Magic preview: Now, the long path back to relevance begins

US PRESSWIRE

We heard way too much about the drama in Orlando last season. The Magic won't be getting that kind of attention for a long, long time.

The NBA is no doubt pleased to learn that we have a second team on the unabashed Presti Plan, in which it will all be torn down to nothing before it is rebuilt. This should be fun, Orlando.

FEATS OF STRENGTH

The Magic made the postseason again last season, but things didn't end great in Orlando. The team was 33-21 when Dwight Howard ended his season due to a back injury that required surgery. The Magic proceeded to go 4-8 and get punked out of the playoffs by Indiana. That team -- the one missing Dwight -- still had Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson. Richardson left in the Howard trade this summer, but Arron Afflalo is a solid upgrade there. Anderson's sign-and-trade netted Gustavo Ayon, a decent player who is not in the same galaxy in terms of NBA impact as the man he replaces. Because of Anderson and the continued presence of Stan Van Gundy, there's reason to believe that the 4-8 record overrated Orlando in April. Those players had run Van Gundy's system for years; Jacque Vaughn has no luxury of familiarity in 2012-13.

But because there are good players here, this could be one of the better immediate Presti Plan teams we'll see. Afflalo, Al Harrington, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson are each better than anyone the Bobcats had last season. That 4-8 record in April wasn't an accurate representation of the '12-13 ... but this probably isn't an 11-, 12- or 13-win team. It's a bad team, to be sure. But it's no Charlotte.

Afflalo, Redick and Harrington are going to produce a pretty interesting perimeter-oriented offense, and I'm excited to see whether rookie Andrew Nicholson can begin to replicate Anderson's style to open it up even more. (The mystery around Nicholson's selection centered around his apparent similarity to Anderson. The mystery was quickly solved when it became apparent Magic GM Rob Hennigan had no intention of keeping Anderson at the price Anderson sought.) Inside, Nikola Vucevic and Ayon will be responsible for crashing the boards and ... well, crashing the boards. They have defensive duties as well, and that's what concerns me.

AIRING OF GRIEVANCES

Afflalo is a good defender. Ayon is a decent defender. Vucevic should be a good defender. At small forward, Moe Harkless might be a good defender. But this team is almost assuredly going to stink defensively. Bad teams tend to get worse on defense as the stakes decrease. Defense is partially talent and physical attributes (length, athleticism, agility), but in the NBA, effort and determination and will are huge factors. When you're 15 games out of the No. 8 seed, effort and determination and will suffer. Given that 90 percent of players make their dough on offense, defense gets short shrift on bad teams. Hopefully Vaughn can prevent that. I'm not optimistic.

Hedo Turkoglu is still on this team. I'm not saying that when you trade a superstar approaching free agency you have to get a superstar back. I'm not saying that when you trade a superstar approaching free agency and the best player you get back is nothing close to an All-Star you should get rid of your worst contract in the process. The Magic didn't.

Glen Davis will get lots of minutes. Not generally a good thing.

FESTIVUS MIRACLES

It will be miraculous if ...

Any player on the Magic leads HoopsHype for more than five mornings this season.

Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher, Stephen A. Smith or Skip Bayless mention the Magic once outside of the context of Dwight Howard.

The world doesn't end upon four -- four! -- regular season match-ups between the Bobcats and Magic.

Hedo Turkoglu comes into the season committed to winning.

The new Amway Center gets a bounty of SportsCenter mentions.

"I'm sure glad we re-signed Jameer Nelson this offseason," he said.

Jacque Vaughn fails to start going by "Jack" at midseason just to see if anyone is paying attention.

THE HUMAN FUND

Let's get sincere.

Team MVP: Arron Afflalo

Team X-Factor: Nikola Vucevic

Team Finish: 4th in Southeast | 14th in East

Best Championship Hopes: Living vicariously through anti-Dwight Heat or Dwight's Lakers

***

The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.

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