Team Preview #9: Orlando Magic
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 10th, 2008
LAST SEASONAfter going 40-42 in '06-07, the Magic improved to 52-30 under Stan Van Gundy. They lost in the 2nd Round to Detroit, but it was a definite step in the right direction. Their defense was solid and their offense was vastly improved, as their 93.4 pace factor (9th of 30) allowed them to score 104.5 points (6th) and make 9.8 threes per game (1st).
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Mickael Pietrus, Anthony Johnson, Courtney Lee
Key Losses: Maurice Evans, Carlos Arroyo, Keyon Dooling, Pat Garrity
Orlando made a wise decision to use most of their $5.5 million midlevel exception on Pietrus. The uber-athletic swingman will do everything that Mo Evans did last year and then some. Carlos Arroyo hasn't been very consistent in the NBA, so the Magic decided to replace him with 33-year old veteran Anthony Johnson. Courtney Lee is a rookie who will battle JJ Redick for minutes at shooting guard, and both men will try to take over Dooling's role as their #1 scorer off the bench. In '02-03, Pat Garrity started 53 games and played 2,585 total minutes for Orlando, but he received under 300 total minutes in each of the past 2 seasons. His NBA career is likely over.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEYou can call him Dwight Howard, D-Ho, Man-Beast, or Superman, but Ironman applies as well, because he hasn't missed a single game in 4 years. Howard played a career-high 37.7 mpg last year, which was tops among all centers. In fact, the only other centers to play 36+ minutes (Yao Ming & Chris Kaman) both missed 25+ games. Most big men aren't able to play big minutes, but Superman seems about as indestructible as they come. His backup minutes will be shared between the veteran leather-slapper Adonal Foyle and the Polish youngster Marcin Gortat. Rashard Lewis played 38 mpg (mostly at power forward), but I'm projecting that number to fall to 36-37 this season due to Tony Battie's return. Battie missed all of '07-08 after tearing his rotator cuff, but he was a key member of Orlando's rotation in the three seasons prior.
At small forward, Hedo Turkoglu received a career-high 36.9 minutes of action and didn't miss a single game. Keith Bogans (26.9 mpg) started 35 games at shooting guard, but will likely come off the bench this season thanks to Pietrus. I'm currently projecting 36-38 minutes for Turkoglu, 28-30 minutes for Pietrus, and then 20-22 minutes for Bogans off the bench, which leaves about 12 extra minutes for either JJ Redick or (more likely) Courtney Lee. At point guard, Jameer Nelson played just 28.4 minutes in '07-08, but the Magic would love for him to improve so they can increase that to 30-32 this season. His primary backup will be 11-year veteran Anthony Johnson, who could get anywhere from 12-22 minutes depending on Nelson's play.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Mickael PietrusIf anyone wants one of those retro Warriors jerseys with "The CITY" on the front and "PIETRUS" on the back, just let me know. I bought it a few years ago fully expecting the "French Michael Jordan" to have a breakout season. While Pietrus flashed plenty of potential as a Warrior, he never really achieved the breakout season that I expected. But fear not Magic fans, because the 26-year old is about to enter his prime. His career stats are very mediocre, but when MP gets consistent minutes and plays with confidence, he can fill up the stat sheet and be a difference maker on both ends of the floor. For example, check out his split stats from 11 games in March '08 (Golden St. went 7-4):
31.3 min, 12.1 points, 8.1 boards, 1.4 steals, .7 blocks, 1.1 threes, 47.4% FG, 36.4% 3P, 72.2% FT.
His free throw shooting is a major sore spot and he's prone to mental lapses, but there aren't many guys in the league with the potential to average 1 steal, 1 block, 1 three, and 1 dunk per game. I'm guessing he won't even be drafted in most leagues, but if you want to use one of your last round picks on a guy with significant upside, I highly recommend nabbing Air France.
BE CAREFUL OF: Dwight HowardI was certain the Man-Beast was going to have a breakout season in '07-08, but I wasn't expecting him to attempt the 3rd-most free throws in a season since 1990 (Shaq attempted 972 in '00-01, David Robinson attempted 925 in '93-94, and Howard attempted 897 in '07-08). As a result, I drafted him too early in a couple of leagues and my team's FT% paid the price. In Roto leagues, even if you surround him with multiple 80-90% FT guys, your team will have a tough time earning more than a couple of points in that category.
As a result, I don't recommend using a Top 25 pick on Howard. There are in fact, many fantasy owners out there who won't even use a Top 50 pick (or Top 80 pick in leagues that use turnovers) on the guy, but I disagree with those people for a couple of reasons.
1) As I said earlier, the guy is an Iron Man. Sure, Yao posts better per game numbers, but when was the last time he played all 82 games? Knowing that you can rely on Howard for a full season is very comforting, and it should ease your concerns for making him your #1 center.
2) Under the right scenario, you could totally use a Top 30 pick on him and still win your league. Want an example? Let's say you have the 3rd overall pick and LeBron James (71.2% FT) falls into your lap (sweet!). In Round 2, you see that Carlos Boozer (73.8% FT) is still around at #22, so you take him. At this point, you could just decide to throw FT% out the window and grab Howard at #27. I used to not believe in "punting a category," but now I firmly believe that you can grab the Man-Beast and still win by using this strategy.
Want some other players to target?
-Baron Davis (75% FT). Not a very good FT% for a PG, so if he's around at #22, opt for him over Boozer.
-Tony Parker (71.5% FT). Tony's shooting %'s (and threes) are like a big man's, but HE gets assists.
-Tracy McGrady (68.4% FT). I usually avoid him like the plague, but he's a lot more attractive without FT%.
-Ron Artest (71.9% FT). Excellent stats except for shooting %'s. Take him if T-Mac's gone.
-Gerald Wallace (73.1% FT). Oodles and oodles of steals and solid all-around stats, but his FT% hurts.
-Andre Iguodala (72.1% FT). Iggy is a stat-stuffer who can't make free throws. That's ok on this team.
-Josh Smith (71% FT). Insane blocks, and another superb guy to team up with Howard using this strategy.
-Emeka Okafor (57% FT). Howard + Okafor = Best FG% & rebound duo, but worst FT% duo.
-Andrew Bogut (58.7% FT). Bogut's FT% sucks, but his big man stats are solid and he gets assists.
-Shaquille O'Neal (50.3% FT). Of course Shaq belongs here because he's the main reason this strategy exists today (unless some die-hard stat geeks were playing Roto hoops in the Wilt Chamberlain era).
3) He's freakin' Superman! The sky's the limit for this kid. Would you be surprised if he had a 44 point, 30 rebound game? Me neither. Enough said.
CONCLUSION: In Roto leagues, you need to be very careful of Howard's FT%, but that doesn't mean you can't use a Top 30 pick on him and still win your league!
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Howard: 3rd - 4th