Dec 25, 2011; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket against Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Orlando Magic

Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks.

Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Orlando Magic Team Overview

The Magic were in a no-win situation last year with Dwight Howard. He made it clear he wanted out and it was evident he was playing his hardest for all of the season. By the end of the year Howard injured his back, missed the playoffs and the Magic were bounced in the first round.

The Howard-era ended in Orlando when they decided to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers in part of a 4-team deal. Orlando would receive Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga in return as well as four future protected first round draft picks. Not the best deal.

Orlando also traded away Ryan Anderson and ended up with Gustavo Ayon in return. They drafted Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn.

Per Howard’s wishes, Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith were shown the door and were replaced by former Thunder front office man Rob Hennigan as GM and Jacque Vaughn as head coach.

The Magic are officially in rebuilding mode now having traded away the best center in the game and gotten just about nothing back in return. It is impossible to imagine them making the playoffs next year and they will more likely be in the running for the top lottery pick instead.

Last year

The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Magic twice last year and beat them both times. They played first on Christmas Day which was the first game of the year for both teams and OKC won at home 97-89.

Kevin Durant had 30 points, five rebounds and six assists. Russell Westbrook had just 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting. James Harden had 19 off the bench and went 10-of-12 from the free throw line.

Howard had only 11 points and 15 boards for the Magic.

The Thunder won a closer game in Orlando in their next meeting 105-102. Durant had 38 points and eight rebounds and completely took over in the fourth quarter. Westbrook added 29 points and 10 assists. Harden had 13 off the bench.

Howard was much better in this game with 33 points and nine rebounds.

The matchup

For all the drama last year, the Magic were still pretty good. They had the 13th best offense in terms of points per possession. They were only 11th best on post-up plays however despite Howard accounting for almost all of those plays.

Most of their offense (45%) came from the pick-and-roll and spot-up shooting. They were 10th in the league on spot-up shooting plays and 14th in the pick-and-roll.

The Magic were actually 2nd in the league in transition offense perhaps because of how many threes they hit on the fast break.

The Magic defense has always been one of the best in the league with Howard anchoring the paint but it took a step back last year. They were just 15th overall in terms of PPP.

Amazingly, they were last vs. post-up plays despite having Howard. They were only 16th best vs. isolation and pick-and-roll plays too.

We saw Durant have an easy time getting his vs. the Magic last year and it’s not surprising given these ranks. A few years ago with a more focused Howard and the Magic could have been a very tough team for the Thunder offense to deal with.

We will see if there is a significant difference with Howard in L.A. next year and if that defense is suddenly one of the best in the league after adding Howard.

Next year

The Magic will be one of the worst teams in the East next year and the Thunder really should have no trouble beating them on any day of the week. They will play twice again next year first on March 15 in OKC then on March 22 in Orlando.

With the Magic having more of a lottery feel to them, especially this late in the season and the Thunder pushing hard right before the playoffs, you can’t expect the Thunder to drop any of these games.

Expect the Magic defense to be one of the worst in the league next year as well and that is about the worst possible formula when playing OKC.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder Orlando Magic

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