We're about to talk about tanking in this Orlando Pinstriped Post Mailbag, but before we do a quick reminder that Evan and I are here to answer any Orlando Magic questions you have. Feel free to submit your questions to OPPMailbag@gmail.com or through the OPP Facebook page and we'll get to them whenever we can.
With that out of the way, let's get started.
How much do you think management really wants to see this team do when it is fully healthy? Obviously Baby [Davis] and [Tobias] Harris are still out of shape from coming back from injuries and the team is suffering a little chemistry wise for it as well. Is management serious about making a potential run for the playoffs in what has been a putrid Eastern Conference this year? Or will they stop at nothing to ensure themselves of another potential top three pick?
Maybe I'm naïve--and that's completely plausible--but I can't imagine a scenario in which Orlando management is actively rooting for losses, especially when the team is completely healthy. Yes, more losses means a better chance of higher draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Yes, that Draft is loaded. And yes, there is a model in place to drafting and molding a 19-year-old into a superstar. But I can't imagine people within the organization who want to lose.
That isn't to say that Rob Hennigan and company are pulling their hair out, grimacing and looking for ways to trade for Rudy Gay, because they aren't. But they don't want to lose. No one in the Magic organization wants Orlando to stumble to the worst record for the second straight season.
That said, I don't think Hennigan is necessarily concerned with wins and losses. The Magic, quite obviously, aren't in any sort of position to make a run at a title any time soon and and are in no way wasting their time fretting about winning a game or two over .500, only to get ravaged in the first round of the playoffs.
What Hennigan is looking for--from Jacque Vaughn and his young guys--is improvement. He wants to see Victor Oladipo develop point guard skills; he wants to see Andrew Nicholson improve on defense and on the glass; he wants to watch Arron Afflalo establish himself as an All-Star caliber, do-it-all player. He's looking for his core--the one he built nearly from scratch--continue to get better. I imagine he's using this season to see who can do what and who has a future with the team.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller addressed a similar issue in a recent The Hook column: the idea in his piece is that general managers are inherently competitive and supremely confident. Most GMs think they can find gold no matter where they pick in the Draft; they don't need the top pick to show off their advanced scouting ability. Hennigan is a scout and he's proven early to have an eye for talent. If you'll remember, he played a major part in the Oklahoma City Thunder's drafting Serge Ibaka with the no. 24 overall pick in 2008.
That is essentially Ziller's argument. If Hennigan can find an All-Star-caliber talent like Ibaka at the bottom of the first round--or the talented Nicholson at no. 19--then he's less likely to worry about "winning too many games." Hennigan probably thinks he can find talent wherever in the draft. It doesn't matter how many games Orlando wins: Hennigan will likely make the right call. If that means this year's roster wins games, great. If not, that's OK, but I don't think he's actively rooting for losses with the current team.