01 August 2007

Are the Magic a Playoff Team? Discussion From Around the Web

  • Unsilent Majority: "Tough break [sic] Orlando"
  • Ballhype: The Magic are a team "Expecting to make playoffs but probably won't"
  • Basketbawful: The Bucks and Magic will fight a losing battle for the final playoff spot.

(Kudos to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop for publishing this wrapup, from which the above quotes came)

Yes, the Trade To End All Trades has occurred, prompting every NBA fan with a pulse and a keyboard to make their playoff picks for next season. Nevermind the fact that the playoffs are eight-and-a-half months away.

Kevin Garnett's arrival in Boston may have knocked the Magic out of playoff contention.
Photo by Charles Krupa, the Associated Press

I should note that not all bloggers are taking a negative view of us. J.E. Skeets writes:
Who makes the playoffs? Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, and Boston are locks. Miami, though they'll still sneak into the playoffs, won't even be the best team in Florida. Simply put: '06-07 Magic + Rashard Lewis - Brian Hill (!) = approximately 10 more wins. Yes, I think Orlando will win 50 games this year. Book it.
Brendan Sonnone of Believing in Magic also, uh, believes in us. Homerism? Perhaps. Worth reading? Yes.

So, with rare exception, most bloggers aren't giving us a chance. But ESPN's experts are a little kinder:

Does the addition of Rashard Lewis make the Magic a postseason lock?

Abbott: Like Boston, I feel the Magic need a top-flight point guard before they can be considered a reliable top Eastern team. And again, I'm feeling that barring a surprise there aren't a lot of Eastern spots up for grabs.

Hollinger: Again, not so fast. The Magic lost nearly as much as they gained between Hill, Darko and Diener, and their neighborhood just got tougher.

Stein: A lock, yes. Just because Lewis is way -- W-A-Y -- overpaid doesn't mean I don't like the idea of pairing Rashard with Dwight Howard. As long as we're only talking about finishing in the top eight, sure. Howard and Lewis aren't enough to lift Orlando to contender status, but those two get you in the playoffs in spite of some obvious holes around them.

Thorpe: Barring injury, probably yes. Especially with the new coach. They can play big or small effectively, and Dwight Howard should only keep growing as a player. Jameer Nelson is obviously a key, as is getting production from J.J. Redick. I like both to have better seasons this year.

Bucher: No lock, but I like their chances, as much because they hired Stan Van Gundy as having added Lewis to a team that squeaked into the playoffs last year. Boston is the only certifiable lottery team from last year joining the playoff mix and with the Wizards still a mixed bag and huge question marks about Miami, the Magic have as good a shot as they did last year. Which was good enough.

So they aren't singing our praises, but they aren't hanging us out to dry, either. But I get the feeling that it won't matter what we do when the season starts; we'll be disrespected no matter what. Let me explain: last year, we got off to a scorching 13-4 start, beating the Western-leading Jazz in Utah along the way. We were the toast of the league. Seriously.

Our season unraveled soon thereafter and we just squeaked into the playoffs, where we were summarily pounded by Detroit. We won a combined 10 games in December and January; to put that misery into perspective, we got our 10th overall victory three-and-a-half weeks into the season. The bottom dropped out. We were laughingstocks.

Dwight Howard couldn't have been satisfied with the way last season played out.
Photo by Gary W. Green, the Orlando Sentinel

So, even if we get off to a hot start this season, everyone will say we won't keep it up, pointing to last season as evidence. If we get off to a cold start, everyone will say we're paying the price for overpaying Rashard Lewis. And if we get off to a lukewarm start... it's still lukewarm. We won't get any respect.

All that lead me to write this entry. I'm playing the disrespect card and I'm not afraid to do so. The stuff the bloggers at the top wrote? That's bulletin-board material. We know that all too well. Remember when T-Mac said "now that we're in the second round" after going up 3-1 on the Pistons, only to lose out the rest of the way? You think that quote wasn't plastered all over the Pistons' locker room?

I don't claim to be read by anyone remotely connected with the Magic, so this entry won't motivate the team. What it should do is motivate its fans to stand and cheer, loudly and proudly, for their team. Let them talk smack about us. Let them write us off. We'll show 'em.

It worked for Golden State.

Photo by Ben Margot, the Associated Press

It can work for us.

