May 29, 2010, 11:38 AM EDT
The Orlando Magic are close. They went to the NBA finals last season, the Eastern Conference finals this season. You can see a championship from where they stand.
But what is it going to take to get into the Promised Land?
It’s about getting more out of what they have, not bringing in anything new. There are already 10 guys set to be paid on the Magic roster next year and it is all the major contributors — Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson even JJ Redick will all be back (although they need to work out an extension with Redick, he can test the market but the Magic can match or extend a one-year qualifying offer).
What the Magic need more than anything is Dwight Howard to develop a jump shot. Not a Rashard Lewis bombing from three jumper, but a Kevin Garnett/Pau Gasol deadly midrange jumper. A spot along the baseline and near the free throw line where he becomes a deadly shooter that can’t be left alone. It would change how teams have to defend him, it would open up the paint for slashers. It would make the Magic much harder to stop on offense.
This season you could count on one Dwight Howard shot outside 10 feet every other game (0.7 per game, to be specific). On those he’d shoot about 38 percent. Basically, if he lined up to take it you let him have it.
But if he had a threat from the outside he would be impossible to defend. It would add a little finesse to go with the power. He’s quick enough off the dribble that he could take centers who came out to challenge him. Help defenses would be pulled away from the basket, opening up room for Carter and Nelson to slash to the rim. The Magic would have more options.
Aside that, don’t expect huge moves from the Magic. They already have about $80 million on the books for next season, they are not going to go a lot higher. However, with the new revenue streams that will flow in when the Amway Center opens its doors, they may be able to take on a little more. Like a nice backup power forward for the midlevel exception (although they will have Brandon Bass back, they may want to give him more burn).
The Magic can get one more piece, or make some moves around the edges. But what it really comes down to is getting more out of core the pieces they have. Which is something Dwight Howard seemed to get in his post game comments.
“Next year we have got to have guys that are willing to give everything they have got to get wins,” Howard said in his televised post game press conference on NBA TV. “(Boston) played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series. That’s why they are in the position that they are in now.”
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