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Just The Sports: The Orlando Magic Are A Better Team Since Their Trades

Just The Sports

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Orlando Magic Are A Better Team Since Their Trades

So far, 16 games after the trades, in which the Orlando Magic acquired Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, and Earl Clark, and shipped out Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis, and Vince Carter, were finalized with the players each suiting up for their new teams, the Magic are a better team.

In the 26 games the Magic played before their roster overhaul was complete, the Magic were outscoring their opponents by 4.2 points per 100 possessions, a rate not commensurate with an elite team.

Since then, the Magic have outscored their opponents by a more impressive 7.5 points per 100 possessions, a point differential more in line with how one of the best teams in the NBA would perform. Most of the outscoring of their opponents that the Magic have done over the last 16 games occurred in their nine-game winning streak where they beat their foes by 14.7 points per 100 possessions.

The two biggest differences in play between the Magic before the trade and the Magic since are in their improved assist rate (assists per 100 possessions) and shooting percentages.

The increase in the assist rate from 15.2 to 17.5 and the decrease in turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions) from 12.0 to 10.9 have everything to do with Hedo Turkoglu. In his playmaker and distribution role on offense, he is truly excelling. Turkoglu has not just returned to his level of play for the Magic since before he left after the 2008-09 season, he is playing better than he ever has for the franchise.

Turkoglu's 27.3 assist percentage and 15.2 turnover percentage comprise the best such ratio he has ever had over the course of his career. Also, his 0.159 win shares per 48 minutes are superior to anything he had done previously while wearing a Magic uniform.

The increases in shooting percentages, including boosts in effective field goal percentage from 51.9 percent to 53.4 percent and true shooting percentage from 55.2 percent to 56.9 percent, have been in large part due to three Magic players.

Jason Richardson is the first player that deserves mentioning. Richardson was secured from the Phoenix Suns to replace Vince Carter, a task he has completed most admirably.

For the Magic, Richardson has a 56.0 effective field goal percentage and a 57.9 true shooting percentage, superior to Carter's 52.1 effective field goal percentage and 55.7 true shooting percentage. The advantage Richardson holds over Carter in effective field goal percentage is due to his 39.8 three-point percentage; Carter's three-point percentage was 34.6 percent for the Magic this season.

With his 17.1 assist percentage, Carter was much better at setting up his teammates for baskets than Richardson (7.8 assist percentage), but with Turkoglu on the roster, the Magic only need Richardson to be an efficient shooter for the team, and he has performed so well in that singular role, his 112 points produced per 100 possessions top the more well-rounded Vince Carter's 110 points produced per 100 possessions.

The improvements the Magic have made on offense since the trade are not the result of just the new players on the roster. Two role players, J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson, are also big reasons why the Magic's offense has been able to score at a more efficient clip, owing to the fact each player is sporting a spectacular 63.1 true shooting percentage in that time frame. They are also averaging 12.1 and 12.6 points per game, respectively.

Over the first 21 games of the season in which Redick played before the roster overhaul, he had a 57.9 true shooting percentage and averaged 8.9 points per game so he has increased his offensive output in a major way. Redick's improved shooting over the last 16 games is the major reason why he has been able to produce a team-leading 119 points per 100 possessions.

Ryan Anderson has also seen a great leap in production, but not necessarily because of the trade. Anderson was plagued by injuries before the trade occurred that limited his minutes and effectiveness. In the ten games he played before receiving new teammates, he managed only a 52.5 true shooting percentage and 4.7 points per game.

Since Anderson's return to healthiness over the past 14 games, he has continued the upward trend he has established over his three-year career. His true shooting percentage and offensive rating have increased from 53.2 percent and 108 points produced per 100 possessions as a rookie in 2008-09, to 57.4 percent and 112 points produced per 100 possessions, and finally to 60.6 percent and 123 points produced per 100 possessions this season.

We should not be surprised by Anderson's superb play this season. We should expect it.

Not everyone has participated equally in the Magic's elevated offensive efficiency, though. Gilbert Arenas, who was thought to be a major piece of the Magic's trades, has taken away from the offense's efficiency with his mediocre performances.

In fact, Arenas is accomplishing a feat I thought would be nigh impossible; in his 16 games with the Magic, he is actually playing worse than in his 21 games with the Wizards earlier this season where he was abysmal.

With the Wizards, Arenas's true shooting percentage was 50.5 percent and his offensive rating was 95 points produced per 100 possessions, which are the statistics of a completely ineffective offensive player. With the Magic, Arenas's true shooting percentage and offensive rating have dropped to 44.8 percent and 90 points produced per 100 possessions, respectively.

Arenas's horrendous shooting coupled with his too-high 26.3 usage percentage, second-highest on the team, is so detrimental that even with a perfectly respectable 30.6 assist percentage and 17.3 turnover percentage, he is the worst offensive player among the eight players who now receive consistent minutes for the Magic. Having Arenas on the floor damages the team's chances of winning.

Even with Arenas, who plays more like a saboteur than a teammate, the Magic have still been a better team since their new roster was finalized because of an improved offense. The new roster has been so good together that if they continue to perform at the same rate for the rest of the season, then they will certainly be a contender to win the Eastern Conference championship come the playoffs.

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