6. Chris Paul ??
7. Dwight Howard
10. Chris Bosh
There's only 3 guys in that top ten that I would be as happy to have as Howard right now. One game against ATL doesn't mean much, but if he really has developed a bit of range out to 12 feet then look out NBA.
Hollinger also has the Magic down for 49 wins and first in the Southeast division. Says they were good enough for 44 wins last year but were coached to 40, and sees a five game improvement.
I'm not a big fan of the Lewis signing long-term, but in the immediate future one has to admit the prospects for the Magic look fairly bright. The team badly needed an outside gunner last season and has found it in Lewis; if Redick emerges as well that will give them a second one and really loosen things up for Howard.
And while the losses of Hill and Milicic hurt, those are positions where the Magic are pretty well covered. Van Gundy should keep this team defending at a high level as well, even though Lewis was never much for defense in Seattle. And while losing Battie leaves a hole, it also might force the Magic to better utlilize Turkoglu and Lewis together at the forward spots. I don't think Van Gundy's instincts lean toward playing small, but it appears this is easily his best lineup, and if he doesn't have a choice it might work out surprisingly well.
But perhaps the biggest reason to like this team is their birth certificates. With several players in their early 20s, including Howard (21), Ariza (22), Redick (23) and Nelson (25), the Magic almost can't help but improve. On the flip side, the only rotation players on the wrong side of 30 are big men Foyle and Battie. Their age profile should gently push the Magic forward, and combined with the Lewis signing, will make the Magic a factor in the East.
One other thing to remember is that these guys were better than their record last season, having the scoring margin of a 44-win team. With the youth and the addition of Lewis, a five-game improvement doesn't seem outrageous, so you're looking at a team that's pushing 50 wins.
Thus, while I don't think they can win the conference and question how they'll manage their cap situation from here, the Magic have more than enough talent to win the division this season. After the struggles of the past couple years, that would be a nice story in itself.
Prediction: 49-33, 1st in Southeast, 4th in Eastern Conference