Magic Need a Defensive Three, Not Another Young Five

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

If next year the Magic are all healthy and Johnny Davis plays his best players in the starting lineup, we will see Grant Hill at point, Tracy McGrady at the two, Pat Garrity at the three, Drew Gooden at the four, and Juwan Howard at the five. Looking at this potential lineup, GM John Weisbrod sees the center spot as the biggest weakness for the club. But really the biggest weakness is the small forward position. Garrity is a great offensive player when healthy, but what the Magic really need is a defensive-minded spot-up shooting wingman like a Raja Bell or even a Bruce Bowen.

Such a player would free up McGrady to defend the easier matchup on the defensive end, and let him focus on his offensive skills. It is no shame that McGrady is not likely to ever be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. Players have relative strengths and weaknesses, and it's up to the coach and GM to maximize the strengths and hide the weaknesses. Getting a defensive-minded small forward who can hit spot-up jumpers would go a long way to making that happen.

The Magic, like the Blazers, appear to be stockpiling power forwards, a strategy that Knicks fans still remember with a shudder. Centers are few and far between, and hard to land in a draft. Even Emeka Okafur would likely play the power forward position, though it's possible he could develop into a Ben Wallace type of center. The two alternatives are to play two forwards in the front court and rely either on a zone defense to mitigate the disparity or try to do some kind of fronting of the low post. Boston fans have learned the danger of fronting on every possession and this season has seen them go from having too many power forwards to having too many centers. Mark Blount will likely be a free agent and both Orlando and Miami are pursuing him, with Miami likely having a slight geographical edge in being closer to Blount's family. Boston's Chris Mihm is also a young free agent.

So there are opportunities to trade Gooden or possibly even Howard for a truer center. Still, as many coaches like to point out, very few teams apart from Houston and the Lakers have true centers. With Andrew DeClercq, Steven Hunter, and Zaza Pachulia able to fill some time at either the four or the five, the Magic are fairly deep with young size, so it's not clear what benefit a rookie big man will bring to the center spot, with the possible exception of Emeka Okafor.

With Hill and McGrady in the backcourt, the Magic would have one of the best guard tandem in the Eastern conference if not the league. They have enough bodies in the frontcourt to be able to play, and Drew Gooden could become next year's Carlos Boozer: a breakaway talent finally proving his worth.

But the Magic have been woeful in transition defense, not to mention perimeter defense. A defensive stopper would be a perfect fit at the three spot, especially if it's a player that doesn't slash too much (they've got McGrady for that), or pass too much (they've got Hill for that). He would just need to be able to hit open shots.

And Pat Garrity could be a great sixth man for some instant offense.

It's a mystery why Weisbrod is focusing on the point guard and the center spots and ignoring the small forward slot.

Kristy Read oforlandomagic.comasked the 12 Magic men what their favorite reality TV show was. Read their answers here.

Also read season-ending comments by new GM John Weisbrodor returning head coach Johnny Davis.

Just because the season is over doesn't mean the players are unreachable. If you want to ask any Magic player a question, you canemailthe Magic. Be sure to include the name of the player you want the ask your question of.


Brian Schmitz ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: Like everybody else, we love playing the part of a general manager in the world of fantasy basketball. Trouble is, the game is not much fun to play in Orlando anymore. Because trading Tracy McGrady is no longer just a fantasy. It could happen. So let's brace ourselves for it. Who do you want for T-Mac?Forget Shaq, Yao, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal. Nobody with any sense trades a big for a small. But after those five superstar giants, it's open season on everybody else in the league. You have to suspend belief here, considering T-Mac is tough to trade. A suitor has no guarantee he would not opt out of his contract after next year, meaning it lowers his value in trade as a top 10 star. Still, keep in mind you want to get something for him if he walks.

Brian Schmitz ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: The Magic need lightning to strike thrice.They need to win the May 26 draft lottery for the third time in franchise history, although the team with the worst record has won it only once the past 13 years. The Magic's overnight rise as a mid-1990s power came about because they won the rights to Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway in back-to-back lotteries. There's no Shaq in this lottery. But if the Magic land the No. 1 pick, they might be able to trade it for a veteran star or another solid player, hoping the deals are enough to prevent T-Mac from dialingMayflower.

Jerry Brewer ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: As a young Philadelphia 76ers general manager, Pat Williams asked a haymaker question in the summer of 1976. "Would you ever consider trading Julius Erving?" Williams asked New York Nets executive Billy Melchionni. Melchionni laughed. "No." "Well, if you'll ever consider it, call me." And in the fall, Erving was dealt. Williams, now a Magic executive, has been through it all. Arguably, his best moment was acquiring Erving.It was so unlikely and came about because the Nets felt they had no choice. Desperation seems to be the common denominator in all these deals. It's comical, really. When a team has a superstar, it talks about how it will always be in the hunt with him, talks about how difficult it is to acquire a player so special. Yet it winds up trading the star in deals that are clearly lopsided.

Mike Bianchi ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: Tough season, all right. Fans booing. Media griping. Players quitting. And, still, there's that 14-year-old boy inside of Johnny Davis, wrapping his arms around his mother."She always said, 'Don't surrender,' " Johnny says. "She always said, 'No matter what, we will weather the storm.' " He looks you straight in the eye and says softly but strongly: "I'm a fighter, and I'm going to get through this, and so is this team. We'll find a way to make it. I believe that. I still believe that."

Brian Schmitz ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: Have you heard about the other Orlando Magic star who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after next season? No one seems concerned about Grant Hill leaving and taking his X-rays with him."I don't think the organization is too worried about that happening," Hill said, laughing. No, the Magic are having night sweats over possibly losing Tracy McGrady. McGrady has declared he wants out via a trade if the team doesn't make major home improvements this summer. But like McGrady, Hill also can exercise an escape clause in his identical seven-year, $93 million contract after the 2004-05 season. Of course, the difference is that T-Mac has two perfectly good legs to stand on. Hill can't escape. He obviously has no market value. Four surgeries on his left ankle have limited him to just 47 games the past four seasons. The Magic even will leave him unprotected in the expansion draft, but the Charlotte Bobcats are not expected to take a high-priced risk to sign him.

Tim Povtak ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: It was an innocuous incident six months ago during the exhibition schedule, but it still riles Johnny Davis, reminding him of what went wrong this season And what definitely won't happen next. It's why Davis will return as the head coach. While he was sitting on the Orlando Magic bench in street clothes, unable to play because he was injured, forward Donnell Harvey started talking on his cell phone. Davis, still an assistant coach with little clout at the time, pierced him with a stare.It wasn't until two months later that Harvey was traded to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick. If Davis had his way back then -- which he will now -- Harvey would have disappeared immediately. "Something like that should never happen. That's something you just can't have," Davis said Thursday when reminded of the incident. "That meant whoever he was talking to was more important than what he was doing here. Players have to know that's not acceptable." Before the Magic dispersed Thursday after their final meeting at the RDV Sportsplex, Davis reminded them that the ground rules will be different next season, that expectations will change. That no cell phones will ring on his bench.