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The best and worst case scenario’s for the 2016/17 Magic roster

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Aaron takes a look at the Magic roster and the best and worst case scenario’s for everyone during the season.

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With a new NBA season upon us, I thought it would be important and enjoyable to preview some individual “best case” and “worst case” scenarios for every member of the Orlando Magic on contract in 2016/16. I think it’s vital as a fan of any team to have reasonable performance expectations of the athletes in the organization, similar to how scouts formulate career “floors” and ceilings” for incoming NBA prospects (but for the purposes of this article, season “highs” and “lows” will be hypothesized, not careers).

This exercise is highly top-heavy. What I mean is, the more “Best Case” scenarios that are met this season by players mentioned near the top of this list —those who will be serving larger roles on the team— the more wins the organization will ultimately enjoy. Conversely, if numerous “Worst Case” scenarios kick in this year for guys in our starting lineup, the organization will obviously suffer through another losing season. It’s safe to assume that Evan Fournier reaching his best case scenario will lead to more overall team wins this season than Jodie Meeks reaching his, or Serge Ibaka suffering his worst case scenario will hurt the team a lot worse than CJ Wilcox suffering his will.

I tried to be as reasonable and realistic as possible when putting together these scenarios. Winning an NBA championship, an MVP award, or even earning an All-NBA selection are attainable goals for some guys in this league, but not for anyone on this roster. Things will surely have to go very right for the best case scenario to play out, but the outcomes are within reason based upon where each guy is currently at in their individual careers.

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Fournier

Best Case Scenario

Evan thrives in his new role as the “go-to” scoring option for the Magic. Evan once again hovers around 40 percent from beyond the arc, and finds a way to get the free throw line at least four to five times a game. With the ball in his hands more often in 16/17, Fournier continues to improve upon his ability to make plays for others within the offense. Fournier solidifies himself as a fringe All-Star that is worth the long-term contract he received this past July. With Fournier on the wing, the Magic find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Worst Case Scenario

Fournier fails to be the consistent scoring option Orlando desperately needs out of him. Fournier’s streaky shooting for long stretches at a time, like he displayed in previous seasons as well, correlates too frequently with Orlando failing to win close games. After the first season of a new five year deal, Fournier looks more like a 6th man than an NBA quality starting SG that you can routinely compete with (I doubt it, but worse-case right?).

Serge Ibaka

Best Case Scenario

Serge finds his shooting stroke again in Orlando and successfully connects on more than 50 percent of his FGA’s —a feat he was able to accomplish his first five seasons in Oklahoma City, but failed to do the past two seasons. Ibaka improves upon his overall rebounding numbers from last season (posts rebounding numbers closer to his 9.2 REB per/36 career clip) and finds himself once again amongst the league leaders in blocked shots. Ibaka is credited with being the critical added piece that ultimately helps Orlando reach the postseason for the first time in the post-Howard era. No longer in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s shadows, Ibaka thrives in his expanded role with the Magic and decides to re-sign with the organization long term.

Worst Case Scenario

Ibaka’s shooting, rebounding, and overall efficiency numbers continue their downward trend over the last couple of seasons. The Magic, featuring Ibaka to a large extent, fail to reach the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. After a year in Orlando, Ibaka decides to sign a deal to continue his career with an organization that is closer to competing for an NBA championship, and Rob Hennigan’s 2016 draft day blockbuster deal goes for naught. The Magic end up without Ibaka, without Oladipo, and without their 2016 lottery pick.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Gordon

Best Case Scenario

Gordon solidifies himself in the NBA as a future All-Star and the unquestioned “face of the franchise”. Gordon’s positional versatility is managed perfectly by Frank Vogel; Aaron finds success playing both the “3” and the “4” positions in 2016-17. Playing over 30 MPG for the first time in his career, Gordon is able to reach career high percentages from behind the arc (over 32 perent) and at the charity stripe (over 4 FTA’s, over 70 percent), as well as achieve obvious career highs in counting stats along the way (PTS, REB, etc.). Gordon begins to relish the opportunity to defend/stop the other team’s best forward, and even flashes the ability to serve as a “small-ball” center from time to time. Due to his highly successful 2016-17 campaign, the organization is more than willing to discuss an early extension with Gordon before he becomes a RFA in the Summer of 2018.