So, what do you think? Are we a playoff team next year? I posed this question in a poll, but Blogger is goofing-up on me and it won't work, so it's stuck at the bottom of the page below my picture until further notice.


Basketbawful said...

I wasn't trying to dis the Magic in any way. I thought long and hard about whether to include them in the list of probably playoff teams. Essentially, Boston usurped their spot...but only because they obtained both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, while retaining Paul Pierce. Neither team has a lot of talent or depth outside of their stars, and I just think that an Allen/Garnett/Pierce combo is superior to a Howard/Lewis combo.

Don't forget that respect is something that typically has to be earned over time. As you point out in your post, the Magic cooled off significantly after their strong start. They barely made the playoffs and then got thumped. Most of the teams I called for the playoffs -- Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, New Jersey, and Washington -- each have a core of proven, battle-tested players who know each other. The other two, well, Boston I explained, and Toronto performed a little better last season and they aren't going through major turnover, as Orlando is.

If you read my full prediction, I said that Orlando will just miss out on the last playoff spot, and that there will be little to choose between the eight who do make it. Unless I'm really missing something, I'd say that my comments at least were less a sign of disrespect than a realistic analysis of playoff potential.

Of course, all it would take is one major injury to completely alter the playoff landscape...


That article was really well put together. I was thinking about referencing it over at the other Magic Blog.

The funny thing is, I read a lot of the same articles myself and it prompted me to put together a breakdown of the Eastern Conference. I didn't actually post it up anywhere; I just saved it on my computer. As you realize, it’s still really early. But the East is really interesting to look at next year. There are no "bad teams", but there are no great teams either. The thing that’ll be interesting is to see which ones, if any, differentiate themselves from the rest of the mediocrity.

By the way, pending an injury plagued season the Magic will make the playoffs. My gut feeling, all things considered right now, is putting them in the 4 spot.

Ben Q. Rock said...

Basketbawful, I didn't mean to sound like I was bashing your writing. I see that you're being realistic: Boston was a non-playoff team that's now a playoff lock. It makes sense, at least intuitively, to bump the no. 8 seed out of the bracket for the following season. But I think Miami is more likely to drop off the face of the planet. A few posts earlier, you wrote that the Heat got "significantly worse." Even with Wade at 95% and Shaq playing 60+ games, I don't think they have enough to overtake the Magic. But we'll see how it shakes out in the coming months.

Again, no disrespect intended to you or to your writing.

Ben Q. Rock said...

It's funny you mention writing that playoff preview, Wade. I did the same thing... and banished it to my computer. It'll likely never see the light of the internet.
As for the playoffs, the 4th seed is possible only if we win the division. Washington and Miami don't scare me much, but they can't be overlooked either. It's going to be a hotly contested race.


The Magic are being put in the same spot as they were last season. Some said they would squeak in, and others said they would miss the playoffs.

After hearing and reading up on what the "pros" thought, I realized that they didn't watch the Magic at all. The topic of discussion every time there was anything national about Orlando was:

1.) Grant Hill - Why? Probably because that was the most familiar name on our roster, and for the fact he was actually playing for once.
2.) A young star in Dwight Howard.
3.) Last, rookie J.J. Redick, college player of the year, also a familiar name, who wasn’t playing.

Jameer, Arroyo, and Dooling are not bad at the point guard position. Under the right coach, it could be a solid position for us.

Hedo is no scrub either.

Most people in the basketball world, including the "pros" have no clue who Trevor Ariza is. If you want some funny proof, go play last years NBA 2K7; when Ariza does anything, they refer to him as "number 1". How unknown do you have to be to not even have your name put in a video game? Last year, before he got injured, he looked like an all-star in the making, and that was stated by more than one person. But as of right now, he's viewed as nothing more than a "Donald Royal".

The point is, when the Magic were healthy we had one of the deepest rosters in the league. The problem was, we were rarely healthy, and Brian Hill had no clue how to utilize our depth.

All things considered; last year we had a horrible coach, and we had a ton of injuries. With good coaching, the right players on the floor, another year for under the belts of all our young players, the addition of Rashard, and a little luck with health, how could anyone say the Magic will not make the playoffs?

Basketbawful said...

You're right, ben, I did say -- and still believe -- that Miami got worse. But, and I might be way off here, it's hard to bet against a team with two former Finals MVPs making the playoffs. I mean, until Shaq outright fails, I don't want to bet against him.

Robin Hahn said...