Preview: Orlando Magic (2-1) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (2-1)

The Orlando Magic let the Dwight Howard saga play out until it eventually netted them Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and three protected future first-round picks. Nevermind the lack of financial flexibility, talent (potential or otherwise), or assets accumulated — the Magic reside in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division, where the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats will most definitely compete with them for last place. So they’re not even guaranteed a top 2 pick in the draft.

The Magic probable starting lineup:

PG E’Twaun Moore

SG DeQuan Jones

SF Arron Afflalo

PF Glen Davis

C Nikola Vucevic

Usually trading a superstar like Howard gives a team the chance to get out from under the contracts of some of their more highly-compensated supporting players like Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Jameer Nelson — who is likely to be out injured tonight with Moore starting in his place. As they played it, the Magic actually acquired some modestly overpaid players like Afflalo and Harrington.

The altogether serviceable pieces the Magic received and ended up keeping pretty much guarantee they will be competitive in games like Sunday’s 115-94 win at home against Phoenix and surprise struggling teams like Denver in their opener, 102-89.

This also opens the door for a potential Wolves letdown after an exhilarating comeback against the Nets in Brooklyn Monday night.

The Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Luke Ridnour

SG Brandon Roy

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Derrick Williams

C Nikola Pekovic

The question marks are plenty after the bench led a spirited comeback. Is Ridnour healthy enough, after competently defending shooting guards for most of last season, to be starting and getting torched nightly at point guard? Is Brandon Roy capable of defending the other team’s fourth or fifth offensive option? Is Williams getting just enough leash to hang himself (or showcase himself in a potential trade to a place like, hmmm… say… Orlando?) or is he primed to break out of a shooting slump? If you’ve shot 3-12 in two out of three games in a season, is it a slump or is your shot broken? Will Shved’s emergence as a second-team playmaker extraordinaire continue?

The knowns are Pekovic’s dependable post play and Kirilenko’s all-around brilliance. I maintain those to be enough tonight.

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Tags: Afflalo Alexey Shved Andrei Kirilenko Dwight Howard Feature Glen Davis Minnesota Timberwolves Orlando Magic Pre-game Preview Wolves

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