Wednesday 29th May 2024,
The Hoop Doctors

The Orlando Magic are the best kept secret in the NBA

Orlando Magic - Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu
May 3, 2008 – Dr. Anklesnap

All season we’ve heard about how dominant the Western Conference has been, and specifically how good they are compared to the Eastern Conference. Even the teams with the top two regular season records in the entire league (Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons) had a tough time getting mentioned by NBA analysts when the discussion of who the eventual 2008 NBA Champions would be. So given that fact, its not such a big surprise just how far removed the Orlando Magic were from those discussions. Maybe it should be surprising; I know I’m still baffled.

The Orlando Magic won 52 games this year, and beat many of the Western Conference’s top teams along the way. Put the wins aside though for a second, would you really feel comfortable betting against a team with “Superman” Dwight Howard on the roster? I certainly wouldn’t. The guy is an absolute beast. He was consistently mentioned in the early stages of the season as a contender for league MVP, putting up huge double doubles nightly. Although his statistics tapered off a bit in the mid-late part of the season dropping him out of the MVP discussions, the Magic continued to win consistently. In fact they were arguably the most consistent team in the league this year, with very few losing streaks and multiple short win streaks.

Why did Dwight Howards play taper off? I guess he must have been saving his energy for the playoffs, a-la-Shaquille O’Neal? Although I highly doubt it, the guy has come barreling out of the gates this post-season with the type of dominating interior play I haven’t seen in the NBA since the likes of David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O’Neal. In the opening game of the playoffs on April 20th against the Toronto Raptors, Howard put up 25 pts, 22 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots. Are you kidding me?

As dominant as Howard is inside the paint, I can’t honestly say he’s even their biggest offensive weapon. Now if you haven’t been following the Magic closely this year, on paper many of you would probably assume I’m referring to the off-season acquisition of small forward Rashard Lewis. Wrong. I’m talking about Hedo Turkoglu. Now I probably should apologize to Hedo. As recent as 4-5 years ago I can remember yelling at the TV…“C’mon Turkey Glue, you good for nothin’…” Keep in mind this was back in his days with Sacramento, when Hedo had all the potential to become the next great foreign shooting sensation in the mould of a Peja Stojakovic, but lacked the focus and consistency necessary to avoid the wrath of a Sacramento Kings fan.

Fast-forward to the 2007-2008 season and what you have is a mystifying improvement to the focus, leadership, and all around play of Hedo Turkoglu. He put up 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. His career best point and rebound totals were second on the Magic only to Dwight Howard. And his career best assist totals were the teams second best only to their point guard Jameer Nelson. I was extremely thrilled to hear his hard work and dedication to improvement resulted in the league’s recognition as the 2008 NBA Most Improved Player.

So a team with the much improved Hedo Turkoglu, Superman Dwight Howard, sharpshooter Rashard Lewis, and the engine that runs this machine Jameer Nelson is being overlooked by almost everybody as a legitimate contender to win it all huh?

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Well what about depth?

This team is deeper than the Pacific Ocean! At backup point guard Coach Stan Van Gundy has his choice of the proficient Carlos Arroyo or Keyon Dooling. To sub at the wing Van Gundy has legitimate options with Maurice Evans, Keith Bogans, or even sharpshooter JJ Redick. At the PF spot, the Magic have high energy, scrappy hustle players such as Pat Garrity, and Brian Cook (the latter of which can step out and knock down the 3-ball as well). And if God forbid Superman needs a rest from time to time, the Magic won’t fall apart by playing the veteran center Adonal Foyle.

This team has a young core, but has the right mix of veteran leaders and an experienced coaching staff to make it work. The Orlando Magic have been flying under the radar all year, and it didn’t seem to bother them. Or did it? They are certainly playing this post-season like they have a chip on their shoulder. In Round 1, the way they quickly disposed of the Raptors team that gave them fits throughout the regular season, the Magic are looking poised and ready to finally draw the attention from around the League they deserve.

Can the Magic finally get back to the elusive NBA Finals for the first time since their glory days of Shaq and Penny?

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