Posted on: January 24, 2012 12:23 pm
Posted by Royce Young
There's just something about the Orlando Magic and playing defense from the bench, I guess. Maybe it's part of a new defensive system Stan Van Gundy's put in place.
Monday against the Celtics, the Magic were pretty much asleep though. They scored only 56 points, hit 24 percent from the field and made 16 total baskets. So Jason Richardson forgetting he was supposed to be on the floor shouldn't be that surprising. Wth the way that game went though, it would make sense if Orlando were playing with four the entire game. Unfortunately, that's not an excuse.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:01 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 12:25 am
Posted by Royce Young
The Magic got their man! Well, not that man. Not Superman.
It's just Jason Richardson actually who inked a four-year, $25 million deal according to Yahoo! Sports. One of the top guards in this free agent class for sure, but not exactly the primary target or someone that will necessarily encourage Dwight Howard to stick around.
Magic general manager talked to the media Saturday evening and said the team was close to a deal with Richardson and would have one done by Monday. He was asked if Richardson were just trade bait or for the long-term and Smith said he intended to keep Richardson. Smith also said the re-signing of Richardson would not have been possible without the amnesty on Gilbert Arenas.
The Magic are in such an interesting place right now with their roster. Just because Dwight Howard might be out doesn't mean it's time to blow everything apart and start anew. Orlando will be receiving a nice package in exchange for Howard that could include someone like Brook Lopez and/or Nene. So there needs to be quality pieces in place for when the roster is rebuilt.
He's only 30 and still has a number of good years ahead of him. He gives the Magic a lot of depth at shooting guard with J.J. Redick and keeps the team with a bevy of outside shooting threats, which is something coach Stan Van Gundy likes. Especially if Dwight Howard is his center. And while he might not be in a week or so, there's a good chance Van Gundy will have a new talented big man in his place, so having those marksmen flanking the wings isn't a bad thing.
Richardson averaged 15.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game with a 15.02 PER playing in both Phoenix in Orlando last season. With the Suns in 25 games he put up 19.3 ppg but with the Magic in 55, he only averaged 13.9. Four years at a little more than $5 million per year is a pretty good bargain for a player like Richardson. Considering what a lot of other guys in the same neighborhood as him are going for, I'd say the Magic did pretty well. But that's not the whole story. Because the Magic are in flux right now, or at least should be.
Richardson faded mightily last season and will greatly damage the Magic's chances of getting under the cap in the near future. Which seems like the logical plan post-Dwight. Cut salary, open up some flexibility and rebuild. Instead, it seems like Otis Smith is trying to prep to continue on with a mediocre roster that may include Nene or Brook Lopez in the near future.
Related: Consider this curious quote from Richardson though that he had over the summer:
"I want to go to a great place for my family," Richardson told the Saginaw News. "I've been blessed by God to play in the NBA for a lot of money. I'd like to go someplace that has a chance to win a championship ... I probably have five or six seasons left in the NBA, so I want to go somewhere I can stay."
Are the Magic a team he can win a title with? Or I should say, will they be that type of team in a week or two? Nope. But at this point, no way is he turning down what the Magic offered. Forget titles and contending. Money talks.
Posted on: December 4, 2011 5:01 pm
Posted by Royce Young
First step to keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando: Getting Magic general manager Otis Smith on the phone with Howard's agent Dan Fegan. Because that evidently hasn't happened yet.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Fegan has not yet spoken with Smith about Howard's situation.
Smith and Fegan could speak with each other this weekend. And even if they don't, there might not be any immediate reason for concern from the Magic's perspective. Howard and Smith will have the chance to speak Dec. 9, the day training camps are scheduled to open across the league.Yeah, could be nothing, but still, you'd think there would've been at least contact. Then again, there's probably not much to talk about. Howard's not signing an extension in Orlando so really, what's there for Smith and Fegan to discuss.
Of note: Fegan also represents Jason Richardson and is advising Gilbert Arenas, so that means he hasn't talked to the Magic about those guys yet either.
Smith's big decision with Howard isn't really about the extension though, because that's not happening. It's more about feeling out Howard about whether or not it's worth the risk of not trading him. Arenas is a likely amnesty candidate and Richardson is an unrestricted free agent that the Magic are probably fine with watching walk to another team.
Teams and agents were allowed to start talking last Wednesday and can start talking directly on Monday. Maybe that's what Smith is waiting for. Or maybe, he just doesn't have anything to say.
