After a 1-3 west coast road trip that left them reeling and on the outside looking in terms of being a championship contender, the Magic shook up their roster. Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a first round pick and cash considerations were shipped to the Phoenix Suns. The Magic received Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and welcomed back former Magic wing Hedo Turkoglu in return. They also sent Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Gilbert Arenas.
It’s obvious the newly acquired players are going to have a profound impact, but how are they going to affect the players that were already there?
The first and most obvious question surrounding the deal is how the biggest name in the trade, Gilbert Arenas, will fit in to the equation. Some assumed Arenas, who commands the ball and really needs to in order to be at his best.
“Gilbert is a player, I think he has to have the ball in his hands,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “He is not a guy that is primarily an off the ball guy.”
Van Gundy, however, was quick to note Nelson, a co-captain (along with Dwight Howard), would remain the team’s starting point guard.
“Of the four guys, one of them has got to come off the bench,” Van Gundy said. “Jameer will not be the guy. It will be Gilbert, Jason or Turk. It will not be Jameer.”
Both Nelson and Arenas have to see a lot of action in order for the Magic to be successful.
“They both have to play 32-plus minutes a game,” Van Gundy said. “So that leaves them somewhere in the 16-18 minute range where they are playing together and at other times they will play separately.”
There will be several instances in which the two players are on the court together and based on their history, the two will likely be paired up in the backcourt down the stretch in games.
Nelson has hit two game-winning shots this season and Arenas has a reputation as a big shot maker.
Nelson has expressed his desire to play off the ball in certain situations, which could be a good fit next to Arenas.
“We’re two basketball players who are who aggressive with the ball so we have to play off each other and just be aggressive no matter who has the ball,” Nelson said.
Nelson is also comfortable playing without the ball, saying it “doesn’t bother” him to play off the ball. He went to say he doesn’t expect his role to change much, especially since he is going to continue being the starter.
Against Atlanta Monday, Areas came off the bench and that appears to be the plan for the Magic going forward.
With two wings coming in (Jason Richardson and Turkoglu) and with Arenas able to play the 2, it seems like players like Quentin Richardson and J.J. Redick may their minutes get reduced. That may be true but playing with creators like Turkoglu and Arenas should benefit them when they’re in the game. Both Redick and Quentin Richardson had disappointing starts to the season and haven’t shot as well as they’d like from the outside but they have proven to be very capable of putting him high percentages from beyond the arc.
Without anyone to create shots for themselves or others, open shots have been harder to come by. Turkoglu and especially Arenas are able to beat players off the dribble and get into the lane, drawing defenders to them. Obviously, Dwight Howard’s presence draws defenders to him but the Magic need to find a way to get open looks when Howard is having an off or is not playing for whatever reason (with foul trouble being the most likely candidate). When they get into the lane, they can the ball out to guys like Quentin Richardson, Redick and Jason Richardson, who are all very talented shooters.
Quentin Richardson and Redick should also continue to see playing time based on their defense. None of the players the Magic have recently acquired are known for their production on that side of the ball. Redick works very hard on the defensive end and the very least should be considered adequate while Quentin Richardson has a reputation as a solid defender. With the absence of Mickael Pietrus, he instantly becomes Orlando’s best perimeter defender.
It will also cause Quentin Richardson, who has started 19 of his 25 games this season, to move to the bench full time. That shouldn’t be a problem. Richardson moved to the bench for five games when Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy inserted Brandon Bass into the starting lineup at the 4 and slid Rashard Lewis to the 3. Richardson didn’t make one complaint and Van Gundy called him a “professional,” praising his willingness to change his role for the good of the team.
Turkoglu’s teammates should be able to adjust to his return rather easily because he’s only been gone for a little over a year. Both captains, Nelson and Howard, are very familiar with him and have played well with him in the past.
“With playing with Turk, he was here and he fit in well,” Nelson said.
As for the backup point guards, Chris Duhon and Jason Williams, that’s a different story. If Arenas is indeed going to continue coming off of the bench like he did in Orlando’s loss to Atlanta Monday, it leaves these two on the outside looking in. Neither player appeared in Monday night’s game and unless there is an injury or foul trouble, that is a trend that will likely continue. Both players will probably be shopped by the Magic as they attempt to find another big.
“To say we are done, I don’t know if that would be accurate,” Magic General Manager Otis Smith said. “We are going to continue to look at things and see if we can get our team fortified in areas.”
Speaking of bigs, the Magic need another in a hurry. With the departure of Marcin Gortat, there is no backup center. Malik Allen will have to give minutes at both the 4 and the 5 until Ryan Anderson gets back from his foot injury. Allen is a nice presence in the locker room and on the bench but the Magic can’t seriously trust him to give solid minutes against bigger teams like the Boston Celtics and will continue to look around for another big. Bringing Tony Battie back from the Philadelphia 76ers may be an option but for now, Dwight Howard is going to have to log heavy minutes. He played 42 minutes Monday night.
Brandon Bass may benefit the most from the trades. Bass, who made his fifth start of the season Tuesday, is now the full time starting power forward. Bass scored 13 points and grabbed 5 boards Monday night.
Bass gives the Magic a stronger presence at the 4 but takes away the Stretch 4. With Rashard Lewis, the Magic had a very good three-point shooter playing power forward, surrounding Howard with 4 shooters.
“We will actually play bigger, or at least bulkier, upfront than we have in the last couple of years,” Van Gundy explained.
Of course, this dynamic is still a possibility because of the shooting prowess of Ryan Anderson.
How the players get along off the court could be a concern but Howard says it won’t be a problem.
“When you’ve got me and Jameer, there’s no way he won’t fit in with our team,” Howard explained. “We do whatever we can to make sure that everybody is loose and happy about coming to work every day.”
Van Gundy brushed off several of the other criticisms of the trade.
“I’m not really concerned,” Van Gundy told reporters. “Well, right now I am a little because we don’t have Ryan (Anderson) but when we get him back I think that we will be fine.”
However, he did have one concern.
“The one concern is that we don’t have a true center behind Dwight,” Van Gundy said. “So on those nights when he’s in foul trouble, it will be more of a struggle than when we had Marcin. On those nights, it could be tougher. But if you look down the road and you want to talk playoff series and everything, if Dwight is not there for major minutes, we are in trouble anyway.”
“That was the one thing in the move that Otis and I both had concerns with but we think it was worth the gamble,” Van Gundy added.
Overall, the Magic have put a younger, more athletic, better offensive team around some key pieces they already have and that can only help Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and the rest of the Magic.