Worst Case Scenario

Gordon fails to take another step in his career after his third year in the NBA. Questions still remain about Aaron’s position, his effectiveness, and his long-term ceiling. Teams around the league begin to view Gordon as a world-class athlete, but just an ordinary basketball player. Gordon continues to “wow” fans around the league during the Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend, but that’s about it. Aaron doesn’t adjust under Vogel to his role as an NBA small forward, and heads into 2017-18 —the final year of his rookie deal— with one more season to prove what he can do before his next contract. Skeptics wonder if Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, or Julius Randle might have been better selections at #4 in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Nik Vucevic

Best Case Scenario

Under the direction of Frank Vogel and his staff, Vucevic enjoys the most efficient overall season of his career (posts a True Shooting percentage over 55 percent). Nik successfully and willingly fills whatever role is thrown at him each night, whether that entails starting or coming off the bench. Vucevic, after five seasons in the NBA, is finally placed in a defensive scheme/position that allows him to develop into at least an adequate and passable defensive center. On nights when Evan Fournier’s shot is off, Nik provides a secondary scoring option or threat for the Magic. Vucevic’s positive play, even in slightly reduced minutes, only enhances Orlando’s ability to move him if they choose to. Or, his productivity and professionalism in 16/17 only encourages Orlando to keep the big man (and his bargain of a contract) in pinstripes for the foreseeable future.

Worst Case Scenario

The Vaughn and Skiles coaching (or lack thereof) excuses run their course as Vucevic remains hapless and lost defensively in 16/17 under Head Coach Frank Vogel’s guidance. Nik falls out of favor in the eyes of the new coaching staff as the season wears on, and slowly loses minutes to Bismack Biyombo on a nightly basis. Attempts to play Nik and Bismack on the floor at the same time are horribly misguided and ineffective, and the Magic are faced with a dilemma. Orlando decides, either at the trade deadline or the following summer, to trade the 25-year-old center when his value is at an all-time low. Other teams around the league offer low-ball deals to the Magic, yet Rob Hennigan still trades Nik for “pennies on the dollar” at some point before the 2017/18 season.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bismack Biyombo

Best Case Scenario

Biyombo, playing over 25 MPG for only the second time in his six year career, enjoys the best statistical season of his career. Biyombo finishes the 16/17 campaign among the league leaders in REB/per 36 and BLK/per 36. Bismack exemplifies the defensive presence and provides the defensive resistance at the rim that the organization has been missing since Dwight Howard roamed the paint. Like Vucevic, Biyombo is comfortable throughout the season either starting or coming off the bench. More importantly, Biyombo is regularly called upon to play f quarter minutes because of the defensive intangibles he possesses. By years end, the Orlando Magic fan-base is satisfied with Biyombo and his $68M deal because he’s viewed as a key piece that helped the organization once again reach the postseason.

Worst Case Scenario

Biyombo provides effort every night, but the results are severely lacking. It becomes more and more difficult throughout the year to play Biyombo a large amount of minutes because of his severely lacking offensive game. The defensive resistance he does provide is offset and largely negated by the lack of spacing and scoring the team suffers from when he’s on the court. The front office realizes after the first season of Biyombo’s four year deal that they massively overpaid for a career back-up who cashed in on a very impressive three or four game stretch in the 2016 playoffs. He rebounds effectively, he swats a few shots, but he never really seizes the opportunity with his new organization to elevate his game to another level.

Elfrid Payton

Best Case Scenario

Payton, playing in his third NBA season, begins to look like a serviceable starting point guard who is capable of guiding a team to the playoffs. Payton’s overall shooting efficiency takes another slight step forward across the board (FG percentage at the rim, behind the arc, at the FT line) in 16/17. He still won’t ever be mistaken for anything that resembles a shooter, but he connects on enough attempts to keep defenses honest, and from routinely going under screens. His biggest improvement in 2016 will be on the defensive end, where Payton is able to regain his defensive confidence and flash some of the ability he showed his rookie year applying pressure to other team’s point guards. Payton greatly benefits from more resistance at the rim provided by Ibaka and Biyombo, which allows him to play extremely aggressive (and cheat at times, going for steals which lead to transition buckets) on the perimeter.

