One of my favorite features on ESPN.com is the website’s “5-on-5” roundtables, in which people who follow the
So why not adapt that to the
With a tip of the hat to the folks in Bristol, I've asked four people who have followed the team year-in, year-out to give their opinions on the Magic's offseason, the Magic's month ahead and the upcoming regular season.
Our panelists are:
• Andrew Melnick, the NBA editor at SB Nation Tampa Bay,
• Eddy Rivera, the editor-in-chief of Magic Basketball,
• Philip Rossman-Reich, the editor of Orlando Magic Daily and
• Brian Serra, the founder of Magic Basketball Online.
So, here they go:
1. How do you grade the Magic's offseason?
Melnick: It is difficult to give the Magic any kind of high mark in an offseason when they lost the third-best player in the league and one of the five best coaches. Plus, they lost their second-best player,
Rivera: Incomplete. I realize we live in a time where rapid reactions and instant analyses reign supreme in the sports world. But I don't think it's fair to judge the Magic's offseason right now, especially at the beginning of a rebuilding phase. Only after a few years can we look back at this offseason and give a fair critique.
Rossman-Reich: Incomplete. It would be too easy to give the Magic a failing grade for this offseason. They were going to lose the
Serra: Not applicable. There is no way to accurately measure the offseason of a team that was forced to trade away a top-five player in the world. Three years from now, if the team is still in “
2. What's the most pressing issue the Magic have to address during the preseason?
Melnick: I don’t think the Magic have addressed one of their biggest needs from last season: backup point guard. They brought Nelson back to be the starter and re-signed
Rivera: For a rebuilding team, I don't think there's issues to address in the short-term. I think there's goals to be set for the long-term. A few come to mind: (a) lose as much as possible (i.e. tanking) to accumulate high draft picks, (b) trade any expendable players for assets and (c) concentrate on player (and coach) development.
Rossman-Reich: The Magic will need to really buy into the team concept on both ends of the floor this preseason. Without Howard or a consistent offensive option, Orlando has lost the safety net to clean up mistakes on both ends of the floor. Defensively, the team will have to work together to cover each other and work harder individually. Offensively, the team needs to find a way to generate points consistently and work together to do so without that go-to scorer. This is the best bet for this team to find an identity. Otherwise it might just drift into the cellar.
Serra: Stability. This is a core group of players who spent their last two years in a pure state of chaos. Clearly established roles and a clear path forward for roster spots 1-15 will be pivotal to getting off to a competitive start. Winning breeds contentment, losing breeds contempt.
3. The Magic's preseason will be a success if . . .
Melnick: . . . nobody gets hurt. Really, that’s the key to every preseason. Of course, things are a little different this season because of all of the young players the Magic have on the roster. The preseason will be about helping the young players adjust to being a professional and playing more often, especially for the rookies (
Rivera: . . . everyone stays healthy.
Rossman-Reich: . . . there are no further injuries. It is no secret that the Magic will be shopping just about any player. So the injury setbacks to a veteran like
Serra: . . . the team remains healthy. Which may prove to be quite difficult, since three role players are already injured. With Smith, Harkless and Harrington already sidelined for most or all of camp, will the rest of the injury-prone team be able to survive two-a-days? I’d expect to see coach
4. What is Vaughn's toughest task in the month ahead?
Melnick: Vaughn’s toughest task is going to be simply making his team competitive night-in and night-out. The Magic built their entire team around Howard and will be a completely different team system-wise this season. There is no true go-to guy, and although there are a few veterans (
Rivera: The best coaches in the NBA, like
Rossman-Reich: Vaughn will have to get his team to buy in and establish a "play hard" mentality despite the adversity and losses on the floor. In many of my answers in this Q & A, I have talked more about the franchise a few years down the road rather than the franchise this year. I imagine that kind of talk has to be frustrating for a professional athlete with only a finite amount of time in the league. Vaughn's biggest task will be establishing habits and keeping his team focused on playing hard this season no matter the potential result of any individual game.
Serra: Turkoglu. What to do, what to do? An aging 33-year-old small forward who continues to slow down and who belongs on a contender, not a rebuild. However, the team is desperate for ball-handling and as
5. How many wins do you expect for the Magic during the 2012-13 regular season?
Melnick: I expect about 20 wins for the Magic. I think the Magic do have veterans who will help keep the team in games, but overall, the talent just isn’t there. And that’s OK. As I mentioned above, NBA teams have to bottom out when they lose a superstar to free agency or a trade. Bottoming out helped Cleveland land
Rivera: Twenty wins or so. Orlando will struggle to score, struggle to play defense, and struggle to win games. And the organization will be better for it in the long-term, assuming they land a franchise player along the way.
Rossman-Reich: I believe the Magic will win 27 games this year. I have to agree with Redick that this team is not as bad as it looks. There are several veterans who will know how to contribute in enlarged roles and should keep the team focused. This should be a fun team to watch and it should play hard every night. Having said that, the defense is a huge question mark and should be inconsistent all year (think early 2000s bad). Without a consistent offensive option, this team may sputter at times and may struggle to put the ball in the hoop.
Serra: Thirty-eight. When Dwight (remember him?) went out at the end of last season the team went 5-10, including losing the final four playoff games to Indiana. Nine of those 10 losses were to playoff teams with an undersized Big Baby at center and a vanished Ryan Anderson. Slide Baby in for Anderson at power forward (push), Afflalo in for