Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Are you a believer in the Magic yet? Meaning, are they championship material? Why or why not?
Steve Aschburner: I probably won’t be a believer in Magic right up to the point where Commissioner David Stern is handing Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard the Larry O’Brien trophy someday. It’s a bias I have against that 3-ball-heavy style of theirs and, irrationally enough, it lingers even though the two players I least trusted – Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis – are gone. Turns out Gilbert Arenas accounts for enough distrust for two. Now, if Marcus Camby is standing alongside Howard once the trading deadline passes … well, I’ll still be a skeptic until it all comes together.
Fran Blinebury: Things have come together quicker than I thought, but it could still be a problem in the playoffs due to a lack of size behind Dwight Howard. Can they really get away with simply extended minutes from Brandon Bass? The good news, of course, is that Miami lacks size as well. But those hulking Celtics could be a problem.
Art Garcia: I said in this space before that they were definitely improved, but I didn’t see parade potential. I’m changing my tune. Fast. Hedo Turkoglu finally looks comfortable again, Jason Richardson is solid and Gilbert is providing a spark off the bench. Tie that in with man-beast Dwight Howard and steady Jameer Nelson, and this is a team that should have the Celtics and Heat shaking in their sneakers.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I’m a believer they should be in the conversation – but also that they’re the third-best team in the East. They defend and rebound and shoot pretty well. Or at least they did before the big trade. Now, there’s a lot of relying on the unreliable Hedo Turkoglu and a weaker perimeter defense with the departure of Mickael Pietrus. Let’s see how the new mix works. Ask the question again in four to six weeks.
Shaun Powell: Orlando winning a championship would not surprise me in the least. I love the way Stan Van Gundy has made this transition go so smoothly, by satisfying all the egos and assigning roles in short time. Bringing Gilbert Arenas off the bench was a good move, a way to keep Jameer Nelson‘s confidence up and also take advantage of Gilbert’s “I won’t rock the boat”-mentality. Not saying GM Otis Smith should take any bows yet, but his work is paying off.
John Schuhmann: I’m going to need a little more time before I answer that question. They’ve been better on both ends of the floor since the trade, which is promising. I love that Stan is letting them run more, and I think they still match up relatively well against both Miami and Boston. But I’m curious about them using Brandon Bass as their primary four and reducing the number of shooters they have on the floor. That’s not how the Magic have been successful in the past, so I want to see it work over time and against the better teams in the league.
Sekou Smith: I’m a believer that the Magic have championship material and potential. The only problem for the Magic is that material and potential might only be good for a second round exit in the Eastern Conference playoffs, depending on how the matchups break down. The Magic still have ground to make up on the Heat and Celtics. And if I the playoffs started right now I don’t know anyone outside of Orlando that would pick them over the Heat or Celtics in a best of seven. The good thing is the Magic has time to get better. Stan Van Gundy has plenty of time to figure out what does and does not work for this bunch, so he can adjust his program accordingly. Because he knows better than most that whatever they do during the regular season means nothing if they experience another playoff flameout like the one that sunk them last season.