Posted on: July 14, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 1:20 pm
Posted by Royce Young
One of the top targets in free agency -- whenever it happens -- for a lot of teams is guard Jason Richardson. He's unrestricted and at 30 yeard old, still should have a good number of years left in him.
He finished last season playing for the Magic and while he had trouble finding a solid role for the team, he's still going to be a valuable pickup for somebody. He isn't going to land anything near the $14.4 million he made in the final year of his deal, but he recognizes that and is fine with it.
"I want to go to a great place for my family," Richardson told the Saginaw News. "I've been blessed by God to play in the NBA for a lot of money. I'd like to go someplace that has a chance to win a championship.
"I probably have five or six seasons left in the NBA, so I want to go somewhere I can stay."
Hard not to appreciate a player that understands a window might be closing and that money isn't necessarily the most important part to having a fulfilling career. Like Richardson said, he doesn't have a lot of run left in him so going to a rebuilding situation just for money probably doesn't interest him.
So what are his best options? Here are three:
1. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are definitely in the market for a scoring option next to Derrick Rose. Keith Bogans was a fine defensive stopper and occasional 3-point threat, but as the series against the Heat showed, Rose can't do it all. He needs wing scoring help. He needs not just a shooter to kick to, but a guy that defenses have to worry about. Richardson would fit nicely in between Rose and Luol Deng. The question is, will the Bulls have the space to sign him? And if not, just how serious is Richardson about this not-in-it-for-the-money thing?
2. Orlando Magic: He could just re-sign with Orlando. The hiccup there is that if he signs long-term, the Magic could quickly go from contender to rebuilding depending on what Dwight Howard does. The Magic are built to at least make a push and he fits pretty well in there as a second or third scoring option. He'd have to take a cut in pay and be willing to risk the future a bit depending on other decisions.
3. Dallas Mavericks: Maybe the ideal situation for J-Rich. A lot of this depends on what Dallas does with Caron Butler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson, but the Mavs could easily move on from one, two or even all three and bring in Richardson. And even pay him decently. With Butler's injury concerns, the Mavs might be hesitant about bringing him back and Richardson could certainly fit in well to the Maverick starting five. The Mavs don't have the window open for too much longer, but definitely for at least three or four more seasons.
Posted on: June 27, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 5:52 pm
Posted by EOB Staff
When free agency starts there's a relatively lackluster class to choose from. Nevertheless, here are the top 40 players available in unrestricted or restricted free agency now that they tentatively have this sorted out.
Rankings are based on overall value, factoring in production, age, potential, star power, interest and market value. For the full list of free agents this offseason, check out our tracker.
1. Nene, C: You're looking at a cornerstone piece in Nene, which means someone's got to pay cornerstone money. He's just now hitting his prime at 29 years old and as the second half of last season proved, he's top guy material. The Nuggets are definitely looking to put pretty much all of their eggs in Nene's basket, but there could be another big spender that tries to swoop in and grab him. He's a prize and someone that can be a building piece for the next four or five years.
2. Marc Gasol, C: The perfect combination of factors lead Gasol to our No. 2 spot. Talent, capitalizing on a stellar playoff run, centers being at such a premium in the league and Gasol's age of 26. There are bigger names on this list, but no one is as valuable as Gasol. His restricted free agency status only drives his value farther, as a front-loaded contract is the only thing that might push the Grizzlies off matching an offer.
3. David West, F: Were West not coming off of a significant injury at 31 years old, he'd likely be in the top spot on this list. A former All-Star with excellent mid-range skills and a heap of attitude, West opted out and enter free agency, presumably to attempt to get a front-loaded contract before any CBA restrictions drive down his long-term value. He'll have bidders if the Hornets don't quickly recapture him once free agency begins.
4. Tyson Chandler, C: Hitting free agency just after being the starting center and a key factor for a championship team -- talk about great timing. Chandler is a lock to return to Dallas as there's no way Cuban lets the guy who validated all that work escape. But Chandler's going to have whatever offer he wants. Which is stunning for a guy who can't contribute much offensively outside of the lob. But that's the difference a ring makes.
5. Jason Richardson, SG: Richardson's age is kind of a concern here; he'll be 31 next season. But he's the best overall offensive weapon and has a few more years of contribution left in him and is the kind of veteran that teams look for. Orlando may be looking to make room for a bigger trade, so Richardson could fetch offers on the market. But if teams have learned anything from the Joe Johnson valuation, they'll keep it within reason.
