NBA / Oct 20, 2009 / 1:06 pm

The 5 Obstacles To The Orlando Magic’s Championship Run

Rashard Lewis

Last season, the Orlando Magic kind of snuck up on the rest of the league. While everybody knew that they had a solid roster, not many expected them to come out as Eastern Conference Champions. This time around, Orlando is not only one of the favorites to win the East again but is right there in the mix to compete for a title as well. This time around, the path will be a little different.

The Magic have a different roster than last year and the East’s other powerhouses have also loaded up on talent during the offseason. Here are five areas of concern that could affect Orlando’s quest for a ring in ’09-10.

Rashard Lewis’ Suspension
In August, the league suspended Rashard Lewis for 10 games for taking an over-the-counter supplement that was banned by the league. While the Magic have enough weapons to make due without him for that stretch, his absence could cost them a couple of games. In a tight Eastern Conference where every game counts, two or three lost games could make the difference between first place and third place.

Chemistry Issues
Gone are Rafer Alston, Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee – some of the Magic’s key players in the playoff run. There’s no way the team would have gotten that far if Rafer didn’t fill in for Jameer Nelson or Hedo didn’t hit all those clutch shots or Courtney Lee didn’t break out on both sides of the court. The Magic have replaced them with some solid talent. Vince Carter is a former all-star who can still give you 20. Jason Williams is a talented point guard who won a championship with Miami back in ’06. Brandon Bass is young, big and athletic. Matt Barnes is a tenacious defender who can hit the three and Ryan Anderson is a versatile player who could be that x-factor for the Magic. It will be interesting to see how this group can gel together and whether the new additions will disrupt the chemistry.

Carter is used to getting touches, he averaged over 17 shots per game. Hedo was getting around 13, so is VC cool with getting less looks? Can he replace Turkoglu as the team’s go-to-guy for the final shot? Will Bass’ presence shift Lewis to the three and push Mickael Pietrus to the bench? Or do they keep Lewis at the four and have Bass come off the bench?

Can Dwight Come Through in the Clutch?
A lot has been made about Dwight Howard’s one dimensional game. His lack of post moves and inability to make free throws makes him a liability come crunch time. He insisted that he worked on both those areas over the summer, but so far in the preseason, he has been inconsistent from the line. Superman is destined for another monster season and deserves MVP consideration, but if you’re a franchise player and can’t be a factor in the game’s final minutes, than you can’t win championships.

Point Guard Situation
Nelson was having an all-star season until he was forced to shut it down for the year with a shoulder injury. Alston came in and held down the fort for the rest of the season and the majority of the playoffs. Now that Alston is gone, the Magic are relying on Williams to back up Nelson and provide insurance in case he gets injured. After sitting out last season, Williams will definitely be rusty. Plus, he’s going on 34 years old. It will be interesting to see whether he can show flashes of the player we saw in Miami.

The East Got Stronger
The road to the finals is going to be a lot tougher this year. Cleveland has Shaq now, so he can be a problem for Howard. Even though O’Neal is at the end of his career, he is still a big body who can command a double team. Plus he’s got so much playoff experience and knows how to win. Boston was missing KG last year – who missed the playoffs due to an injury. This year, the Celtics are entering the season healthy and with a few more weapons like Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels. It is definitely going to be a dog fight for whoever the Magic face in the quarter finals and Conference finals.

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    So did the Lakers and Spurs!

  • Brown

    Garnett’s injury hurt the Celtics last year. With him healthy and the addition of Wallace and Daniels, I think they should be the favorites to come out of the East. Who is going to back up Rondo though?

  • Ross

    1. Lakers
    2. Spurs
    3-5 is debatable

  • kg fan

    @ Brown
    daniels has been playing decent point in the preseason. he could play 1-3 pretty decently, better than house

  • Patrick

    Superman is destined for another monster season and deserves MVP consideration, but if you’re a franchise player and can’t be a factor in the game’s final minutes, than you can’t win championships.

    Shaq won 4

  • flavur

    @5 Shaq had a much better post game than Dwight by the time he was winning chips

  • http://nerditry.com nerditry

    6 Counterpoints:

    1. First off, the Magic snuck up on no one that pays attention to the NBA. This was only possible when people continued to overrate Detroit and Cleveland, especially the Cavs when it was revealed that Mo Williams was supposed to be their second best player. They are Lebron and a team full of bums, except now those bums are headlined by Shaq and because they’re next to James, Anthony Parker, Boobie Gibson and Jamario Moon are suddenly the missing pieces to a championship.

    Even MJ needed Scottie Pippen, quality veterans and a head coach that doesn’t disappear in conference finals.

    2. Rashard’s style of play should allow the Magic to fit in Ryan Anderson and get him deeply integrated into the offense. They’re about the same size (Anderson a little taller), both of them are not known for rebounding per their height and Anderson is ready to shoot the three. They likely will drop an extra game in that process, but SVG is definitely known for being able to keep the team together, and winning in the face of losing players for an extended period of time.

