Keyon Dooling. The absence of this pair certainly hurts the Magic’s bench depth, but the team’s starting five is about as deep as it gets. Contributions from rookie Courtney Lee – an offensive standout in college – and the disappointing J.J. Redick will help compensate for the loss of Arroyo and Dooling.
This is a team that really relies on the outside game, so if Orlando’s long bombs aren’t dropping, it can definitely go into a funk quickly. And with win totals over the past five years of 21, 36, 36, 40 and 52, one can’t help but wonder if this team has topped out for the time being. Defensive improvement – the Magic gave up 99 points per game last year – will be key for this team to maintain its pecking order in an improving Eastern Conference.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Mickael Pietrus
SF: Hedo Turkoglu
PF: Rashard Lewis
C: Dwight Howard
Key Bench Players: Keith Bogans, Anthony Johnson, Redick, Lee, Tony Battie, Adonal Foyle (did we mention the team lacks depth?).
The two-guard spot is the place to watch in The Magic Kingdom, as while Pietrus is the starter, he’s hardly a proven presence there. And then things get even muddier in the competition for back-up minutes. You’ve got Redick – who has made tremendous progress this preseason, especially defensively – and Bogans, who spent almost half of last season starting, and shot the ball better than he’s ever had, but it still no one’s idea of a saviour.
To make matters more confusing still, the team drafted college scoring stud Courtney Lee. Lee has made the team, but realistically won’t be chasing these three for minutes until later in the season. The rook will also see some time at PG, with Mike Wilks gone for the season with a knee injury.
Stud: Sure, we all know how good Dwight Howard is, but I’m looking at Rashard Lewis as the man that will really return serious value this season. After spending his entire career in Emerald City, he had a somewhat tough time adjusting to life in the Eastern Conference last year, but look for Lewis to bounce back to the 20-point, six-rebound per game range while offering plenty of help in 3-pointers and steals.
Dud: With Carlos Arroyo gone, Jameer Nelson has no one to push him for the job, yet that still doesn’t inspire confidence in me. Orlando has been on the rise for a couple of years now, but I don’t see this team breaking through to the next level with Nelson running the offense.
Sleeper: This is a deep sleeper, but I’m keeping my eye on J.J. Redick this season. His defensive play has improved and we all remember how he could bury it from outside back in his Duke days. Pietrus seems entrenched as the starting two-guard for the Magic, but he’s had his share of injuries in the past, leading me to believe that Redick will get a chance to be a valuable commodity this season.
Rookies to Watch: I really like the possibilities that Courtney Lee brings to the table, but there’s just not much playing time for him in this situation. He’s made the team, but will likely watch in street clothes plenty of nights.
Fantasy Stories to Watch
With Jameer Nelson as the only PG currently standing in The Magic Kingdom (Anthony Johnson is hurting and Mike Wilks had season-ending knee surgery), the team is exploring options. Apparently, Troy Hudson has made inquiries, and Eddie Gill is a option. Another possibility is having Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee help out with ball-handling, a possibility that could help Lee gain some traction and help beef up Turkoglu’s assist numbers.
Mickael Pietrus is providing some help in all areas, but is unlikely to score enough to be as big a factor as many think he might be this season. He’s hit double digits in points just twice in seven pre-season games, maxing out at 16 (in a game he shot just 4-of-12 during).