Hollinger's Team Forecast: Orlando Magic

Originally Published: October 3, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Go to: Offseason moves | Biggest strength | Biggest weakness | Outlook

It was a tale of two seasons for the Orlando Magic, with the second one being much more pleasant than the first.

Orlando began the year as a veteran team hoping to squeeze into a playoff spot by riding the tandem of guard Steve Francis and forward Grant Hill. The club got off to a reasonable start, with a 12-14 mark at the end of December, but then hit a rough patch. Francis began sulking as he started losing minutes and shots to backup Jameer Nelson, and as it became increasingly clear that Nelson was the better player, Francis' behavior only got worse.
Darko Milicic
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty ImagesDarko Milicic showed his shot-swatting skills in Orlando.
Meanwhile, Hill's injury struggles continued, with a lower abdominal injury to blame this time, and he made it through 21 games before having to call it a season. Plus, center Kelvin Cato had knee problems that kept him on the pine most of the year. As a result, the supposedly veteran team was actually leaning on two second-year players, Nelson and power forward Dwight Howard, for most of its production.

At that point, general manager Otis Smith (who was technically sharing the job with Dave Twardzik at the time) and the rest of the Magic organization did an about-face, and set about rebuilding via a much younger nucleus. He made two huge deals that completely recast the direction of the franchise, sending Francis to the Knicks in a salary dump and then trading Cato and a first-round pick to the Pistons for Carlos Arroyo and Darko Milicic.