What is necessary to build a championship roster?
A superstar player doesn’t hurt. A player who can change the game defensively and contribute on offense as a go-to scorer seems to be a must. Solid play inside. Length, athleticism, versatility works. Talent is a good thing to — a deep bench seems pretty necessary once you get deep into the Playoffs. A nice fallback plan if an offseason move does not work out also helps, as do young players eager to step in and fill a role.
It takes some luck too, but a championship team is built on the building blocks of the roster you have and what they can do. You can see its ceiling and its floor from there.
How the roster was constructed is probably the biggest indictment of Otis Smith and why he no longer has a job with the Magic. And despite the rhetoric and the pleas from Dwight Howard to believe (along with a stray comment from J.J. Redick trying to compare this year’s team to the 2009 team), the roster might also have been what doomed the Magic from the start.
A team can have the best player, the best coach, the best facilities, but ultimately it will only go as far as the roster will take it.
If putting together championship teams were as easy as collecting superstars, the Heat would have already won a title and would be well on their way to a second right now.
It is not that easy though and the Magic went from one of the deepest and most talented teams to a top-heavy, inconsistent group constantly searching for answers and support.
Orlando’s season was doomed when Otis Smith turned in his final roster to Stan Van Gundy at training camp.
Yes, you had Dwight Howard. Things are a lot easier when you have him since he tends to cover up a lot of your team’s mistakes on the defensive end. But the lack of versatility and diversity of talent eventually hurt the Magic. And doomed them from the beginning.
Look at the starting lineup and you see how just about every player (aside from Howard) was good at doing one thing, and rarely did those things fit together perfectly.
Jason Richardson was a decent 3-point shooter and OK (at best) defender. Hedo Turkoglu was a point forward who was a little past his prime and inconsistent at getting to the basket on the pick and roll. Ryan Anderson, although improved in a whole bunch of areas, is a 3-point specialist. Jameer Nelson is strong in the pick and roll, but inconsistent at getting to the basket.
It is hard to figure out how to make all those pieces fit together, except in a 4-out, 1-in spread the floor around Dwight Howard offense. The team was extremely limited in what it could do because of how inconsistent Nelson, Turkoglu and Richardson were off the dribble this season. Anderson was a great shooter, but we saw in the Playoffs what happens when a team can really zero in on closing him out.
So what about the bench?
Chris Duhon… all that needs to be said for many fans. J.J. Redick was a solid player and he is a better defender than many think, but he is limited to mostly contributing on the offensive end and as a solid help defender. Glen Davis works hard and plays taller than he is, but struggled to finish around the basket and against taller players (see: Playoffs). Von Wafer never could get off the bench despite his ability to create off the dribble because he struggled to defend (and finish around the basket, surprisingly).
The list goes on and on. But each player on the list has one thing he is very good at, and a lot they cannot do.
It is a stark difference from the 2009 and 2010 groups. Those teams were full of players with multiple skills — Rashard Lewis was a spot-up shooter, decent defender and good option in the post; Mickael Pietrus had length to be a great defender and could drain that corner 3 or hit a shot off of a dribble or too; Courtney Lee had a lot of defensive grit and the ability to play off the ball; Vince Carter could create for himself off the dribble and fit pretty well into the team (he played better defense than he had at any point in his career); that list goes on and on.
Those two Magic teams featured versatility and guys who could do multiple things really well. This year’s team? Not so much. The length and versatility was gone. Every player, seemingly, could play only one position adequately. That limited what Orlando could do, especially on the defensive end.
It is not that players did not play hard. They did. And many did not play up to their potential. But the Magic could not match up against the really good teams in the league. And that made them inherently limited. It is not good to be limited by your roster and doomed before the season even starts.