6. Thaddeus Young, PF: It's really hard to imagine Philadelphia letting one of its very best young options get away, but Young has become one of the most lethal bench weapons in the game. He can realistically play three positions and is one of the game's most versatile players. He became a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate and as he matures -- he's still just 23 -- he could become one of the 76ers prized future pieces, making him a valuable asset.
7. J.R. Smith, SG: Unstable? Probably. Unreliable? Possibly injured? He may be all of these things. But Smith's a scorer whose not on the downslide of his career. A sixth-man scorer with guts. Think Ben Gordon a few years ago with a worse attitude.
8. Glen Davis, PF: "Big Baby" has a championship ring and has shown he can contribute to a winner. The only thing keeping him lower on this list is a disappointing playoff run after a tremendous season; 14 points and 7 rebounds per 36 with great defense and the ability to take charges will get him the rest of the way.
9. DeAndre Jordan, C: In a normal year, Jordan's the top of the B rankings. This year, he's the seventh-best available player considering value. Jordan had a tremendous year for the Clippers and is nearly a lock to be re-signed by the Clippers. Then again, it's the Clippers. Jordan averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 36 last season but more importantly started to show understanding of defensive rotations, which makes it much tougher to turn away from him.
10. Grant Hill, SF: Anyone else think Hill's career is going in reverse? If Hill doesn't want to return to Phoenix, there will be contenders left and right vying for his services.
11. Tayshaun Prince, SF: Part of the worst locker-room environment in the league last year, Prince should have a higher value, even at 31. He's still capable of excellent defense and averaged 14 points on 47-percent shooting last season. Seeing him in another jersey would be bizarre, but after last season's hijinx, it's a coin flip.
12. Wilson Chandler, SF: Chandler's a young and versatile player. Denver is unlikely to re-sign him considering their need to get Nene back in house and they have Galinari and drafted Jordan Hamilton. Chandler has been rumored to be interested in a return to the Knicks, if they've got the scratch to pay him.
13. Jeff Green, SF/PF: This one is mostly on account of his market value. Green is not a good rebounder. He can't really take over offensively, and he's not a great defender. But Danny Ainge thinks he's the bee's knees and will overpay to keep him, plus he could theoretically develop any of the aforementioned skills. This one caused some debate among our crew in developing these rankings.
14. Jamal Crawford, SG: Crawford made it public knowledge that he wanted a big extension last year, but the Hawks declined to oblige him. Crawford is 31, and his numbers took a dive last season (42 percent FG percentage, 14 points per game down from 18). But he's likely to still pull offers based on star power. The question will be whether it comes close to matching what Crawford thinks he's worth. His playoff heroics should help matters on that front.
15. J.J. Barea, SG: Barea's stock could not be higher coming off the Mavs' championship win. He answered every question about himself and showed the ability to compete at the highest level. He won't dictate a huge asking price due to his diminutive size, but for a role player, he'll collect a tremendous amount of interest, though like Chandler, it's certain Cuban will re-sign him.
16. Caron Butler, SF: So many Mavericks, such a poor free-agency class to drive up their value. Butler's over 30, coming back from injury, and has been on the slide for quite a while. Still, veteran defender who can shoot (or at least can have a few hot shooting nights) is going to get offers. Cuban will likely re-sign Butler in a wave of goodwill on his championship high.
17. Aaron Brooks, PG: The best point guard in the free agent class. How depressing is that? Brooks is a high-usage, low-assist-rate point guard who's undersized. And yet because of his work in Houston before getting shuffled off to make room for Kyle Lowry, Brooks is rumored to be on the radar for Sacramento among others, but as a restricted free agent, the offer will have to be significant for Phoenix not to match.
18. Marcus Thornton, SG: Guys who can drop 40 in a night are rare in this league. "Buckets" has that ability coming off his rookie contract. Yes, his shot selection needs work, and he's undersized for a two-guard, but he's scrappy, hustles and can hit big shots. Thornton should be high on every team's list if the Kings elect to let him slide after adding Salmons and Jimmer.
19. Arron Afflalo, SG: A 26-year-old guard with great athleticism who shot 50 percent from the field last season coming off his rookie contract? Afflalo could be a steal if the Nuggets decide not to match for some reason. Odds are that he's headed back to Denver, though.
