Season preview: Orlando Magic

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• Last season: 52-30; lost in second round of playoffs to Pistons

• Notable additions: Mickael Pietrus (FA), Courtney Lee (R), Anthony Johnson (FA), Tony Battie (missed last season with shoulder injury)

• Notable losses: Keyon Dooling (trade with Nets), Maurice Evans (signed with Hawks), Carlos Arroyo (signed with Israel's Maccabi Tel-Aviv), Pat Garrity (retired)

• Coach: Stan Van Gundy (52-30 in one season with Magic; 164-103 in three-plus NBA seasons)

1. Dwight Howard is poised to take the next step. Some might say Howard, who averaged 20.7 points and an NBA-high 14.2 rebounds last season, already is the league's most dominant center at age 22. But without a consistent perimeter shot and with an all-too-predictable (albeit powerful) low-post game, Howard still rates behind Tim Duncan and maybe even Yao Ming at the position. Could this be the year that Howard adds the missing pieces to his game? If Howard can become a threat from 12-15 feet, he will be virtually unstoppable.

2. Tony Battie is back. Why should the Magic be excited about a 32-year-old forward/center with a career scoring average of 6.7 points? Because with Battie sidelined all of last season with a torn rotator cuff, the Magic were forced to play Rashard Lewis too much at power forward and struggled to find a quality backup for Howard. Battie, who started every game he played with the Magic from 2005-07, suffered a setback recently when he broke his left ring finger at practice, but he told reporters that he expects to play through the injury.

3. Pietrus will make an impact defensively. The Magic had no discernible defensive stopper on the wing last season. Enter Pietrus. The former Warriors swingman is still searching for consistency on offense (he slipped to 43.9 percent shooting last season after making 48.8 percent in 2006-07), but the 6-6, 215-pound Pietrus has the size and quickness to defend the likes of Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson in the Eastern Conference.

1. Hedo Turkoglu's looming contract issues. Turkoglu was a major bright spot for the Magic last season, stabilizing the frontcourt and becoming a go-to scorer in the fourth quarter on his way to winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award. But he plans to opt out of his contract after the season, and the Magic could be hard-pressed to keep him after doling out more than $200 million on deals for Lewis, Howard and Jameer Nelson. Trade speculation in January could be a costly distraction.

2. They are still missing something. Pietrus is a welcome addition and Battie's return will help, but the Magic still are missing that rugged, Charles Oakley-type forward who is critical come playoff time. Detroit's physicality overwhelmed the Magic in the playoffs last season, and aside from getting Battie back, Orlando has done nothing to ensure that it won't happen again.

3. Lingering doubts at point guard. Nelson's numbers have been solid -- he averaged 10.9 points and 5.6 assists last season and 16.2 points and 4.7 assists in the playoffs -- but there are questions about whether the Magic can contend for a championship with a 6-foot point guard who is considered a defensive liability against bigger guards. Nelson answered a lot of questions with a gritty performance in the 2008 postseason, but he will have to step up his game even more on the defensive end.

J.J. Redick. Redick hasn't done much (5.2 scoring average in two seasons) to justify his draft position or his popularity with Magic fans, and his trade demand last season didn't exactly endear himself to the front office. But general manager Otis Smith and Van Gundy have told the sharpshooting guard that he will get an opportunity to contribute this season. If Redick proves he can handle the defensive rigors at shooting guard, his long-range abilities could be a major asset.

Howard last season was fouled on 30 percent of his shot attempts, highest in the league by a wide margin (Amaré Stoudemire was second at 24 percent). The Magic center, who led the NBA in free-throw attempts (897), shot 59 percent at the line.

The Magic are runaway favorites in the Southeast Division. But against a physical team such as Boston, Detroit or even Cleveland, Orlando will continue to come up short. Another second-round exit is probably in the cards.