The 2016/17 season figures to be an important one for the Orlando Magic. With a roster chalked full of new players, and another new coach — their fourth head coach in just two seasons— the Magic are expecting to begin to fully turn the corner in their prolonged rebuild. Should they once again struggle, heads could begin to turn, and the Magic could be facing yet another rebuild, or, at the very least, a reset from what they’ve been building under Rob Hennigan.
Team Name: Orlando Magic
Last Year's Record: 35-47
Key Losses: Victor Oladipo, Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon, Jason Smith
Key Additions: Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin, Jeff Green, Frank Vogel, Jodie Meeks
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The Magic were one of the busiest teams this offseason, bringing in seven new players via trade, free agency or the draft, along with a new coach. One of, if not the most shocking move of them all, is the addition of Frank Vogel as their head coach. After one season under Scott Skiles, the former Magic point guard suddenly quit on the team in May, leaving them scrambling to find their next head man. Luckily for them, Vogel fell right into their laps and they were able to get the guy they’ve always wanted.
On the player side, the draft night trade sending former number two overall pick Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Serge Ibaka rocked the entire league. While Oladipo did good things for the Magic, and was beginning to make a name for himself, it was becoming more and more clear he wasn’t going to fit in the long-term with Elfrid Payton, the man the team has pegged as their point guard moving forward. Moving Oladipo cleared the way to keeping Evan Fournier, who emerged as the teams most consistent scoring option on the wing last season.
Adding Ibaka, and then Bismack Biyombo in free agency gave the Magic the defensive toughness and tenacity they’d been yearning for over the past few seasons. They bring in two of the premier shot blocking big men, and one of the best defensive coaches in the league, giving them hope of finally making their way to a top level defense.
Adding the likes of D.J. Augustin, Jeff Green and Jodie Meeks also gives the Magic more veteran leadership, something they’ve lacked in recent years. It also gives them reliable options to come off the bench, which has been an achilles heel for the team in the past.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Easily the teams biggest strength is their defensive potential. With Ibaka, Biyombo, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon in the mix, the Magic have players all over the court who can lock down their positions, while also helping their teammates when needed. Adding Vogel, who lead the Pacers to top-9 ranked defenses’ in his five full seasons as coach, gives them someone who knows what it takes and should be able to help them even more.
Add in the versatility that their moves this summer gives them — they have multiple players who can play multiple positions, and potentially four players who can switch onto anyone defensively— and it’s clear the team has the potential to be one of the top ranked defenses in the league.
We have the talent to be special as a unit, and it’s going to be on our guys to really commit to that end. - Frank Vogel on Magic Media Day
The other biggest strength for the Magic this season is their front court depth. With Ibaka, Biyombo, Gordon, Nikola Vuevic, Green and rookie Stephen Zimmerman, the Magic figure to have huge contribution from the front court this season.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Scoring the basketball and shooting from range. While they did their best to try and add as much shooting as possible this summer, it might not be enough. With Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton still big question marks shooting wise, the Magic could have a starting lineup with three players severely limited on the offensive side.
D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks (once healthy) and C.J. Wilcox have the potential to help them shooting from beyond the arc, but if they aren’t able to get clean looks on a consistent basis, it could pose problems. Mario Hezonja, who has struggled mightily with his shot in the preseason, is another player the team is going to need to step up, and in a big way, on the offensive end.
Evan Fournier has shown some good things in the preseason thus far scoring the ball, but outside of him it’s been a train wreck in general. Jeff Green has take on some of the burden scoring wise off the bench, but his struggles shooting consistently from deep will be an issue, and he has a tendency to disappear for stretches.
It’s going to be a struggle, and there will likely be a lot of 88-83 games this season if the Magic can get where they want to be defensively.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Plain and simple: make the playoffs.
The pressure is on across the organization after four years without a playoff birth. The moves they made this offseason show how much they want to get there, and have given them the potential to get there, should all the dominos fall in the right places.
They’ll need the likes of Gordon, Payton and Hezonja to continue to take the steps forward they’re expected too, while getting consistent contributions from Ibaka, Fournier and Vucevic. The moves they made have given them the best depth they’ve had in the Rob Hennigan-era, and they have the best coach in place as well.
All these moves show how committed to the playoffs they are, now it’s just a matter of getting there.
5. Will the Magic trade Nikola Vucevic this season?
One of the more interesting questions surrounding the Magic is the future of Nikola Vucevic. With the additions of Ibaka and Biyombo this summer, the Magic have potential replacements for Vucevic, should they look to trade him. Add in his clear flaws on the defensive end, and moving on from their incumbent starter seems like something they could serious look at doing.
Getting fair value for Vucevic could be where the Magic find a problem. As the league continues to trend in the direction of rim protectors being more and more important, having someone with such defensive liabilities could be an issue. A team could take the same route Oklahoma City did with Enes Kanter and take a shot on Vucevic as an offensive force off the bench, but finding a team willing to give up what the Magic would want back could be difficult.
At the end of the day, I think Vucevic likely gets traded for what could be considered as pennies on the dollar by some. The additions of Ibaka, and moreso Biyombo, make Vucevic more expendable, and likely spell the end of his days in Orlando.
This is an important season for the Magic, and this management group. With the pressure at an all time high to win, every move, game played and slight tweak here and there will be scrutinized by anyone and everyone. They’ve made the moves to have the potential to get to where they want to be, and now it’s just about turning that potential into on court success.
With everything in mind, I would say the Magic end up somewhere in the 37-40 win range and just miss out on the playoffs. Their inability to score the ball is going to end up hurting them too much, and no matter how good the defense could be, not being able to score will haunt the team all that much more.