On Tap: The Orlando Magic

Kurt —  December 23, 2005

Record: 9-14 (Pythagorean 8-15), 11th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 2-8
Offensive Rating: (101.1, 28th in league)
Defensive Rating: (105.2, 12th in league)

About the Magic: Orlando plays solid team defense, opponents shoot a pretty average 48.6% (eFG%) against them. And those teams only get one shot — the Magic grab the defensive rebound on 71.4% of opponents missed shots, the second best percentage in the league.

What hurts the Magic is their offense is pathetic. They shoot poorly (46.6%) but make up for that by turning the ball over a lot (18.7% of possessions, 28th in the league). They don’t have anybody who shoots particularly efficiently — the guy who shoots the most is point guard Steve Francis and he is hitting just 44.4% of his shots. In case you were wondering whatever happened to Hedo Turkoglu, he’s in Orlando and continues to be pretty average (a PER of 14.8), but that’s good enough to start in the City that Disney Owns (well, the other one, east of the Mississippi.).

The offense should pick up now that Grant Hill is back, he has played the last four games and looked good doing so. He has led the team in that time, scoring 19.1 points per 40 minutes, shooting 52.3% (eFG%) and has a true shooting % of 57.9%.

The future of the franchise — and the one guy that could take over a game for the Magic — is second-year man Dwight Howard. His offense still needs some polish: he’s scoring a nice 16.7 points per 40 minutes played while shooting 49% (a true shooting percentage of 52.8%). Pretty good numbers but you know he’s getting better at that end. Where he is already a beast is on the boards, grabbing 14.1 rebounds per 40, or 21.5% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, the second best pace in the league. Howard is capable of — and has this season — scored a 20-20.

One thing I hope to see tonight: An end to the discussion about whether Kobe should have gone for 80 or more points in the fourth quarter against Dallas. Personally, I think he did the right thing — it’s a long season and guys who log a lot of minutes should take their rest when they can get it and not risk injury if they don’t have to. The game was over at that point.

But while you can make an argument the other way, why would you? I mean, outside of trying to stir up radio calls or television ratings? The decision was Kobe’s and who has been in that position before and stepped forward to rip Kobe? I didn’t hear Michael Jordan or Elgin Baylor comment.

Off topic college basketball thought: Cal State Northridge beat USC. USC defeated defending national champion North Carolina. Ergo…..

The Lakers coming in: While it’s hard not to talk about Kobe’s amazing 62 points in three quarters, the overlooked part is this — Dallas only scored 61 in three quarters and shot 37.5% (eFG%) for the game. To be fair, Dallas (and Nowitzki in particular) missed some open shots and things they normally hit, but the Laker defense was much better Tuesday night.

The bad news is that Laron Proffit is out for the season. He had been providing some decent minutes off the bench for the team, with a PER of 12.6 but shooting 49.4%.

His absence, if the Lakers choose to buy out his contract, could make things easier for Mitch Kupchak, who would have had to let someone else go to make a roster spot for Ronny Turiaf. He is working his way back to playing shape — Turiaf signed with the Yakima Sun Kings of the CBA, and will play with them for a while.

Key’s to a Laker win: I’m curious, after the 62, how Orlando will choose to defend Kobe. If they do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t beat them, the rest of the Lakers need to hit their shots. It’s that simple. When the other Lakers shoot well, the team usually wins.

The big key will be to play defense like they did against Dallas — the Magic are a team the Lakers can shut down. They should be able to get some turnovers and turn those into easy baskets the other way. Grant Hill needs to be a focus and may have Kobe on him. Smush needs to keep Steve Francis from having an efficient night, and the team needs to keep Dwight Howard off the offensive glass (where he can score points on putback and draw lots of fouls). Play good “D” and this is a very winable game to start the road trip.