20. Samuel Dalembert, C: Dalembert played surprisingly well last season for Sacramento. But he's an aging center with injury questions who has never contributed much offensively. So why is he top-20? Seriously. NBA centers. Not good right now.
21. Carl Landry, PF: A below-average rebounder who learned to work well with Chris Paul (who doesn't) late last season. Landry didn't gather a huge contract last time he was in free agency and will probably not draw much this time. Still, he's a reliable power forward who's great defensively even if his defensive rebounding is a significant letdown.
22. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG: A combo guard's combo guard, Stuckey may have outstayed his welcome in Detroit, even in restricted free agency. Teams looking for quality guard play could definitely look to Stuckey who may have some improvement left in him at 25.
23. Kris Humphries, PF: The Incredible Hump is looking to cash in after averaging a double-double, finding himself in the Most Improved Player discussion and locking down a Kardashian last season. The Nets have expressed interest in David West but will be very motivated to retain Humphries if that chase doesn’t work out.
24. Shane Battier, SF: After taking part in a miracle run past the San Antonio Spurs, it would be heartbreaking to watch Battier and the Memphis Grizzlies part ways. At the same time, Battier has reached the “latch on with a contender as a very valuable role player” stage of his career. Would be a huge get for a team looking for an experienced, gritty wing defender.
25. Mario Chalmers, PG: Chalmers got buried behind Mike Bibby for no apparent reason by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra but, nevertheless, made a solid name for himself by being the most capable and consistent member of the Big 3 support staff. He enters free agency as a young talent with upside if given more minutes, but the Heat, without another point-guard option, will likely do what it takes to keep him.
26. Nick Young, SG: When given the opportunity after Gilbert Arenas was dealt, Young became quite the scorer, finishing up at better than 17 points per game. He was a bit trigger happy however and one has to wonder how he'd fit in a more traditional offense. He's not a go-to scorer but will make a nice bench option or even second or third starting scorer for someone. But that's the thing: He has to realize that.
27. Luc Mbah a Moute, SF: It shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for the Bucks to retain him. Even though the Stephen Jackson trade muddles up the available minutes on Milwaukee’s wings, a low-cost, quality defender is worth keeping around.
28. Jeff Foster, C: Life isn’t very complicated for Foster. He’s a lunch-pail worker who does the dirty work and not much else. He’s getting up there in years but always seems to find a niche. Indiana’s frontcourt is fairly shallow aside from Roy Hibbert, so if the Pacers strike out in their attempts to get bigger fish in free agency, Foster could be a good fallback option.
29. Jonas Jerebko, SF: A tough-minded wing who has been lost because of injury and the coach-killing mess left by his higher-profile teammates. President Joe Dumars is preaching a fresh start after Thursday’s draft, and it makes sense that Jerebko, a fresh-faced worker, would be a part of that.
30. Andrei Kirilenko, SF: The Utah Jazz are finally freed from one of the ugliest contracts in recent memory. Where will AK land and at what price? Very difficult to say. He’s a quirky guy who brings loads of versatility and should have some miles left. If a contender throws its mid-level at him, that could get real interesting.
31. Marco Belinelli, SG: The Hornets have concerns than Belinelli. Namely, David West. Belinelli's future is uncertain, although his shooting is a clear role player asset that should draw interest, if not big dollars.
32. Kwame Brown, C: The only other big man Charlotte has on its roster is DeSagana Diop, so if Brown leaves in free agency, there will be a gaping hole in the middle. That will be a sure sign that the Bobcats are truly committed to a full-scale rebuild. Once a punchline, Brown has emerged as a serviceable defender.
33. Greg Oden, C: One less knee surgery and Oden's probably a top 15 free agent on this list. Two less and he'd be top five. But then, that's another universe, and the reality is that Oden is too much of an injury risk to devote money to. For all the promise born in his frame, there's a desperately terrible injury to go with it. At some point there's only so much damage you can do before you're relegated to lemon status until you prove you can stay on the floor.
34. Marquis Daniels, G/F: Daniels wasn't a terrific player but a pretty good one. But he's coming back from a gruesome injury, and that's going to raise red flags.
35. DeShawn Stevenson, G/F: The only Maverick free agent not in the top 20. Stevenson did a fantastic job in the Finals, but the "Ariza effect" is something to be wary of. A strong playoff run does not make up for an overall career of questionable production. Still, Stevenson could be a value pick up for another team... or they could overspend dramatically, blinded by the shine of his championship ring.
