The Magic went into the 2009–10 season with one major roster change: Türkoğlu departed for the Toronto Raptors, while eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter arrived from the New Jersey Nets.
Howard, who plays center, spent his high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.
During the playoffs, the Magic defeated both Charlotte and Atlanta 4 games to none, in the first and second rounds respectively.
In reaching the Conference Finals again, the Magic faced Boston—who had upset Cleveland in the Semifinals—Orlando lost the first three games, took the next two, but finally succumbed in Game 6.
That same year, Howard was widely recognized as the best American high school basketball player, and he was awarded the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award, the Morgan Wootten High School Player of the Year Award, Gatorade National Player of the Year and the Mc Donald's National High School Player of the Year honor.
Following his high school successes, Howard chose to forego college and declared for the 2004 NBA draft—a decision partly inspired by his idol Kevin Garnett who had done the same in 1995—where the Orlando Magic selected him first overall over UConn junior Emeka Okafor.