Saturday, September 03, 2005

Offseason Overview: Orlando Magic

Remember the beginning of last season when the Magic got off to a nice start and the Rockets were struggling and people were praising John Weisbrod for the T-Mac/Francis trade? Yeah, neither do most people, for good reason. Despite a successful return from Grant Hill and the solid play of rookie Dwight Howard, it was a pretty ugly season in Orlando. Unless Howard becomes a superstar rather quickly, it’s hard to see things getting too much better this year.

The Stud: Steve Francis, PG
At least statistically, Stevie Franchise rebounded from a disastrous 2003-2004 in Houston, going for 21.3/5.8/7.0 and finishing at #20 on the Player Rater. But his contributions in the secondary categories (not to mention the win column) leave a lot to be desired: 42% shooting, 0.5 3s and 1.4 steals are pedestrian numbers, at best. Francis will quite likely move to the two, but as long as he sees close to 40 mpg his numbers shouldn’t change too much. There seems to be a general annoyance with Francis, which could cause him to slide to the third round of drafts, where he could provide very nice value.

The Support: Dwight Howard, PF
The rookie showed promise of great things to come. He never hit the rookie wall, getting considerably stronger and more comfortable as the season progressed, appearing in all 82 games. He quietly finished 35th on the Player Rater, his top comparable on basketball-reference.com is Moses Malone and his first year numbers are eerily similar to Amare Stoudemire’s. There’s a good chance he and not Francis will be “the stud” by the end of the season. Don’t get too carried away, but there’s a good chance he could become an all-star this season.

The Supporting Support: Grant Hill, SF
That’s as good as it’s gonna get, folks. Granted, it was pretty good as Hill returned from three lost seasons to average nearly 20 ppg on 51% shooting while staying quite healthy before shutting it down with for the final three weeks. But it’s hard to think that Hill will be able to improve his game or his health – it’s much more likely that one, or both, will decline. If his 51% shooting drops to something like 47%, he loses a considerable amount of his value.

The Sleeper: Jameer Nelson, PG
The signing of Keyon Dooling was a buzz kill, but it might be enough to let Nelson drop in drafts. In 21 starts last year Nelson averaged 15.7/5.2/4.7 with 1.7 steals and 1.1 3s. Keyon Dooling has his strengths, but he’s just not a starting NBA point guard. Nelson is the most qualified man for the starting PG job and should earn it if given a fair shot. If that happens, he will put up quality numbers, even if his playing time stays in the 32-34 mpg range.

The Slacker: Hedo Turkoglu, GF
He finally showed signs of life last year, averaging a career-high 14 ppg and 1.4 3pg. But he also showed us that he offers little else of interest to fantasy players. He shot just 42%, averaged just 3.5 rpg and has never shown an ability to get steals. He might be of interest as a starter, but after five seasons he's yet to really make an impact in the league.

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