Worst Case Scenario

Payton’s shooting regresses in 2016, or even stays the same, and questions continue to loom about his long-term role with the Magic. Lacking an obvious alternative to Payton, the Magic begin the season with Elfrid in the starting lineup. However, with the organization clearly in “win-now” mode, the coaching staff feels pressured to heavily cut into Payton’s minutes as the season plays out (either going with D.J. Augustin or even C.J. Watson in that scenario). Payton improves upon his ability to get to the charity stripe, but continues to struggle mightily to convert on his attempts. Teams routinely go “under” the screen whenever Payton initiates a pick-and-role. And on the defensive end, 2015 Payton begins to seem like the norm, as Payton again is regularly torched by opposing Atlantic division point guards such as Kemba Walker and John Wall (I’m not salty or anything). Heading into his last year of his rookie contract, the Magic are more perplexed by Elfrid Payton and his fit on the team than ever before.

Mario Hezonja

Best Case Scenario

Mario’s minutes did not come as easy last season as they did for some other rookies Orlando has run out on the court in the post-Dwight era. You could make a valid argument that young players such as Maurice Harkless, Nik Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, and Elfrid Payton were all handed starting roles and major minutes in various seasons the last few years before they had “earned” those rights (or at the very least before they were probably ready). Hezonja was drafted in a climate where Scott Skiles was brought in to help the organization compete for a playoff spot right away (as misguided as that was), and was therefore not afforded some of the leniency and patience young players before him were granted.

With that being said, the time for Mario to carve out an NBA role for himself is this 2016/17 season. A best-case scenario for Mario this year would be to improve his overall game across the board. I know that sounds vague, but it’s completely accurate. Hezonja must earn minutes and a defined role in the nightly rotation. He must show that he can consistently shoot & score with efficiency (a PER of 12-14, a positive offensive +/- figure), while also being at the very least something other than a liability on the defensive end of the floor. He must be more aggressive and play with a sense of freedom, but he also can’t turn the ball over at the rate he’s done this preseason. That’s still a lot to ask of a 21-year-old, but this is a best case scenario. And it needs to come to fruition sooner rather than later.

Worst Case Scenario

Mario’s sophomore season plays out a lot like his rookie campaign. Hezonja earns irregular minutes, shows flashes of brilliance at times, but is mostly plagued by inconsistent play and questionable decision-making at best. Hezonja struggles on the defensive end to the point where Frank Vogel decides to give CJ Wilcox some back-up wing minutes, or even C.J. Watson. Hezonja heads into the off-season in 2017 with two up-and-down NBA seasons under his belt. No clear signs of when Mario is going to provide Orlando with the type of upside they counted on when they drafted him fifth overall in 2015 are in sight. Orlando’s decision to draft Hezonja is highly questioned with the possible future emergence of prospects such as Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Myles Turner who were selected after him.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Augustin

Best Case Scenario

Augustin provides for the Magic exactly the type of play the organization anticipated getting when they signed him in July. D.J. ends up complementing Elfrid Payton beautifully by adding to the team some of the offensive skills that Payton is missing in his repertoire. A handful of games throughout the year are won because Augustin, not Payton, provides an offensive spark when the Magic need it most. Teams figure out that they can’t duck under screens when Augustin is running offensive sets for the Magic like they do with Elfrid. Augustin’s defensive shortcomings are masked enough by other personnel and he finishes the season as a net-positive contributor. Augustin’s veteran leadership and presence meshes well with numerous lineup combinations.

Worst Case Scenario

Augustin is unable to recapture some of the magic with the Magic that he produced in his one season in Denver. D.J. is unsuccessful in putting much of a dent in Elfrid Payton’s minutes as the year plays out. Augustin has a poor overall shooting season and the coaching staff feels that the second unit might be better served with a consistent defensive presence leading the way, such as C.J. Watson. After falling out of the regular rotation the last couple months of the season, Augustin heads into the off-season with three more seasons left under contract with the organization.

