By Chris Mannix
January 11, 2010

With the midseason mark fast approaching, enough time has lapsed to ask the question: Are the Orlando Magic better with Vince Carter than Hedo Turkoglu?

The answer, thus far, is no.

At 25-12, the Magic are four wins shy of last year's 37-game mark. Granted, Turkoglu was in his fourth year with Orlando and was already simpatico with Magic mainstays Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. The ball-dominating Carter, while statistically solid (17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists) has, at times, disrupted the even flow of the offense -- a fact Magic players, such as Lewis, have publicly acknowledged. It doesn't help, either, that Carter is shooting a career low 39.2 percent. There is even talk of Carter's ceding his starting role to (gulp) J.J. Redick and coming off the bench regularly for the first time in his career.

Still, regardless of whether the Magic are better with Carter, there is no question they need a productive Carter to have any hope of another Finals run. In the Magic's four-game skid last week, Carter shot 20.5 percent (8-for-39). He went 1-for-2 in a loss Washington before leaving early with a separated shoulder.

As dominating as Howard is in the low post, and as consistent as Lewis can be on the perimeter, Carter is arguably the only player on the Magic's roster capable of creating his own shot late in games. That's a required asset for all championship teams (see Bryant, Kobe; Pierce, Paul).

(All stats and records are through Jan. 10.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 1
Shaquille O'Neal is averaging a career low in points (10.6), minutes (22.8) and field-goal percentage (52.2 percent), while connecting on just 50.7 percent of his free throws. According to, Cleveland is plus-38 this season with Shaq in the lineup, a number that is dwarfed by Anderson Varejao (plus-301) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (plus-120).
2 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 4
Who needs Kevin Garnett? With the face of the franchise sidelined, Rajon Rondo delivered a 22-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound effort in a win over Toronto (his first triple-double and 17th double-double of the season), while Kendrick Perkins put up 20 points and 10 rebounds in an OT win at Miami.
3 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 2
Here are the ramifications of a loss to the Clippers: Your starting center is the subject of trade rumors. An Andrew Bynum-for-Chris Bosh deal was tossed into the rumor mill, but NBA sources say there is no truth to any of it. Why would there be? Would the Lakers really deal a 22-year-old true center for free-agent-to-be Bosh, a talented power forward whose game mirrors that of Pau Gasol?
4 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 6
A 42-point fourth quarter at San Antonio? The Mavs are doing something right, and coach Rick Carlisle says it's starting with practice, where players know they are auditioning for minutes. "I take note of how guys are playing in practices, and those things are really more in the forefront of your mind," Carlisle said. "If there's a player who's doing some exceptionally good things, you're certainly more apt to look for opportunities to put him out there."
5 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 5
Three years ago, an NBA scout told me he believed Ian Mahinmi had All-Star talent. In his first NBA game in more than two years, the 6-foot-11 Mahinmi showed glimpses of it, scoring 15 points (on 6-for-6 shooting) and pulling down nine rebounds in a Spurs win over New Jersey.
6 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 3
Orlando Magic (25-12)
Over an 82-game season, losing streaks will happen. But a four-game skid that includes losses to Chicago, Indiana and Washington? That should never happen, not for a team with title aspirations. "We need much better energy out of our starting unit -- not just at the start of games, but throughout the game," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's almost like they're waiting for the game to slow down, and there's no reason for that. We've fallen into some habits of only playing certain minutes of the game."
7 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 9
Phoenix Suns (23-14)
What is it about Phoenix that turns average three-point shooters into great ones? After making 38 triples in his first three seasons combined, Jared Dudley has connected on 58 this season and leads the NBA in three-point percentage (49.2). And after netting 20 threes in his first four seasons, Channing Frye is No. 2 in the league in three-pointers made this season (95).
8 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 10
Atlanta Hawks (23-13)
The Hawks are humming offensively. Atlanta is sixth in the league in scoring (103.4 points per game), ninth in shooting (47.1 percent) and 14th in free-throw percentage (76.2) after finishing 28th last year. What's more, the Hawks have committed only 12.4 turnovers per game (best in the NBA). They may need an extra gear with a week bookended by dates with Boston and Phoenix.
9 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 11
Momentum from the Nuggets' big win over Cleveland was halted by a narrow loss at Sacramento. Help is on the horizon, though: Carmelo Anthony, out since late December with a bruised right knee, is expected to return Monday against the Timberwolves, reuniting a core four (with Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin and Nene) that is 19-5 when playing together.
10 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 8
Rough week for the Rockets (losses to the Lakers and Suns), as general manager Daryl Morey tweeted: "We are just not playing well. Not getting good shots -- making shots we get. TOs. Start of 1st&3rd [quarters] needs new approach."
1 - 10 11 - 20 21 - 30

You May Like