36. Earl Clark, F: This one caused some consternation within the committee for where to put Clark. Athletic, low production, warned off in the draft, cast off by Phoenix, produced marginally for Orlando with some intriguing potential. But Clark is young, healthy and can be had for cheap. This is a value slot.
37. Tracy McGrady, F: McGrady actually wasn't bad last year for the Pistons. I mean, the Pistons were bad last year for the Pistons, but still. McGrady isn't going to be a difference-maker, but he can contribute some points, assists and rebounds every now and then to finish out his career. Provided he stays healthy. You can file that under "Famous last words."
38. Josh McRoberts, PF: McBob was surprisingly productive for the Pacers last season, and in a league where big men are overvalued, he'll find a spot.
39. Kenyon Martin, PF: There are dozens of reasons not to sign Martin. But if you need someone with experience to bring a metric ton of attitude to your team, Martin's as good a pickup as any. Remember when this guy was part of a Finals squad?
40. Yi Jianlian, PF: An unrealized offensive talent, Yi still seems like he should be every bit the player of an Andrea Bargnani. Yi's not a strong defender or rebounder, but at seven feet with touch to the 3-point line and just 23 years old, he's going to be worth a contract to see if he can sniff a little of that lottery potential.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 2:01 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:20 am
Grades for Hawks-Magic. Hawks' toughness passes, Magic's composure fails.
Posted by Matt Moore
Josh Smith: Smith, by himself, could have probably made this series a sweep if he'd played like a guy with his size and athleticism. Instead, Smith opted to hang out on the perimeter, settling for jumper after jumper. Pull-up, spot-up, the works, while Hedo Turkoglu managed to get past him. Smith has so much potential to take over the game, and has the results when he drove or posted up to prove it. But he continued to waste time with his stubborn obsession with the mid-range and perimeter shooting. That said, he got his production, made some huge defensive plays, and helped the Hawks inside.
Joe Johnson: You can't really blame Johnson for being who he is. He goes isolation too often, and it's a huge detriment to the Hawks' overall offense. It was one thing when they didn't have other options. They do now. But he's such an entrenched part of the team that you can't really be surprised. Still, his defense was actually pretty terrific against the wings, and he did average 19 points per game. And he did on just 18 shots per game. Johnson is who he is. We can't grade him well because he wasn't good, we can't grade him too terribly because he didn't kill his team.
Al Horford: You can't run every possession through Horford. But, if you could, and he could keep his production, what a different Hawks team it would be. Horford wasn't brilliant, he was just very good, and typically a step above the rest in terms of decision-making and defense. He should have been able to back down Brandon Bass easier, should have been able to shoot over 40 percent more than four times in this series. But he averaged over 5 assists per game the last three games and helped space the floor. His flurry to start Game 4 set the tone. Horford will be the barometer for the hopes of the Hawks going forward in these playoffs and for this franchise.
Larry Drew: Benching Al Horford for a half with two fouls. Failing to get his team to focus on ball movement. Failing to close out the Magic in Orlando in 5. Giving up layups late. The list goes on and on. If you're ranking the eight coaches left in the NBA playoffs, Drew has to be dead last.
Atlanta's Toughness: Atlanta will get no credit for this as all the attention will be on the Magic's 3-point shooting woes, the Hawks' inconsistent offense, and their slim chances against Chicago. But the Hawks slammed the door on a veteran playoff team in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead, and that ended the series. The Magic took Game 5 in a shooting flurry, but it was over after Game 4. They scrapped, they challenged, they ran off the 3. They deserve credit for that.
Dwight Howard: His Game 6 is supposed to, in some way, tarnish his MVP legitimacy. Yeah, because 25 points and 15 rebounds with 3 blocks is a terrible game in a series where he dominated in rare form. Howard defined dominance in every aspect of this series, and the fact that the Magic couldn't get it done with what he did says worlds about their roster and, yes, pushes him towards the door.
Every Magic player who touched the ball on the perimeter and shot: Geometry lessons. Feng shui. Exorcisms. The Magic should literally go to the gym tomorrow morning and shoot until they go back to hitting their correct percentages. They lost this series for the Magic, point blank.
Orlando's composure: They couldn't adapt, they couldn't adjust, they couldn't get past the reality that the Hawks were outplaying them. Yeah, the shots weren't falling. But at some point in the playoffs you have to make the extra plays to give your team some momentum until the shots start falling. Orlando didn't do that.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 12:12 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:27 am
Hawks take care of business... kind of... in a way. A messy series results in the end of the Magic, with a future in doubt.
