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Orlando Magic: Waking Up From A Dwightmare

You may find this hard to believe, but it was just one short year ago that the Orlando Magic began the rebuilding process of the post Dwight Howard era. One reason I say that it may be hard to believe is because Dwight spent a solid year and a half making poops on the Orlando fans, teammates, coaches and management before he was finally traded to the Lakers (and how did that work out). The other reason that it surprises me that we are only a year removed from the end of the Dwightmare is because of how drastically different Orlando’s roster looks coming into this season compared to Dwight’s last season in Orlando (and even coming into last season). Check it out:

2011-12: Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, Earl Clark, Von Wafer

2012-13: Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Nikola Vucevic, J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts, E’Twaun Moore, Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn, Hedo Turkoglu
Returning Players from 2011-12: 5

2013-14: Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Glen Davis, Tobias Harris, Jason Maxiell, Jameer Nelson, E’Twaun Moore, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn, Hedo Turkoglu
Returning Players from 2011-12: 3

Apr 1, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) drives during the second quarter as Houston Rockets shooting guard Carlos Delfino (10) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As you can tell, there has been a changing of the guard in Orlando in a short amount of time. A few familiar faces remain (Nelson, Big Baby, Turkoglu), but the overall stench left behind by Dwight Howard’s exit is slowly drifting away. Second year General Manager Rob Hennigan has made a number of savvy roster maneuvers to position the Magic in a very enviable spot: In all likelihood, the Magic will still remain in the NBA’s metaphorical cellar, which will in turn result in a high lottery pick in a loaded 2014 NBA Draft. Even though this year will be another without a postseason trip, the bright side for Magic fans is that in place is a core of young players who aren’t yet good enough to put Orlando in playoff contention, but will benefit from taking some lumps together. So what can we expect from the Orlando this year?

1: Expect more moves from GM Rob Hennigan. Hennigan has been extremely active, making four trades in less than one calendar year in his position. Don’t be surprised if Orlando is taking offers for Davis, Turkoglu, Nelson (AKA: The leftovers from the Dwight Era) or the always seemingly on the trading block Arron Afflalo.

2: Expect to be impressed by Tobias Harris. Oh, you don’t know who Tobias Harris is? Don’t worry, I didn’t know too much about him either until he was shipped from Milwaukee to Orlando last February. Harris exceeded any expectations that could’ve possibly been set for him, averaging 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 29 games as a member of the Magic. He single-handedly won the J.J. Redick trade for Orlando, delivered an “Eff-You” 30 point, 19 rebound, 5 assist beat down on his former team in April, and even got himself an Honorable Mention Honorable Mention spot in my Top 50 NBA Players Countdown that you should check out as soon as you’re done reading this.

3: Finally, expect a heavy dosage of 2nd overall pick Victor Oladipo. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably irrationally high on Oladipo. Worst case scenario he’s Tony Allen 2.0. Best case scenario he’s the next closest thing to Dwyane Wade. Magic fans should be patient with Oladipo though. He’s still a raw talent whose offensive game could use some polish. If Orlando head coach Jacque Vaughn decides to give Oladipo some time at point guard—and don’t be surprised if this is the case—this not only allows Oladipo to channel his Russell Westbrook potential, but it also sneakily allows Orlando to suck a little more than they might otherwise, and again, that’s not a bad thing.

Remember, even if Orlando isn’t competitive this year, we’ll be watching a young team come along. A few years down the road Oladipo, Vucevic, Harris, and co. might be contending in the Eastern Conference.

sonnygiuliano