The Dallas Mavericks visit the Orlando Magic
When boiled down to a purely theoretical framework, I think the Magic might have the best team in the NBA. They don’t have the best players and they’re not the most complete, but in terms of approach and personnel I’m not sure there’s a better way to do things. That could be because I see a little bit of the Spurs in the Magic.
As far as big men go, I don’t know that there are more philosophically different players than Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard. Duncan supplants technique and precision over athleticism and strength, a shockingly lethal array of bank shots, footwork, and baby hooks. His game reeks of calculation and blueprints, not gunpowder and rocket fuel. On top of that, his high post mastery has marked the free throw line extended as his kingdom. Dwight Howard has no such jurisdiction, but that doesn’t change the way they function within the offense. The San Antonio triumvirate functions because each individual brings something unique to the table, and because they can give defenses fits without stepping on each other’s toes. Beyond that, many a role player has found themselves on the receiving end of an open three-pointer or a hundred because of those three.
In a sense, Orlando is a dignified and yet deeply flawed San Antonio. Jameer Nelson is a point guard who’s quick enough to get where he needs to go on the floor, and yet shares some of Parker’s defensive limitations. Like a young Parker, Jameer has a singular midrange talent (jumper versus teardrop). Hedo Turkoglu provides offensive movement and a creator away from the point. He doesn’t have Manu’s explosiveness, but he supplements his talents with considerable size and a nice passing touch. Rashard Lewis is, for all intents and purposes, the super-scorer/role player that may have kept the Spurs from exploding into a ten year dynasty. The Magic are decidedly Bowen-less, and maybe that’s what separates them from the cream of the crop (possible). Or maybe it’s the difference between Howard and Duncan (likely).
We all know that Dwight Howard with a legit low-post skill set would be something to behold, but is it possible that his transformation could usher in a more far-reaching evolution of lovable, innocent Magic into the infinitely more exciting and smiley neo-Spurs?