Last season ended on a high note with a stellar group of (mostly) nine players combining to finish 16-6 and make a run at the playoffs. What a relief it was to see a good chemistry develop after shipping off the cancerous Francis and Cato. Last years ending roster breaks down something like this:Core to build around:Dwight Howard
-- his size, youth, skill and still huge upside probably makes him one of the ten most valuable players in the league.Jameer Nelson
-- 31-31 in games played. 5-15 in games missed. The new rules make fleet footed passing/scoring PGs who don't (or struggle to) play defense much more valuable than in the past. Jameer is close to being a top 10 PG in the league and could still bloom into the top 5 next season.Darko
-- A Pistons blog poster suggested the way for Detroit to stop Wade was to draft him and leave him on the end of the bench. Darko's recovery from the Pistons mistreatment started well. Next year he needs to step up and prove he belongs with the other top 5 choices of his draft class. Good news is he is lifting weights for the first time and has committed to spending July in Orlando.Main Supporting Cast:
Great year last year. Became a reliable third scoring option once he became a recognized starter. Game improved dramatically after Francis left and he learned he could get the ball back if he passed. Tony Battie:
starter last year, likely first F/C off the bench this year. Only big man backup. Good locker room guy that is likely to be traded somewhere down the line.Deshawn Stevenson:
I think I kept calling him Dwight last year. He opted out on Thursday and it's a toss-up if he comes back. Not much offense, often made poor decisions with the ball. Started all 82 games last year. His kind of defense doesn't show up in the box scores. Could have earned over $3 million. I wonder what kind of contract he will attract on the open market. Lots of options to replace him if he leaves.Carlos Arroyo:
Not a starter, but a great change of pace off the bench. His pass first mentality quickly becomes contagious when he is on the court. Looks slow but is deceptively quick and gets away with a lot of arm hooks to shed defenders and get into the paint for easy layups or assists. Often talked about as a trade throw-in, but I don't believe Magic will trade a Puerto Rican who seems to be worth 2,000 extra fans a game. That is really hard to replace.Keyon Dooling:
with the arrival of Arroyo and Jameer's return from injury he earned most of his playing time as a slashing backup SG. Trevor Ariza:
Sat buried on the bench forever after the NY trade. Finally emerged as a slasher who could get to the hoop quickly. Long arms promise good defense in the future. Free agent. I'd like to see him return, but the Sentinel reported he has told the Magic he would not play in their summer league if resigned. Magic seem intent on getting him back for the minimum, Ariza is looking for more. His return is probably a toss-up.In the China Cabinet:Grant Hill:
Six years in a row finishing the season on IR. Refusing surgery this summer in the hopes of a holistic miracle. Large expiring contracts become very enticing at the February trade deadline. If Magic don't think they can land a huge fish in the Summer 2007 Free Agent fiesta (Wade, Lebron, Bosch and many more.) trading Hill in February is a good way to go. If he winds up bouncing in and out of the lineup again it could kill team chemistry.Pat Garrity:
Fundamentally sound horrible player. Owed $3.5 million this year with team option for next year. The coach seems to love fundamentally sound horrible players and we all fear this guy getting playing time. Rebounds per minute often impossible to compute.Going, going ...Mario Kasun:
Gone. To Spain. One roster spot open for sure.Stacey Augmon:
Gone. Although he wants to play somewhere next year.Bo Outlaw:
He'll be in Orlando next year, either as 15th man with non guaranteed minimum contract, or in some community outreach management role.Travis Diener:
Gone? He signed a 2 year deal, unknown if it was guaranteed or not.Needs:
1. Improve outside shooting. Magic were 2nd worst 3 point shooters in league last year. Need to open inside up for Howard & Milicic.
2. Big Man depth. Need a banger off the bench at PF, C, or C/PF. Preferably an improvement over Battie.
3. Draft well. This is not very likely given their history.
4. Maintain chemistry. Hard to do and critical. Need to find role players to support Dwight, Darko & Jameer. Turk needs to keep starting. Arroyo needs to be at peace off the bench.
Not including trades, the Magic have between 3 and 6 roster spots to fill this summer depending on what happens with Ariza & Stevenson. Assume those guys are gone and the Magic need:
1. New starting SG
2. Backup power player
3. Backup SF
And they have a budget of about $4.5 million for all three!
Does help come from the draft? Last year the Magic shocked us by taking an unknown Spaniard who doesn't travel. If they repeat the performance this year the team is in trouble. If they actually take someone we know, the likely prospects include (from most likely to least:1. Ronnie Brewer:
draftexpress.com has Magic taking him. Very athletic SG/PG could be a perfect upgrade to Stevenson, but long range shot is suspect.2. Patrick O'Bryant:
nbadraft.net has Magic taking him. 7' beast who needs to develop skills. Probably good for short foul filled bursts off the bench as a rookie.3. Rodney Carney:
SG/SF more likely to be a small forward.4. Randy Foye:
SG Likely to be drafted before 11. There is a rumor of a trade with Houston to get Foye so Houston can take Redick.5. JJ Redick:
could provide shooting off the bench this year if he stays sober and his back is o.k. Both in doubt.6. Sheldon Williams
PF/C cancelled a workout with Magic. Believe to have a promise from Seattle at 10. Would require a trade up to get.7. Brandon Roy:
SG Likely to be drafted between 2 and 7. Magic would need to trade up and get lucky.
Magic have 2 second round picks at 41 and 50 to fill out bench cheaply with future prospects. I'm at a loss to name a single contributor Magic have ever taken in the 2nd round.
Here is my prediction. Magic will try to resign both Stevenson and Ariza for cheap. Draft a SG in the first round, a banger and a future foreign player in the second and fill the roster out with low cost minimum guys like Outlaw in preparation of a possible big trade in February.
If they resign Stevenson they try to package Dooling to move up for Foye, else they take Brewer.