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Off-Day Debate: Who should start for the Magic?

It’s unwise to tinker with success, but changes are coming to the first-unit

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

On each Magic off-day, we will pose a question that we hope will spark a friendly debate in the comments section. Topics will range from who should be starting for the Magic, to which Magic jersey is the best of all-time, to whether Aaron Gordon should be posting up more often, to the worst contract in Magic history, to whatever other Magic-related question comes to mind. All opinions and topic suggestions are welcome!

Elfrid Payton is close to returning. D.J. Augustin is now injured. Jonathon Simmons is playing at a level that warrants being promoted from sixth-man. Terrence Ross is struggling offensively.

These circumstances, combined with the Magic’s impressive 6-2 start to the season, beg the question of who should start for Orlando moving forward.

The case for Elfrid Payton:

It’s unlikely that injury would cost Payton his starting spot, regardless of how well the Magic have played without him for six games. Payton is the top distributor and orchestrator on the team and is best suited to run the Magic’s up-tempo offense. But with his lack of range, his inclusion in the starting lineup gives opposing defenses one less outside shooter to worry about, which in turn gives the Magic less spacing. That could have a negative effect on the Magic’s sudden emergence as a three-point shooting team.

The case for D.J. Augustin:

Augustin has drawn criticism from Magic fans since signing last year, but the point guard has helped guide the Magic to their surprise start while starting in place of Payton. Depending on the severity of his injury, Augustin’s case to remain in the lineup is based solely on the fact that the team is playing beyond anyone’s expectations right now. Perhaps, until that changes, what isn’t broken should not be fixed. Leave Augustin, the better outside shooter, in the starting point guard spot and bring Payton off the bench and see if the Magic’s outside shooting prowess continues. And of course if Augustin and Payton are both out of action, Shelvin Mack, come on down!

The case for Jonathon Simmons:

Simmons has essentially drawn universal praise for his play so far this season. He has provided a spark off the bench with his ability to attack the basket and get to the rim on one end, and be a ballhawk on the other. He has, at times, also been the primary ball handler when Frank Vogel elected to go with a point guard-less lineup. It would be interesting to see how Simmons’ numbers, role and plus/minus would change while consistently playing with the first unit.

The case for Terrence Ross:

It’s only a matter of time before his shot starts falling. Through the tiny sample size of eight games this season, his numbers are down across the board compared to last season:

--Points per game: 12.5 last season; 8.9 this season

--Effective Field Goal Percentage: 51.7 percent last season; 39.1 percent this season

--Three-pointers made per game: 1.9 last season; 1.1 this season

His defense has certainly helped compensate for his offensive struggles. With the Magic playing so well despite Ross’ rough start, they will be even more dynamic once he finds his shooting stroke and starts making shots at a rate that is expected of him.

The chart below, courtesy of Basketball Reference, shows the Magic lineups so far this season based on net points per 100 possessions….

Who do you think should start for the Magic? Should Jonathan Isaac be in the conversation? Should Mario Hezonja get a chance to start before becoming a free agent? Tell us why below.