Enemy: Orlando Magic
Coach: Jacque Vaughn
Potential Starting 5: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic
Other Key Players: JJ Redick, Gustavo Ayon, Mo Harkless, Al Harrington, Andrew Nicholson
Threats: ummmm? Shooting?
Grizzlies 2011-12 Record vs.: 1-0
Dwight Howard, who? I swear that is the one and only time I will speak his name in this post. Orlando is Big Baby country now! Well, that doesn’t quite have a comforting ring to it, but trust me Orlando… as the wise man who works at the local Chinese buffet has tattooed on his forearm, “it’s get better.” If recent trends are an indicator of anything, it’s that a team that loses its superstar, it will be handsomely awarded via the first overall pick. One year after the loss of Lebron James, the Cavs won the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes. A year after the Hornets gave away Chris Paul, the ping pong balls bounced in their favor, awarding them Anthony Davis. I can assure you that I’m hardly trying to perpetuate some kind of crazy conspiracy theory about the draft lottery. I’m merely trying to instill some reason for hope within our friends over in Orlando, because it looks like they’ve got a real you-know-what show about to brew in the beautiful Amway Center. The receiving end of the “trade that must not be named” seems to be far from sufficient at first glance, but the Magic wanted to tear it all down and start anew. Additionally, when draft picks are involved, especially the number of which that the Magic received (3 first rounders and a second), gauging the true value of the return is like going to Disney World and trying to physically count the number of Mickey heads you find. Besides, if anyone should know not to be judgmental of trades it’s us. The entire basketball world thought we got fleeced for Pau Gasol and look where we are now.
As they say, the first cut is the deepest, and for the Magic, the first step in their new direction is bound to be a tumultuous one. When the dust settles, the roster bears a plethora of question marks going forward. It is pretty much uncertain what direction they will be going and how they plan to get there. They went out and hired two descendants of the Spurs organization in coach, Jacque Vaughn and general manager, Rob Hennigan, and likely hope to mimic the Spurs’ methods of small market success. The court product possesses a few fading veterans looking to recapture their productivity and some young guys looking to make their mark. Judging by his highly productive stint as a fill-in last year, which by the way did wonders for my fantasy team, Glen “Big Baby” Davis figures to serve as the de-facto focal point of the offense. Davis had been champing at the bit for his opportunity to flex his machismo for longer stretches than he was allotted in Boston, and will finally get his chance to show us what he’s got. He’s got a wide base, but couples it with fantastic agility for a man his size, and has a surprisingly versatile offensive game. Thus, the “feed it in and kick to shooters” identity that has long been attributed to Orlando may still be alive. This is especially to be supported by the fact that if there is anything left on the Magic roster, it is shooters. The team is stocked with weapons at every position that can step out and hit the open jumper. Take Davis’ new front court mate, Nikola Vucevic for example. He’s got a real sweet mid-range game for a guy his size. He showed flashes of it during his consistently sporadic minutes in Philly, and will have plenty of opportunity in his new endeavor. New draftee, physics-majored power forward Andrew Nicholson, figures to have plenty of opportunity to show off his stroke as well, competing with veteran Al Harringotn for the replacement role of the departed Most Improved Player award winner, Ryan Anderson. So yeah, the bigs can all shoot. The wings can shoot it too. Hedo Turkoglu, Arron Afflalo and JJ Redick have all been known to spot up and drain it from long range. And yes, you guessed it; starting point guard Jameer Nelson is pretty competent from beyond the arc, as well. Notice I haven’t said a word about defense, though, because this roster is damn near devoid of it. Afflalo is very good in that regard and rookie, Mo Harkless is advertised to be as well, but unlike the post anchor-types, it is unlikely that they’ll be able to elevate the team as a whole. Additionally, all those shooters are great weapons, but you live and die by the three, and need to set them up somehow.
Under no circumstances should our Grizzlies lose to the Magic this season. Their inside-out style and aligned perimeter of shooters would generally pose a problem for us, but the problem for them is that no one on their roster as constructed is worthy of warranting a double team. Thus, unless they piece together some phenomenal off the ball motion with extraordinary ball movement, our guys should be able to stick them man-to-man, and avoid being out of position, giving up an open J. Otherwise, the only place in which I could see them giving us some trouble is where their bigs step out and stretch to mid-range. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are not the most mobile of frontcourts, so their being stretched off the block could potentially pose somewhat of a threat to us. That being said, I’m really stretching for something, here in noting that, and there is really no department in which they should out match us, and no reason that they should outlast us. This year is going to be a real grind for the Orlando Magic organization and their fans.