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NBA Preview: The Orlando Magic and The Indiana Pacers

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SBNation Chicago's Brian Lauvray breaks down the promising Indiana Pacers and their wunderkinds Roy Hibbert and Paul George compares the Orlando Magic to a garbage dump and/or a tiger pit. (Spoiler: Dwight Howard is a punji stick!)

Gregory Shamus

Garbage dumps are always illustrated as pretty fun places in pop culture. Wandering around, probably with Heathcliff as your guide, one is likely to find hilarious junk like a set of bar stools that "just needs a 'lil elbow grease and some 409 to get back into tip-top shape," or a couch that would "look great" in your living room. In truth, garbage dumps aren't really funny, just a hotbed for tetanus. That set of bar stools? There's a huge wasp nest inside the metal tubings and the washers are all rusted out and have stained the chrome finish. That couch? A skunk that was nesting inside it just sprayed you (and the couch) and you now smell terrible and really wanna get to an ER to get this scrape looked at (is it tetanus?) but the hospital won't let you in because you smell like a skunk just sprayed you. Yeah, that second depiction? That's the Orlando Magic this season. Just a junk yard of NBA scraps and retreads.

Seriously, just look at this Magic roster and try to keep a straight face (I'll wait). Done laughing? No? Good, keep laughing. Because those clowns, plus the paradox known as Jameer Nelson eating too many pulled pork sandwiches, while trying to cross-over anyone, will be holding it down in the 407 this season. Where to begin? Umm, let's throw Jameer Nelson (dude's gonna keep his Halloween costume all season. His costume? Constantly growing ball of humanity that used to have a decent handle.) at the one. Have JJ Reddick always be running with Josh McRoberts, while Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington figure things out and jack up threes. Just kidding, Al Harrington isn't playing for a bit because he's recovering from offseason knee surgery.

We all know that Dwight Howard --Two metaphors for the price of one? It's your lucky day!-- was the punji stick, and now with the feces-smeared punji stick finally removed from the victim's leg (the Orlando Magic), this season is the sepsis and infection coursing through the victim's body, the financial woes that potentially will be crippling the franchise for seasons to come? That's the tiger pit.

The NBA's worst franchise will likely still be coming out of the Southeast Division, but it won't be the Charlotte Bobcats this season. Nope, that designation is waiting for the loser of the Washington Wizards-Orlando Magic Battle to the Bottom.

From discussing one of the NBA's worst districts, we now consider one of the elite addresses of the NBA metropolis, the Indiana Pacers. After nipping at the heels of the Chicago Bulls throughout the regular season, the Pacers finished their season a bit prematurely (dropping four straight to the Heat in the conference semis), and return largely intact. And will likely keep on keepin' on with Frank Vogel's philosophy of defense and rebounds and lots, and lots of free-throw attempts, will continue to make them a tough out.

As non-sexy as it may be, the Pacers have been forged into a mold of Frank Vogel and his ideals of basketball fundamentals and the results are promising. More promising is the development of Paul George and George Hill who, as all true students, have learned the rules under Vogel and now continually strive to break those rules and write their own. Paul George's development in particular has struck a tone somewhere between solid, all-around contributor and havoc-wreaking, wheat thresher of defenses. Another cat that has improved and improved some more? The Mobile Monolith himself, Roy Hibbert. Hibbert, who for a few seasons had dealt with "promising" and "almost there" tattooed to his reputation, emerged as THE dominant big of the Eastern Conference last year and with Dwight's departure to So. Cal, the East's contractually obligated "only one incredibly talented big per year" role is filled by Roy and his evolving offense and defense. Roy sees you, Andrew Bynum, he'll be waiting.

Meanwhile, the relatively young squad still has length for days in the front court (what up Roy Hibbert and David West and Danny Granger!), while able to simply sic any two of Paul George, George Hill, DJ Augustin, and Gerald Green on the guards of the East. With, SIGH, Derrick Rose's injury and his return still to be determined, and with the promising young core of Cleveland's still a season away from promise, the Central Division likely is Indiana's to lose and, realistically, they should be aiming for no lower than a two-seed and a date with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals come late May.