    3. This is the myth of Hedo, that he was the only go-to guy in the final minutes of the game. What people fail to take into account is that Hedo would often disappear for the first few quarters of a game, only to get a head full of steam in the fourth. This is contrary to what you need out of a team leader and his decisions to force shots and over dribble were often overlooked in light of last minute scores. The reality is that amongst the current group of players, it’s an infinitely better proposition to give Lewis, Redick or even Anderson a look at the final shot if it’s from the outside.

    Rafer was going to be let go of regardless as he was not going to move back to the bench after Jameer returned, either. The true loss is Lee as he was definitely up to the task of covering the other team’s best wing player, usually giving up a lot of height. Pietrus will have to step up and fill that role with Carter and both will need to ensure that they are playing quality defense without leaving Dwight to pickup their slack and more possibilities to pickup a foul.

    4. Dwight’s growth is yet to be seen as far as clutch performances go. Truth of it comes down to free throws and keeping opponents from getting the chance to stay back if he only has 1-2 aggressive post moves. In fact, he displayed a nice lefty hook last night and had a couple of 2-3 dribble moves in the post.

    5. Don’t forget that Alston was traded for during the season and there’s nothing stopping the Magic from cutting Anthony Johnson or Williams at some point if needed. Williams picked up the system very well in the 2005-06 championship season in Miami and has the benefit of playing with a group of shooters that spread the floor incredibly well. And he’s the effing backup who will probably split minutes with Johnson.

    6. Shaq is not a problem for Howard, hasn’t been for quite a while. Shaq also had the extreme benefit of the Phoenix Training Staff who kept him in his best shape since leaving L.A. The extreme cold weather of Cleveland (Shaq’s first cold-weather team) and the spate of injuries the Cavs saw last year don’t lead me to believe he’s a threat.

    No one outside of Boston has ANY idea how healthy KG is and regardless of his health, he has a ton of miles on his body to go with that major injury. Until they get into season mode and are playing every other day, I’m reserving judgement. Did you see Sheed or Marquis Daniels last year? Sheed quit on his team in the playoffs and has just as many miles on him as Garnett, Daniels has been an unfulfilled role player that hasn’t truly been relevent since Reggie Miller was with him on the Pacers.

  • snyde

    whoever started saying chips instead of typing out championships should be flogged in full view of the public. that is the most asinine, unnecessary abbreviation of all time.

    with that being said, the magic have as good a shot as anyone to win the title. they are clearly better than they were last year. and honestly, if you think hedo had a larger impact on this team than VC will, either you didn’t watch magic games until game 7 vs boston, or you just don’t know the magic. hedo is BY FAR the game’s most overrated player. dude had what, 4 good games in the playoffs, and now hes better than vince. that is the single biggest misconception out there at the moment.

  • egypt

    you have no concept of bball if you honestly think that hedo is more clutch than vc… 82games.com….

    dwight doesn’t need to be the go to guy… he probably wont ever be… he has vince carter for a few years…

  • Ian

    shaq won 4 yes but he had penny , kobe and wade to help out in crunch time howard doesnt and he lost hedo.

  • Rizwan

    Matt Barnes – tenacious defender? Didnt see much of that in PHX!!

  • Rizwan

    At the comment about Shaq’s 4 rings, Shaq was a WAAAAAY better offensive player than Dwight! In that regard, there is no comparison. Yeah, Shaq had go-to-guys at the end of the games but he could just as easily take it down low. In Dwight’s career, I’ve seen him nail one game winner and that was from an inbounds pass which relied upon his athleticism!

    D12 is very good but not great. Orlando are not gonna win the chip this year!

    Not this year, not any year!

  • Bruce

    The 7 Feet Tall, 300 Plus Pounds Monkey (Shaq) own 4 rings. 3 with Kobe and 1 with Flash! None with Penny!
    And now Lebron. Shaq can’t win without a HOF side-kick.

    Imagine Flash and Superman together!

  • sh!tfaced

    What obstacles? What championship run? Don’t worry about it. The Magic won’t be winning shit this year…

  • gilford22

    Dwight doesn’t have a post game. Seriously, if you’ve been in the league for five years you should at least polish your game in that department. Dwight is not even worth comparing to Shaq because Shaq is a monster with so many low post moves.

  • cbil01

    magic take cavs no problem – neither team really changed their style over the offseason just added depth. the reasons cleveland lost remain present – slow big men who get killed in pick and roll (shaq just adds to this) and no consistent scoring outside lbj. moon parker and powe change nothing. boston is better healthy but their cornerstones are all 32+ this year the odds of all of them being healthy after 82 games are slim at best (ask the spurs). so orlando gets back to the finals, then the lakers beat them because phil is better than stan and kobe is a thousand times more franchise than dwight + vince carter x rashard lewis. but thats just my opinion.

  • http://www.ieshoes.com ieshoes

    good jordan kobe LeBron Garnett http://www.ieshoes.com

  • J the Drafter

    Jameer is a much more effective point guard than Rafer is. He’d have made a big difference in the Finals.