Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 3/2/12
Ryan Anderson is having a breakout year, and Dwight Howard is still Dwight Howard the NBA's most dominant big man. But one of the best stories for the Orlando Magic this season has been the play of J.J. Redick., the sixth-year guard from Duke who is having his best year as a pro. It didn't always look like Redick was going be a solid NBA player after the Magic drafted him with the No. 11 pick in the 2006 draft. Coming out of Duke as the ACC's all-time leading scorer and college basketball's best all-time three-point shooter, Redick's college credentials did not instantly translate to the NBA's style of play. I recall watching Redick's first practices with the Magic in his rookie season. Physically, he was over-matched, his slight body ping-ponging around the practice court against the likes of veteran guards Keith Bogans and Keyon Dooling. That first season, Redick played in just 42 games, mostly mop up duty under head coach Brian Hill. Season two, Redick's first under head coach Stan Van Gundy, wasn't much different. Redick played in even fewer games (34), seeing even fewer minutes than he did in his rookie season. It was in his third NBA season that Redick's career took a major turn. An intense off-season workout schedule had begun to transform his body. No longer a human pinball in games and practices, Redick was now beginning to hold his own physically on the court. In February 2009, the Magic traded Bogans, opening up more consistent minutes for Redick. In the '09 playoffs, Redick really earned his NBA stripes. Plugged into the starting lineup due to an injury to rookie guard Courtney Lee Lee's face had an unfortunate encounter with Howard's elbow in the first round against Philadelphia Redick held his own against All-Star Ray Allen and the rough and tumble Boston Celtics. It was there that Redick earned Van Gundy's trust. Though Redick's offensive numbers weren't stellar during Orlando's seven-game win over the Celtics he averaged just 6.3 points on 31.7 percent shooting he suffocated Allen on defense, holdinghim to just 13.1 points per game on 34.4 percent shooting and just 19 percent from 3-point range. Redick returned to the bench after Lee returned to the lineup, but in the end, his hard work against Allen and the Celtics paid off. Redick played in all 82 regular season games the following year, becoming a regular in Van Gundy's rotation. Before the start of last year, Redick, then a restricted free agent, signed a lucrative three-year deal with the Magic after agreeing to an offer sheet from the Chicago Bulls, and today, he is one of his coach's most trusted players. "J.J. is always prepared. He always plays at a very high energy level." Van Gundy says. "You always know what you're going to get, and for a coach, that's a great feeling." If you take a look back at the 2006 college draft, you'll find is that the Magic came out better than almost every team in the NBA when they selected Redick with the 11th overall pick. Four players taken ahead of Redick (Adam Morrison No. 3, Brandon Roy; No. 6, Patrick O'Bryant; No. 9 and Mouhamed Sene No. 10) are no longer in the league. Out of 30 first-round picks, just 14 are still NBA players. And the list of players who have had better careers than Redick one that includes Andrea Bargnani (No. 1), LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2), Rudy Gay (No. 8), Rajon Rondo (No. 21), Kyle Lowry (No. 24) and Paul Millsap (No. 47) is short. It's safe to say that Redick, who is averaging career highs in points (11.1), rebounds (2.2) and assists (2.2), is second in the league in free throw shooting (95 percent), and 10th in 3-point shooting (44.5 percent), was a steal at No. 11. Years of hard work and perseverance have paid off for the former collegiate All-American.
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