Jeff Green

Best Case Scenari

Green serves his purpose; he provides a bit of lineup flexibility for the Magic and scores off the bench when needed. On a one year contract, Green makes the most of his opportunity in Orlando and helps contribute in what results as a winning season. Green proves to other organizations around the league that he can still play meaningful minutes when called upon, and ultimately parlays his season in pinstripes into a contract with another organization in 2017/18.

Worst Case Scenario

Green’s play is ineffective, he finishes the season as a net-negative performer. The minutes Green is awarded take away from time that Mario Hezonja and/or Aaron Gordon could be on the floor, which is perplexing to many observers around the league because of his one-year contract. Green moves on, and the money he was gifted during the season at least gets redistributed elsewhere in 2017. So all is not lost; the Magic take the “L” with that deal and move on.

C.J. Watson

Best Case Scenario

Watson’s shooting touch from the outside returns to its pre-Orlando form in 2016/17 —Watson shot 39 percent or higher on 3PA’s in four of the prior five seasons he played in prior to coming to the Magic. Watson raises his PER, TS%, and +/- levels in the upcoming season back to production marks he’s enjoyed throughout his career (Career PER – 13.5, 8.5 w/ ORL last season; Career TS% 53%, 46% w/ ORL last season; Career +/- of 0.5, -3.3 last season w/ ORL). Reunited with Frank Vogel, who Watson played for in Indiana (and achieved adequate success in a back-up role), C.J. is a consistent and steady performer in the second unit in 16/17. Watson provides the coaching staff flexibility within their rotations; he proves in-season that he can fill serviceable minutes at both guard positions.

Worst Case Scenario

The Magic struggle mightily to score for long stretches throughout the season, yet Watson provides no relief when called upon. His ‘16 shooting efficiency numbers fail to return to his career averages, and Watson struggles to earn minutes in a deep back-court rotation. Watson, who has missed over 70 games combined in the last couple seasons, continues his trend of missing numerous games at a time due to various injuries. With very little trade value or real value to the organization, the Magic decide to eat the remaining salary that Watson is owed in 17/18 and part ways with the veteran guard.

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

CJ Wilcox

Best Case Scenario

Wilcox thrives when his number is called. The young guard provides scoring and spacing off the bench; he hovers throughout the year at a clip of around 40 percent from behind the arc. Wilcox shows that he belongs in the NBA when given an opportunity to play, an opportunity that he wasn’t afforded in L.A. Wilcox proves in 16/17 to be an adequate enough defender, but his offense is what the Magic come to rely upon in the second unit. The organization feels like they have found a gem in Wilcox as he heads into his fourth NBA season in 2017/18 on the last year of his rookie contract.

Worst Case Scenario

Wilcox is given a chance to play in Orlando, but proves to be nothing more than a fringe NBA player. When Meeks returns from his injury, Wilcox only appears in mop up duty throughout the year. On a bargain deal, Wilcox is not a guy who’s exactly killing the salary cap, but still heads into the final year of his rookie contract clearly not in Orlando’s long-term plans.

Jodie Meeks

Best Case Scenario

Jodie Meeks returns from his injury at some point in December fully healthy and ready to contribute. Meeks quickly becomes a valuable part of Orlando’s second unit. In 16/17, Meeks connects on over 38 percent of his 3-point attempts, which he’s previously accomplished in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Meeks is a net positive offensive weapon for the Magic, and single-handedly wins a couple games for the organization by catching fire and providing offensive explosions off the bench like he’s been known to do in the past.

Worst Case Scenario

Meeks does not return to game action before the New Year, suffering from complications related to his foot injury. When Meeks does eventually return, he never really gets in an offensive rhythm at any point in the season. Due mostly to his health, Meeks is ineffective and fails to earn playing time off the bench over other guards on the roster (such as Hezonja, Watson, or even Wilcox). The Magic and Meeks part ways in the Summer of 2017 with little gained from one another.

Which best case scenarios mentioned do you think have the best chance of occurring? Worst case scenarios? Any scenarios of your own you would like to share? Fire away in the comments section.