The Orlando Magic enter the 2012-13 season looking much different than they did at the end of last season. The Magic are without a doubt in rebuilding mode and the youth-filled roster shows that. Dwight Howard, who has been a staple of the Orlando franchise, is now a Los Angeles Laker and even key role players such as Jason Richardson and last year’s Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson, are elsewhere. But starting over is not something new for the Magic and Orlando has laid the groundwork to rebuild into a prominent force rather quickly.
Last season, Orlando finished the lockout-shortened year 37-29 before falling to the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. This year, postseason looks like a long shot for the Magic. Stan Van Gundy, who took Orlando to heights never before reached, has been fired and replaced by first year head coach and former Orlando point guard Jacque Vaughn. Vaughn will be faced with trying to mold the young Orlando roster into a contender in the Eastern Conference and Southeast division.
Nikola Vucevic could man the center position for Orlando. Vucevic is a 7-footer in his second season out of USC. Vucevic, a Switzerland native, averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds-per-game last season as a rookie and member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Vucevic has tremedous upside and very good range for a big man. Also vying for playing time at center could be second round pick Kyle O’Quinn, new acquisitions Gustavo Ayon and Josh McRoberts and Glen Davis, who filled in at the five-spot in the absence of Dwight Howard last season.
Davis and veteran Hedo Turkoglu will likely be the starting forwards for Orlando. Davis played well for the Magic last season following Howard’s injury and in the postseason. Davis averaged 9.3 points and 5.4 rebounds last season, but was the best player for the Magic in the playoffs. Davis averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds-per-game in Orlando’s playoff loss to Indiana. Turkoglu is an aging veteran who has seen his skills and numbers diminish, but should provide a veteran presence. Turkoglu can still handle the ball for a guy 6’10″, but he is no longer the threat offensively as he once was and is coming off his lowest scoring season since 2003-04.
Jameer Nelson, a former All-Star, will start at point guard for Orlando. Nelson is coming off somewhat of a down year, but still managed to average 11.9 points and 5.7 assists-per-game. Nelson will serve as Orlando’s floor general and bring leadership to a young team. Down the stretch of games, Nelson may also be asked to carry the offensive load. The shooting guard position will be between J.J. Redick and Arron Afflalo. Redick, a pure shooter, has served as the Magic’s sixth man over the past couple years and has improved his all around game. Redick averaged 11.6 points-per-game last season and shot a career-high 42 percent from beyond the arc. However, Redick may be most effective in a reserve role. Afflalo is coming off of a career-year in which he averaged 15.2 points-per-game as a member of the Denver Nuggets. Afflalo also shoots a very high field goal percentage for a perimeter player.
The Magic bench will be interesting. The sixth man will be whoever does not start between Redick and Afflalo. Rookie and first round pick Andrew Nicholson looks to be able to step in and play right away. Nicholson was Atlantic-10 Player of the Year last season as a senior at St. Bonaventure and has excellent range for a guy 6’9″. Moe Harkless, another rookie, is a freakish athlete, but played just one season at St. John’s and may still be fairly raw. 32-year-old Al Harrington has been dependable throughout his career and will bring range off the Orlando bench. E’Twaun Moore will bring versatility to the Magic backcourt; Moore can play either of the guard positions and will primarily be the backup to Nelson. Ayon, O’Quinn, McRoberts will fight for time in the frontcourt while Ishmael Smith will also make a push for minutes at point guard. DeQuan Jones has impressed this pre-season, but it will be tough for him to make the team.
There will definitely be some growing pains for the Magic this season. If Orlando were to even contend for a playoff spot, it would be a successful season. The future however, appears bright. The Magic have three rookies (Nicholson, Harkless, O’Quinn) that could become staples in the years to come. Orlando also acquired multiple first round picks for Howard to further bolster its future roster. Veterans like Nelson, Turkoglu and Redick will serve as mentors this season and will be key to the development of the younger players. Those three will help shape the future of the franchise although they may not be around to reap the benefits. Getting a definite rotation may take a while for Orlando and while the Magic are rebuilding, they have a more athletic group. Although the Magic probably won’t be as good as they have been in years prior, they may be equally as exciting.
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