The 2008-09 Orlando Magic
Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service

The 2008-09 Orlando Magic team coached by Stan Van Gundy were ahead of their time when it came to offensive strategies. Headlined by All-NBA and Defensive player of the year Dwight Howard averaging 20 points, 13.9 rebounds, and a staggering 3 blocks per game. Although this team is remembered for their offensive innovation they were no slouches on the defensive end ranking first in defensive rating across the league at 101.9.

Van Gundy in his second season coaching the Orlando Magic lead the team to a 59-23 record which was the most wins the Magic have had since 1995. With the second seed locked up in the Eastern Conference at the time that featured multiple teams that rostered Future Hall of Famers, the Magic made it clear they were on a mission to reach the NBA Finals.

The Magic’s road to the finals

In the first-round series versus the Philadelphia 76ers, it was Hedo Turkoglu who set the tone showing the Magic had no interest in an early playoff exit again hitting a game-winning shot to prevent the Magic from falling into a 3-1 deficit. The Magic would go on to win the first-round series in six games moving on to face the defending champions Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were no slouches coming off an NBA title and starting the season with a 27-2 record. The loss of Kevin Garnett due to a knee injury forcing him to miss the entirety of the playoffs played a major role in the series. The series between the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics went to seven games but in the end, it was the Magic who blew out a Celtics team that appeared to be overmatched on the offensive side of the ball with the final score being 101-82 to eliminate the Celtics in game seven.

The Magic had reached the conference finals for the first time since the 1995-96 season which was no small feat. Their opponent the first seeded Cleavland Cavaliers with the reigning MVP LeBron James. Dwight Howard stepped up big time in this series averaging 25.8 points and 13.3 rebounds. Howard during a closeout game six erupted for 40 points and 14 rebounds as the magic eliminated the Cavaliers to make their first trip to the NBA finals since the 1994-195 season.

The 2008-09 Orlando Magic offensive Innovation

Although the Magic would fall short of their championship goals in the NBA finals losing to the Los Angles Lakers in five games. This team was able to leave a lasting impact on the NBA because of the strategy they implemented to get there. This was the first time in the NBA that stretch bigs were featured heavily in an offense. The Magic had two of the best at the time in Hedo Turkoglu and Rashad Lewis along with two sharpshooting guards in Jameer Nelson and J.J Redick. Dwight Howard surrounded by four shooters was unguardable and the Magic took full advantage of it setting the record for three points made with 23 in a single game at the time.

The 2008-09 Magic main focus was spacing the floor and hunting for three-pointers averaging 26.2 attempts per game. Every year under Stan Van Gundy the Magic led the NBA in three-point attempts and won consistently while doing so. This Magic team’s success can be seen as a contributing factor to the three-point explosion we’ve seen today in the NBA. Currently, in 2021 the Houston Rockets are taking 45.3 attempts from deep this season almost doubling the Magic from the 08-09 season.

If this Magic team were around today they would have thrived even more with their plethora of shooters surrounding one of the most dominant big men the game has seen. Although they fell short of an NBA championship this team will be remembered for a long time because of their offensive innovation.