Posted by Matt Moore
An MVP season from the franchise player. A huge midseason trade to upgrade their roster. And the Magic are eliminated in six games by the 5 seed Atlanta Hawks. This is where the sad trumpet plays. You have to give it to the Hawks, though. Despite, you know, the offense, their decision-making, and their coaching, they advance to face the Bulls. Here's how they got it done.
Series MVP: Jamal Crawford. Crawford averaged 20.5 points per game off the bench. The Magic could sustain the damage done by the Hawks' starters, but Crawford was too much. On top of the desperation knock-out punch in Game 3, Crawford just keep dropping bombs the whole series. Crawford shot just 6-16 in the elimination Game 6, and 3-10 from the perimeter. That terrible performance dropped his 3-point percentage in the series all the way to... 47 percent. Nice shootin', Tex.
Best Play: Crawford's buzzer-beater. It wasn't pretty. He didn't call glass. But it's the kind of shot the Hawks seem to hit all series, and Magic never could get a lock on.
Best moment: Josh Smith blocks the Magic's last desperation shot in Game 6. Josh Smith struggled through most of the series by not committing to his athletic talents and playing too much on the perimeter. Then Smith turns around and blocks the shot at the buzzer to seal the win, and the series, for the Hawks. If that's not the story of Josh Smith's series, and/or career, I don't know what is.
Worst moment: Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson decide to get to know one another.
Most disappointing performance: The entire Orlando Magic team outside of Dwight Howard. The Magic rely on the perimeter shot. Going cold is one thing. Failing to make the extra pass is another. Not adjusting and forcing the ball inside, especially when the Hawks opened lanes for them to do just that, is a whole other level. Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and yes, Gilbert Arenas; the whole lot of them failed to live up to their contracts and their responsibilities. Big ol' Fail for them.
Making a name: Kirk Hinrich? We know the Hawks. They've been together. But Hinrich showed that he can still put in buckets and play defense. His injury may be the biggest story going into Hawks-Bulls.
Theme of the Series: The Offense from Hell. There were some good games in this series. Some legitimately great defense. But there were also entire quarters defined by Hawks isolation after Hawks isolation and missed Magic 3-pointer after missed Magic 3-pointer. If the Hawks had managed ball movement with any consistency they could have ended this in four. If the Magic had actually landed a few shots, they could have made it out of the first round. There's good defense, and then there's bad offense. We saw both in this series.
Posted on: April 28, 2011 9:53 am
Hawks try to close the Magic out, but if Orlando can stay warm from the outside, they'll force a Game 7.
Posted by Matt Moore
One Big Thing: The Magic have to stay hot from the perimeter. This series really does come down to shooting percentages. Everything else evens out, even Dwight's impact inside, marginalized by the work of Josh Smith, Al Horford and the Atlanta bigs. It just comes down to whether the 3-point barrage from Orlando can hold up. That's what this game, and this series, will be decided on. Seems simple, because it is. Make shots, and Orlando's going to push this to seven.
The X-Factor: J.J. Redick wasn't bombing from deep in Game 5, but he was doing work off the dribble. Yes, little J.J.'s all grown up. The Magic need a ball-handler who can score off the bench whose name isn't a grill and whose knees haven't been through multiple surgeries in four season. Redick was hampered by injury at the end of the regular season and start of this series. He looked back to his old self in Game 5. That holds up, and that takes the sting out of Jamal Crawford, the real eternal X-Factor in this series.
The Adjustment: The Hawks have to get back to what worked in the first four games: running off 3-pointers, doubling, and recovering. All the damage the Magic did inside compounded the outside and vice-versa. The Hawks aren't going to improve on offense. They're going to have more bad possessions than good. But defensively, they spark fast breaks, which is where their best ball-movement comes from. Letting the Magic fire away will guarantee the Hawks suffer the ignominy of losing a series they were up 3-1 in.
The Sticking Point: The Magic really showed they were a better team when the shots were falling in Game 5. That has to put the fear of God into Atlanta. If the Hawks don't get a break and have the Magic miss a few early ones, Atlanta could come undone. This is a deciding game in this series, and not just because the Magic remain on the edge of elimination. A loss and the Hawks enter full-on meltdown mode. Just like that, a series that looked to be theirs can wind up firmly in Orlando's grasp.