With the Orlando Magic set to open training camp on Saturday, many questions surround the team and new head coach Scott Skiles . Orlando has a stable of young players, coupled with a few impact veterans. Skiles is going to need every second of the team's eight preseasons games to figure out how to balance out his rotation.
Returning seemingly everyone who played major minutes last season, most of the Magic's rotation is easy to guess. Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, the gifted athletic duo the team touted as their backcourt of the future last season, will get the start at point guard and shooting guard, respectively. A pair of youngsters with big-money extensions kicking in this season take two of the frontcourt spots, with Nikola Vucevic at center and Tobias Harris holding down the small forward spot.
The bench unit, led by swingman Evan Fournier, seemingly has four of its spots locked up as well. Veteran C.J. Watson, whom the team signed from the Indiana Pacers in the offseason, will back up Payton, while Fournier will likely see the bulk of the minutes backing up Oladipo at the two. Mario Hezonja, the team's prized pick from this June's NBA Draft, should see the bulk of his minutes behind Harris. Anchoring the unit will likely be Dewayne Dedmon, the Magic's best rim protector last season, giving up a paltry 43.7 percent, good enough for seventh in the league amongst players with at least 50 blocks.
After those eight players, things get a little murkier for the Magic. Last season, the team went with Channing Frye as its starting power forward, a move that quickly backfired after it became evident he and Vucevic could not play together due to their defensive shortcomings.
While Frye still had a good season shooting the ball--he knocked down 39.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, the second highest mark of his career--his issues on D overshadowed what he was able to accomplish offensively. Frye's ability to space the floor could be too hard for Skiles to overlook in the starting lineup, however, especually with their lack of consistent shooters in that unit currently.
The other name that needs to be mentioned for the starting power forward spot is Aaron Gordon. Gordon, who missed half of his rookie season with a foot injury, showed off in summer-league play just why the Magic used the fourth pick on him in the 2014 Draft by taking advantage of seemingly every defender opponents threw at him. While there are some questions about his health--Gordon won't be able to go through 5-on-5 drills until mid-October, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins--he would bring a much-needed defensive element to the starting frontcourt. Add in the fact he and Harris could be interchangeable while on court together, and it would seem as though he should be the lock to start at power forward to open the season.
Gordon would not only give the team more versatility, but would also allow the team to play at a faster pace, something Skiles-led teams have historically done. In his 13 years as a head coach, Skiles' teams have ranked 11th or higher in pace 11 times, something that should fit well into the Magic's young, athletic bunch. Using Frye with the second unit would also give the Magic's reserves more offensive firepower, something they've severely lacked over the past few seasons.
The power forward spot is one that could be a key for the Magic and their potential success this season. Both Gordon and Frye offer qualities that would help the starting unit, and the bench units. Coach Skiles and his staff will have a big decision to make for opening night against the Washington Wizards on October 28th.