Dec 15, 2011, 12:42 PM EDT
Last season: 52-30, fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Lost a close first-round series to the Atlanta Hawks in six games.
Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy, if he can manage to not go insane while continually asked about the Dwight Howard situation all season.
Key Additions: Glen Davis, who isn’t necessarily better than Brandon Bass, but may be a better fit alongside Dwight Howard. And, Davis has had success in postseasons past containing Howard, so there’s that.
Best case scenario: It’s unfortunate for Magic fans to hear, but it’s true nonetheless: The best thing for the franchise would be to trade Dwight Howard sooner rather than later, for the most assets it can get in the best possible package. Orlando’s current roster isn’t capable of getting past the second round of the playoffs, and the team doesn’t have many attractive assets of its own to bring in the level of talent it’s going to take to make Howard think it’s worth it to stay.
For that to happen: Orlando will need to seek a trade with one of the three teams that Howard has reportedly agreed to sign a new contract with: The Lakers, Mavericks, or Nets.
In New Jersey, Howard would be paired with an elite point guard in Deron Williams, on a franchise with an owner who has unlimited cash to throw at additional free agents. The same can be said in the short-term in Dallas, though the Mavericks’ assets are aging ones that wouldn’t help Orlando in the long run. The Lakers might be the best spot for both Howard and the Magic, but only if the Magic get the younger Andrew Bynum in a deal, along with some picks that would have to come from getting a third team involved in the talks.
More likely the Magic will: At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Reports surfaced that the plan was to shut down trade talks for Howard and play out the first part of the season, perhaps postponing the inevitable until the trade deadline, which has been extended this shortened season until mid-March. The team then said nothing has changed in their thinking, so honestly, nobody knows. All we know now is that the Magic’s roster as is can’t contend for a title, and Dwight Howard can leave after this season as an unrestricted free agent if he so chooses.
Prediction: Dwight Howard is moved before the trade deadline, and Orlando finishes — just barely — with enough wins to make the playoffs.
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