One thing that is generally a staple for successful teams is the vocal leadership of players with tenure on that specific team. Senior leadership cannot be undervalued. In an 82-game season, senior leadership is invaluable, not only for their statistical contribution on the court but also for maintaining morale and unity off the court.
So who will be the senior leaders in the locker room and on the court for Orlando this year?
Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick and Hedo Turkoglu immediately come to mind when thinking tenure. Since being drafted by the Magic in 2004, Nelson has had seasons averaging 16.7 points, 14.6 points and 13.1 points respectively. Add to that an All-Star appearance in the 2009 season and it should be clear that he should be a leader on this young team.
Since the Magic drafted J.J. Redick in 2006, Redick has shown progressive improvement, averaging a career high 11.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game last season. Hedo Turkoglu had arguably his best season as a professional with the Magic in 2008, averaging 19.5 points while shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from long range.
These veteran leaders will need to step up their game this season for the Magic to have any success at all, however limited.
Realistic expectations for a team consisting of no true “superstar” can vary. The Detroit Pistons won the 2004 NBA championship with a starting five consisting of Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. Granted, those are recognizable names, but none of the aforementioned players would be widely considered a “superstar.”
The Denver Nuggets have also experienced success without having a true star on their roster.
Since trading Carmelo Anthony in 2011 to the New York Knicks, the Nuggets have had a combined regular season record of 56-35. While the Knicks, who were the beneficiary of the “superstar” in that trade has a combined regular season record of 50-44.
Good chemistry in basketball can be just as important as having flashy names. And in a season full of questions, Magic fans may have to remind themselves of that.
Every team needs an identity, regardless of the sport. The Miami Heat has the big three. The Lakers have the Kobe system. The Celtics have the family atmosphere. The Bobcats have the hope of a deep draft class.
For Magic fans, the team’s identity will be based upon its ability to be unselfish, hustle and play for each other.
The Magic do have some solid pieces to build around however. And this is where the knowledge from players and potential leaders like Nelson, Redick and Turkoglu will really play a role.
Maurice Harkless averaged 15.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in his one season at St. John’s. Arron Afflalo averaged 15.2 points and 2.4 assists per game with Denver last season while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. While Nikola Vucevic did not blow anyone away with his numbers in his rookie season in Philadelphia last year, he has been impressive in his preseason debut with Orlando. It would not be hard to see this young man turn into a double-double machine over time. Having a 16-point and 9-rebound performance against a front court consisting of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will draw that kind of praise.
Developing the young talent that Orlando possesses will be the key to the future of the organization. Jacque Vaughn was brought in largely for this purpose.
When it comes to the 2012-13 version of the Orlando Magic, there are multiple unanswered questions. Some ask “What are the realistic expectations in the win-loss column”? Others ask “Who will step up and be the vocal leader of the team”? Some might also wonder “Will there be any big time trades that Orlando will be involved in”?
Although its easy to get wrapped up in what might happen next, it’s important to take a look at the current roster and be excited for what is already here.
Orlando has a good mix of tenured veterans and young talent. Youth and senior leadership are the keys to success.