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Magic are a lot different without Dwight Howard

While Orlando hasn't been as bad as many feared this season, the franchise is currently in a transition phase between the Howard era and whatever happens next.

USA TODAY Sports

At 12-16 and only 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East, the Magic are one of the most pleasant surprises in the first two months of the NBA season.

However, the future of the franchise is still as murky as it was the day after they dealt Dwight Howard to the Lakers.

As Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel points out in his year-end column, none of the current Orlando players are guaranteed to be here long-term:

When is a rebuild not yet a true rebuild? When you still have a corps of veterans - Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Arron Afflalo and Hedo Turkoglu - who are still doing the heavy lifting. They are the bridge to the next era, following an era of steady success that, frankly, will be difficult to duplicate. Some of them have to go to make room for new stars.

Indeed, ironically enough, wins this season could be the worst thing to happen to the Magic. While Orlando has a few interesting young pieces -- Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, Andrew Nicholson -- they don't have anyone who resembles a franchise player.

The only way to get a guy who can fill Howard's shoes is at the top of the draft, and if the Magic's rag-tag group of veterans keeps winning games, they'll never get the opportunity to select one.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.