2011-12 Season Summary:
The soap opera that was the Orlando Magic this past season was one interesting ride. Any Dwight Howard trade rumor was put to rest when Howard agreed to pick up his player option for next year and at least commit to the Magic for one more season. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to a back injury, which ultimately eliminated Orlando from having any chance of making noise in the postseason.
Howard's situation also led to the firing of head coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith. The Magic superstar was pretty much pulling the strings for the franchise as the relationship between he and Van Gundy grew rockier and rockier all season long.
In terms of the actual team, (what a concept, huh?) the emergence of Ryan Anderson was a pleasant surprise as he was named the NBA's Most Improved Player. Anderson became the Magic's second scoring option and his ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting helped open things up inside for Howard.
Besides Anderson, there were a lot of average-at-best performances from the rest of the roster. Veterans Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and J.J. Redick were unable to elevate their games beyond what has become expected. Hedo Turkoglu continues to make his case as one of the league's most overpaid players as he hasn't come close to reaching the impact he had during his first tenure in Orlando.
Newcomer Glen Davis brought some energy off the bench before really stepping up in Howard's absence in the playoffs, leading the team in postseason scoring. Nobody else on the roster is even worth writing about.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Dwight Howard/*Daniel Orton
PF: *Ryan Anderson/Glen Davis/Justin Harper
SF: Hedo Turkoglu/Quentin Richardson/+Earl Clark
SG: Jason Richardson/J.J. Redick/*DeAndre Liggins
PG: #Jameer Nelson/Chris Duhon/#Ishmael Smith
NBA Free Agents:
#PG-Jameer Nelson (TO)
#PG-Ishmael Smith (TO)
#C-Daniel Orton (TO)
*PF-Ryan Anderson (RFA)
*G/F-DeAndre Liggins (RFA)
+SF-Earl Clark (PO)
SG-Von Wafer (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $56 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Re-sign Howard:
Whoever becomes the Magic's new general manager has the seemingly impossible task of trying to convince Howard to sign a long-term extension. If that new GM is unable to do so, he must seriously weigh the option of dealing Howard prior to the trade deadline in hopes of getting something in return and accelerating the re-building process.
2. Better Complementary Players:
The easiest way to convince Howard to stick in Orlando is by adding some better complementary players, which is easier said than done. Orlando has no cap flexibility and some pretty awful contracts that will be extremely difficult to trade. More than likely, that leaves the Magic's first-round pick (19th overall) and its mid-level exception as the only chances to upgrade the roster.
3. What About Anderson and Nelson?:
Ryan Anderson's breakout season came at the perfect time since he is a restricted free agent. He is due a massive pay raise and Orlando must debate how much it is willing to re-sign him for, and if it is willing to go over the luxury tax by doing so.
Nelson has a player option on the final year of his deal, meaning he could opt out and become an unrestricted free agent. If that happens, the team must again decide whether or not it is willing to ink him to a long-term deal.
4. Back-up Big:
Daniel Orton has not developed in his two seasons in the NBA, and with Howard's future uncertain, finding another true big man would be a wise decision this summer.