Game 19: Hornets vs. Magic

2011-12 NBA Regular Season

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3-15 vs
12-6
January 27th, 2012
New Orleans Arena
7:00 PM CST
TV: CST, NBALP
Probable starters:
Jarrett Jack > Jameer Nelson
Marco Belinelli
= Jason Richardson
Trevor Ariza < Hedo Turkoglu
Jason Smith
< Ryan Anderson
Emeka Okafor > Dwight Howard

Your Pregame Moment of Zen

On Orlando

With All-Star Weekend in Orlando fast approaching, Dwight Howard is still a Magician, which can certainly be viewed as a surprise. Even more puzzling is the fact that very little in the way of trade rumors or concocted packages has been floated. In December, it appeared that a deal built around either the Lakers' Andrew Bynum or the Nets' currently injured Brook Lopez would be the best offer Orlando could expect to receive, but whether those trade offers are still on the table is unknown.

Howard himself has continued to play well. Both his defensive and total rebound rates are at career high levels, and while his overall efficiency has fallen, that's both a function of his (even more than normal) atrocious free throw percentages and the general decline of offense in the NBA this season (5 points fewer per 100 possessions than a year ago).

His teammate, Ryan Anderson, is playing himself into All-Star consideration. Anderson's 127 offensive efficiency mark on 22% usage is reasonably absurd, and it's built primarily on his ability to extend the floor and hit shots from range (42% from three). It's an open question as to whether his efficiency would suffer without Howard on the floor, and it's a question we could well have answered for us in just a few months. Obviously, Howard has the option to leave Orlando as a free agent in the offseason, but Anderson could also be with a different team next season as he was not offered a contract extension by the increasingly incompetent Orlando GM, Otis Smith.

Around Anderson and Howard, we have the usual Orlando suspects. Jameer Nelson has struggled to recreate the randomly excellent play of his 2008-2009 season for multiple years now, and through the season's first month, he's been in especially poor form, posting an atrocious 43% effective field goal percentage. The Hornets' Jarrett Jack, arguably a top ten offensive point guard on the year, should have the upper hand. Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, rounding out the starting backcourt, are not players to get excited about either.

The entire season has had an undeniably macabre feel to it for the Magic. Yes, it's possible Howard stays with them long-term, but this is a deeply flawed team that, even given the randomness induced by the lockout, likely won't accomplish too much in the 2012 postseason. Add to all this the fact that the Magic have committed way too much money to mediocre players over the long term ($20.5M to Richardson through 2015, $23.8M to Turkoglu through 2014, $8.6M to a suddenly awful Nelson through 2013, and a totally inexplicable $17.5M to Glen Davis through 2015) and the outlook is bleak. Only a gem of a deal for Dwight Howard can save this team now, and whether such a transaction is at all obtainable is questionable.

Other Notes

- The Hornets announced that they have waived Trey Johnson, one of my favorite guys to watch cheering his teammates from the bench. This brings the roster size down to 14. The Hornets have also announced that Chris Kaman is not with the team tonight (and is fully healthy). There could be a trade in the works, but keep in mind that the maximum allowable roster size this year is sixteen and not the normal fifteen.

Kaman can be included in multi-player deals before February 14th, as long as such trades are layered single-player deals, along the lines of the Peja Stojakovic/Jerryd Bayless deal of November 2010.

- I wrote a little bit about this season's crop of rookies for SBNation today; you can check it out here.

- And last but not least, head over to the always excellent Orlando Pinstriped Post for Magic coverage. Evan Dunlap is one of the best.

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