Quick and Dirty segments are largely stat free posts about situations that deserve substantial statistical exposition. Right now it might seem like they all have to do with the Orlando Magic, but that’s due to small sample size.
Since the December 18 trade that reshaped the Orlando Magic, the team has been on a roll. They’ve won seven of nine, and seven in a row. For a team that was in a tailspin before the trade, that’s impressive stuff. The streak started out with two stirring victories, breaking long winning streaks by the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs, two of the three best teams in the NBA.
This has led to a barrage of coverage about how the trade has re-energized the Magic. This is undeniable. The focus however, is misplaced; it’s been on the new guys. In fact, the new additions to the Magic’s roster, Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson haven’t made a dramatic difference. Instead the difference has been less television friendly. The trade reshaped the rotation so that all star center Dwight Howard is getting more touches, and two of the Magic’s best unsung players, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson are getting more playing time which they are using well. Another major difference is that the trades rid the Magic’s roster of two of its least productive players. Rashard Lewis and Mikael Pietrus; between them they took 17 shots a night while combining for a putrid shooting percentage of 38.2. People like to blame Vince Carter for the Magic’s pre trade woes, but Michael Jordan in his prime would have trouble winning when 40% of the lineup is playing like that. Replacing Lewis and Pietrus with Bass who has been excellent and Hedo who has been average (a substantial upgrade over the man he replaced) while giving Anderson more minutes off the bench have made the Magic into a potent team.
How potent? We’re about to find out. Although the winning streak began with impressive victories, the rest of the streak is chock full of wins over the likes of the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. The Magic’s sked is about to get a lot tougher. During the next two weeks, they play at Dallas, at New Orleans, at Oklahoma City and at Boston. By the evening of Martin Luther King Day, we’ll really know what to make of the reconfigured Magic.