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NBA Preview: Magic and Wizards

We have to put the Magic and Wizards together not just because their names juxtapose nicely, but because they're likely to be at each others' heels all season.


Record:  40-42, 3rd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


27th in the league in scoring (94.8 ppg)
4th in field goal %  
3rd in opponent field goal %
29th in assists
30th  in turnovers


7th in opponent scoring (94.0 ppg)
11th in ppg differential (+0.8 ppg)
15th in three-point %  
22nd in steals
11th in blocks
19th in opponent turnovers
Very Good offensive rebounding team
Good defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Rashard Lewis, Adonal Foyle, Coach Stan Van Gundy

Significant Subtractions: Grant Hill, Darko Milicic

Key Players

PG:  Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo
SG:   Keyon Dooling, J.J. Reddick, Keith Bogans
SF:  Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Trevor Ariza
PF:  Dwight Howard, Bo Outlaw, Pat Garrity
C:  Adonal Foyle, Tony Battie

Comments:  The Magic are really starting to come into their own in the East.  They start with Dwight Howard who has improved every year since he entered the league.  He is an imposing physical beast who makes opposing GM's drool, opposing coaches sweat, and opposing forwards go crying to least when he's on his game.  Entering his fourth year he's already one of the best rebounders in the universe.  His scoring is likely to near 20 per game this year also, especially since...guess what?  The Magic finally have the forward they've wanted since they acquired the ill-fated Grant Hill.  Rashard Lewis is in the prime of his career and is an excellent percentage scorer from anywhere on the court.  He will fit in perfectly with the Magic high-percentage, ball-control offensive game and also give them that little extra ability to run.  He's not a terrific defender but they have solid enough frontcourt players to cover for him.  Jameer Nelson is widely regarded as one of the most competent young point guards in the league.  He now has multiple options on offense and should be like a kid in a candy store when it comes to passing the ball.  If he can regain his shooting stroke enough to keep defenses honest the Orlando offense should cruise.  After those three players the roster gets a little sketchy.  Adonal Foyle was a solid pick-up.  He'll help Howard rebound and do a reasonable job protecting the middle.  Tony Battie is a good back-up.  Hedo Turkoglu is a name from days of yore but his tenure in Orlando is likely to be short now that Lewis is there.  Best guess is they'll try to move him for a shooting guard if possible.  Until then you may see Lewis in the backcourt.  None of their other players will make you blink twice which is part of what will keep them a good, but probably not yet great, team.

One of the reason I like Orlando's prospects is that in a mercurial, unpredictable East they have all the tools to play a steady game.  They're going to be a very good rebounding team.  They're going to be good defensively.  Their offense will be decent--perhaps more than that on nights when Lewis and Howard can draw fouls--and they have enough star power to carry them through tough games.  They're not likely to grow exponentially but they'll grow some...and more importantly they're not going to slip unless something freaky happens.  They're one of the legit teams in the conference.


Record:  41-41, 2nd in Southeast Division, 6th (tie) in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


4th in the league in scoring (104.3 ppg)
28th in opponent scoring (104.9 ppg)
27th in opponent field goal %
4th in turnovers


14th (tie) in ppg differential (-0.5 ppg)
22nd in field goal %  
23rd in three-point %  
23rd in assists
6th in steals
18th in blocks
6th in opponent turnovers
Average offensive rebounding team
Poor defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Nick Young (R), Dominic McGuire (R), Oleksiy Pecherov (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Jarvis Hayes,

Key Players

PG:  Nick Young, Antonio Daniels, Donnell Taylor
SG:  Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson
SF:  Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire, Oleksiy Pecherov
PF:  Antawn Jamison, Darius Songalia, Andre Blatche
C:  Etan Thomas, Brendan Haywood

Comments:  Speaking of mercurial and unpredictable, the Wizards are almost the anti-Magic.  Their offense is remarkable, a non-stop barrage of "can-you-top-this" baskets and plays.  Gilbert Arenas is Mr. Everything and needs no introduction.  Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are both capable of scoring at will.  On this team nobody cares about their collective defensive deficiencies.  The defense consists of gambling to try and force the turnover (at which they are quite good) and failing that, encouraging the opponent to get up a shot as quickly as possible so the Wizards can score again.  It only takes one more point than the opponent to win the game.  Unfortunately their defense got so horrible last season that the Wizards averaged half a point less than their opposition for the year.  They also did not blow out as many teams as their high-powered offense would imply.  Their 41-41 record was appropriate, as you could pretty much flip a coin whether their style was going to get them a win or just in trouble.

As long as all three main players stay healthy the Wizards don't have to worry about making the playoffs in the East.  It was unfortunate that injuries cut short their run last year.  However any organization who adopts this style of play also has to realize that injuries are part of the package.  Right now even one could put a crimp in Washington's style.

The good news is that they picked up a couple of exciting young players who should fit right into their game plan.  Nick Young was build to jack it and pack it.  Dominic McGuire has a lot to learn about the game but he's another one of those scary athletic guys.  McGuire won't make a serious impact for another year or two but Young may very well find himself playing alongside Arenas before the year is over.  Gilbert always was more of a shooter anyway and in this case the difference between point and off-guard would be minimal.  Either could bring it up, either could shoot.  I expect Young to have one of the better rookie years in his class.  The rest of the roster is made up of slightly-better-than-average journeymen, but that's pretty much what the Wizards need.  Normally you'd be very concerned about their rebounding and shooting percentage but this system throws everything out of whack and those stats aren't as damning as they would be on your average team.

The long and short of it is the Wizards are pretty much a gimmick team, but they're a gimmick team that has good talent and knows what they're doing.  I don't think anyone's expecting them to serious contend for the conference crown, but they could be the kind of team that puts a wrench in somebody's machine on a short-term basis.  They're likely to break down at some point but they're just as likely to go on an enormous streak.  It's all a matter of timing.  Until they develop some defensive commitment, that's about where they're going to stand.

--Dave (