David Thorpe dropped by HoopSpeak Live on Thursday to talk a little Orlando Magic and, specifically, about how the team operates under the direction of Stan Van Gundy.
Even as the Magic fell from the league's elite last season, they still ranked No. 3 in defensive efficiency. Having a presence like Dwight Howard patrolling the paint in the half court certainly anchors a defense, but the Magic's success is predicated on more than just allowing its perimeter defenders to crowd their assignments because Howard can clean up any mess.
As Thorpe describes it, the Magic are committed to a few basic -- but essential -- defensive principles.
You can watch hours of Magic basketball and be hard-pressed a Grade A screw-up defending the pick-and-roll. That foundation, in turn, allows the Magic to defend the perimeter and prevent teams from lighting them up from beyond the arc. When two men can handle pick-and-roll duty or, if they can't, the back-line big rotates swiftly, perimeter defenders can stay at home.
The Magic might have to play under a cloud of uncertainty regarding Howard, but good coaching and a defensive system that works can keep the Magic in the top third of the Eastern Conference ... so long as the roster remains largely intact.
Thorpe discusses his favorite rookies from this year's class with Zach Harper here.