The Orlando Sentinel recently put together a presentation that pleads with Dwight Howard to stay with the Magic. Sadly, it is going to probably come down to this. The Magic have a desperate need for a secondary scorer on offense. Adding Monta Ellis could be the remedy for that, but it would mean taking on another huge contract, never mind the logistical aspects financially.
The only real option, though, that I think would solve the Magic’s problem is to add a point guard significantly better than Jameer Nelson. Nelson could stay aboard and be the 6th man, but the Magic need either Deron Williams to defect from New Jersey in 2012 and co-sign with Dwight to play for Orlando, or for the same scenario to play out involving Western Conference All Star Chris Paul.
Either point guard could drastically change Orlando’s fate. Dwight Howard needs a point guard that can both pass and score. Deron Williams would probably be the best bet given his superior three point shooting, but adding Chris Paul would give the Magic a premier defender at the point guard position. Deron Williams would offer size on defense; Chris Paul would offer speed. They are the two best young point guards in the game, and it’s important to understand that they both bring different skills and talents to the table.
Fans lobbied for Chris Paul at the trade deadline, but nothing transpired. With New Orleans’ future as a franchise in question, Paul may opt to play in green pastures, where his chances of a title may be greater. Deron Williams may find New Jersey to be quite suitable given the array of talent in New Jersey. Losing Derrick Favors was a bit of a blow for the team’s frontcourt development, but it was the emergence of Kris Humphries that made the trade possible. With New Jersey’s assembly of talent and Deron Williams bringing them over the top, he may opt to stay where he is. That would leave Paul as the only possible target, if so. Kevin Love will also be a free agent, but his skillset wouldn’t make the Magic a better team at all.
The fact remains, if the Magic are going to keep Howard in Orlando, they are going to have to make it worth his while. When Nelson was in his 2008 all star form, he looked like the kind of player that could lead the Magic to a championship. After the shoulder injury in the game against Dallas, he was never the same, and has never provided that level of production. And I don’t think it’s the injury. It’s just a player with a hot streak that got cut short. He wasn’t going to perform at that level all season.
Gilbert Arenas is an interesting wild card for the Magic. Otis Smith believes that after a summer and a full training camp with the team, Arenas will show signs of the player he once was with the Washington Wizards. He played in exciting series against the Cavs in back to back seasons, going toe to toe with LeBron James, though Arenas’ Wizards lost both series. In 05-06, Arenas averaged 29.3 points per game, and in 06-07 he put up 28.5 points per game. His season average for the Magic this year? 8.0 points per game on 34.4% field goal percentage. His field goal percentage was the worst of any NBA player playing at least 20 minutes a game.
So where does this all leave the Magic? They have little flexibility in their payroll to make drastic changes. They have indicated they plan on re-signing Jason Richardson, who will provide yet another scorer – but not a premier player – to play along Howard. Basketball is the kind of sport where 2 players (because they comprise 40% of the players for that team on the court) can make a huge difference for a team. Having three legitimate scorers and a good defense is usually a recipe for a Championship. The Spurs just proved it with their Parker – Ginobili – Duncan trio in past years. And it’s not always about having the best three offensive players, sometimes a team’s defense can make the difference.
The Magic have a long way to go before this team resembles what makes a contender. As long as Howard is the only player capable of scoring more than 20 on a regular basis, the Magic are going to find they will have trouble scoring on a lot of nights, in particular if threes are not falling as it were in this Atlanta series this year. Teams just can’t win on the shoulders of one player, and that’s basically what our simulation at the Sentinel presents us with. It seems if we should lobby, let’s lobby for help for Howard.