So, I've been following the Magic since I was a little boy watching Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal. I'm not a writer and I don't comment on very many things. I like to follow the team even though I'm over 2000 miles away and don't necessarily follow them as religiously as I do with my other Sports teams (the Seahawks & Mariners). And maybe my thoughts will sound redundant or ridiculous, but I just want to write out my opinion on what I think the Magic should do. This is also my first ever fan-post, so please bear with me.
This season has been abysmal and will be abysmal.
It's pretty much rock-bottom (even though things could get worse). The only way to look is up. There is some talent on this team. There is also some not-very-good talent on this team. It's a re-building phase that will take some time, but not too long if the Magic can do it right.
So, to start, I think the Magic should keep Vucevic and build around his strengths.
Also, for the rest of this season, they should start young talented defensive players. For now, I think starting Kyle O'Quinn at PF switching off secondary time with Andrew Nicholson is great for rebuilding. At some point, when Al Harrington comes back, he should start at PF, but giving quality backup time to O'Quinn and Nicholson. I don't think newly acquired Hakeem Warrick should play very much, at PF or SF. I think O'Quinn has a bright future. In college during his junior and senior year, he averaged 3 blocks per game with 10+ rebound and 16+ points. He can hopefully overtake Big Baby's spot in a coming years. I know I'm going out on a limb, but I've got faith in this guy.
Tobias Harris should get plenty of time at SF.
I'm kind of excited to see what he can do. I'm not a big fan of Moe Harkless, so starting Harris and giving Harkless backup duties is my opinion. Harris provides more upside and potential to be a valued contributor than Harkless. I also don't think DeQuan Jones will be a factor. Harrington will get some time at SF too depending on who's on the floor at the time.
At SG, Arron Afflalo will continue to see plenty of time.
He is hitting the prime of his career. Which. Well, isn't that great. He's the only offensive threat the Magic have other than Jameer Nelson. His defense isn't up to par and I just don't think he's in future for the Magic. E'Twaun Moore should see some time at SG and PG, but I don't think Moore is part of the future either. It might be worth playing him more this season to watch his growth and examine his potential. He should be a solid sub on the bench this year.
At PG, Jameer should and will start the rest of this season.
I don't think he's in the future's plans, but they need to keep him until a valid lottery pick, backup, or FA signee that shows upside and loads of potential. Udrih will backup this season and should prove to be a contributor this year, but he's for-sure not in the future plans past this season. Doron Lamb could be a candidate for SG or PG of the future, but I think it's unlikely. He's got upside, but the Magic need to test him this season and watch his growth and evaluate his skillset. He'll probably be one of those young players floating around the league until he finds the right fit. Maybe it's the Magic, maybe it's not.
The biggest thing the Magic need to do is roll the dice for the rest of this season and see who is valuable to keep in the rebuilding phase. Examine player-growth and weed out the players not getting much better in the weak parts of their games. The coaches and trainers should be pushing hard, focusing on each players' weakness. Instead of fine-tuning strengths, I believe improving on weakness is key.
Analyzing internal player-growth (and doing it well) will be the most important thing going forward.
So this is what I'd like to see in the coming years:
In the off-season, the first-round pick should go to a guard. It really depends on the lottery, who's available, and any FA signings the Magic do. The two biggest needs in the next couple off-seasons are PG and SG in my opinion. It may not be the weakest part of the team right now, but in building for the future, it is. If they can get a valuable addition in the first round, they're just a couple FA signings away from being back. Talent evaluation is key.
This is my realistic & hopeful lineup for next year:
PF Glen Davis/(O'Quinn/Nicholson)
SG First Rounder/Afflalo
One step closer.
Trade Hedo (if possible), sign a high-upside young PG, draft a SG in the first round, add young depth at SF, and sign an aging veteran to backup Vucevic. Start Big Baby at PF and give great backup time to whomever progresses more this season out of Nicholson and O'Quinn. Look for a deal to trade Harrington, but in the meantime he can switch-off with Harris at SF and occasionally sub in at PF. If Nicholson/O'Quinn progresses even more as primary backup, trade Big Baby midseason and give that experience to them (well, the one that prevails this season, in my opinion O'Quinn). Yes, next year will be rebuilding too. Giving experience to high-upside players is great when rebuilding. Hopefully, Harris will grow into a great player with time at SF. It would be nice if the Magic score a rock-star SG high in the draft that can start right away, but it's unlikely. The young draft-pick will be groomed next season under Afflalo and hopefully overtake the starting role in 2014-15 or 15-16. Hopefully the hypothetical Hedo, Davis, and Harrington trades will supply a SG/PG of the future. Otherwise, the trades should at least add youth-building depth. Kind of where the Magic are at this year, but further along in other positions. So, through this rebuilding year, I'm expecting close to only about 25-30 wins for the Magic. Probably an improvement and hopefully they don't panic and give up on players too quickly.
By 2014-15 season:
PF (O'Quinn/Nicholson)/FA signee
SG (13's lottery pick)/Afflalo
PG Nelson/(young talent through trade)
Good things should start to form.
Vucevic will be even better, PF will be locked down (although it may not be as awesome as we'd like), Harris could be a rising star (optimistically), the SG position will hopefully be decided after a year of grooming the lottery pick, and Nelson will remain PG until a young talent steals it away. Solid depth will be brought in through trading Davis, Harrington, and Hedo. That will provide young talent to be groomed at most positions. It will put them right back on track. In this scenario, my win-expectation would be around .500 for this year. It takes time to rebuild and with a lineup as young as this would bring, in 2015-16 the Magic will be playoff contenders once again.
Okay, this is all optimistic, but I think the Magic could get this done if they evaluate player-growth and talent correctly. As I wrote earlier, the key is talent evaluation and analyzing internal player-growth. That way, they can weed out players that aren't working or improving in the system.
And that's that.
Thanks for sticking around to read this. I know I'm just a casual fan, but I hope you appreciate my enthusiasm and optimism. Some of these scenarios may be very improbable to happen and I'm sorry if I missed any facts or figures that may disregard some of the things I said, like trade possibilities or contract stuff.
Anyway, I hope the Magic start rebuilding the right way and do a great job evaluating internal player-growth. Can't say it enough. Go Magic.