The Orlando Magic's once-promising season has taken a turn in January. The team entered 2016 with a respectable 19-13 record, good for the fifth seed in the surprisingly strong East, and appeared to be rounding the proverbial corner in its rebuilding effort. New coach Scott Skiles brought a hardworking, defensive-oriented mindset to the club, which paid almost immediate dividends.
But then the wheels fell off: since January 1st, the Magic have managed only one win in eight tries, and that victory came against the Brooklyn Nets, a rudderless, talent-poor franchise which has since fired its coach and reassigned its general manager. As a result of their poor play, the Magic have fallen to ninth in the East, jeopardizing their stated goal to earn a trip to the postseason.
What's to blame for Orlando's precipitous slide?
As ever, offense is much easier to quantify, so we'll direct our focus to that end of the floor. Two of Orlando's cornerstones have taken nosedives which correspond to the team's offensive putridity in recent weeks: Nikola Vucevic is shooting just 45.9 percent from the floor for 15.1 points per game in the new year, while Tobias Harris stands at a frigid 39 percent for 9.5 points per game. Before the calendar turned to 2016, Vucevic was shooting 53.2 percent for 17.3 points per, with Harris converting 47.4 percent for 14.4 points. Harris' slide is particularly galling, given that he leads the team in minutes in 2016; his per-minute scoring has dropped nearly in half, and it's fair to wonder weather Skiles ought to keep him on a shorter leash.
In sum, Vucevic and Harris have fallen off a proverbial cliff, and hardly anyone has managed to pick up the slack.
I say "hardly anyone" because Victor Oladipo has quietly bounced back from a rough start to the season. In 2016, the third-year guard is shooting 49 percent from the floor and a sizzling 57.1 percent on three-pointers--while taking five treys per game, it bears noting--for 18.3 points. He's also contributing 4.4 boards, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals. But as it turns out, as Orlando learned time and again during Oladipo's first two pro seasons, the Indiana product can't carry a team on his own.
There don't appear to be many easy remedies for what ails the Magic. Finding more minutes for Aaron Gordon, most likely at Harris' expense, could provide an offensive boost: the gadget forward is scoring an efficient 8.6 points per game in January and offers more defense and rebounding than Harris as well. But apart from that minor tweak, I'm fresh out of suggestions.
So I leave these questions to you: what do you think has caused the Magic to crash lately? How would you address those problems?