In anticipation of the Yao/D-Ho matchup, we exchanged some questions and answers with Ben Q. Rock over at Third Quarter Collapse (a fellow SBNation site!).
Here's our questions and his answers... our answers to his questions should be posted to his site sometime today:
1. How would you compare Dwight Howard to Shaquille O'Neal at their comparable ages and experience? While Shaq got to the NBA Finals in 1995, he had Penny and Nick and Dennis to help... what does D-Ho need to take Orlando to the Finals?
Dwight needs a bench. Maybe it's silly of me to compare teams across decades, but in this analogy, Mickael Pietrus is Nick Anderson; Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson combined are Penny Hardaway; and Rashard Lewis is Dennis Scott, if Scott were tall, skinny, and a power forward. They need a bench and, to further extend the analogy, a Horace Grant-type power forward. Someone who rebounds, defends, and hits the occasional 15-footer. You know, like Luis Scola. (ed. note - gratuitous praise for Scola?? Such a suck-up! I love it!)
That said, we should not confuse "not being worth $118 million" with "not being a good basketball player." Lew's main responsibility is to keep the floor open for Dwight with his three-point shooting (although he's been well off the mark this season). Additionally, he's an unselfish player. He went from being the top option in Seattle to being the third option in Orlando, playing out-of-position to boot. And yet he hasnt complained, at least not that we know of.
This year, Rashard has vowed to be more assertive offensively and not settle too often for three-pointers. He seems more willing to drive the ball, but not by much. We'll see what happens. There's a chance that he could shift to small forward if Hedo Turkoglu gets traded, which is a distinct possibility, given his pending free-agency and the threat of the Magic getting nothing in return for him.
It's encouraging that they're 2-0 against Philadelphia and Toronto, two teams that made major offseason moves and were (are still?) regarded in some circles as being a cut above Orlando.
4. If you could have one player in the league to put you over the top, a guy that costs 9MM a year or less, who would it be? If you had to cut out one starter, who would it be and why?
Lewis makes Turk expendable, in some way. If Turk were off the team, Lewis would shift to small forward, and the $9 million player the Magic acquire would play power forward. Ideally, he'd be a veteran, so the Magic could go into definite "win-now" mode. To that end, I suggest Rasheed Wallace. That's cheating, a little bit, since he'll make nearly $14 million this year. However, he's in the last year of his deal, and $9 million is a more than generous sum for a player of Wallace's caliber. He rebounds, defends, shoots threes, and can serve as a tutor for Dwight, whom he once famously referred to as his secretary. Quite honestly, I can think of no other realistically attainable player who fits the Magic's needs as well as 'Sheed does.
Ahhhh, the long-lost days of when Yao could jump!