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The pessimist’s case against the Orlando Magic

An argument for the curmudgeon in all of us.

Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome to the first of a two-part series, making the case for—and against—the Magic’s chances of putting together a good season. This is not the place for nuance. There will be no balancing of opinions, no consideration of all perspectives, no “That being said”s or “On the other hand”s or “Then again”s.

Today, I make the ultimate pessimist’s case against the Orlando Magic. Tomorrow will be all about optimism, but today is all about channeling pure haterade. That’s right, this team is garbage. I said it. Don’t @ me.

Here’s five big reasons this season’s already headed for disaster.

The Magic are sticking with a core of players who haven’t seen any success

Elfrid Payton. Evan Fournier. Aaron Gordon. Nikola Vucevic. That’s right, your boys in blue are back at it again, and by “it” I mean “Losing at least 50 games”

The hard truth is that none of these players have proven they know how to win basketball games. During the three years they’ve played together, the Orlando Magic have won barely a third of their games. Every time it seems like they’re putting together a good month, it’s met by two months of total futility.

What reason do we have to think that these players can actually coexist on a successful NBA team? Are you buying into those last couple months of “small ball?” Well, bad news for you, friend.

The end-of-season surge was a mirage

Don’t let recency bias fool you. It’s tempting to cherry-pick the most recent 24 games and say they mean something, but the overwhelming evidence from the other 58 games of the season tells a different story.

I can already hear the replies. “But all that stuff happened after we traded Serge Ibaka for Terrence Ross, so it means more!” Gee, you sound awfully excited about trading a better player for a worse one. I guess that’s typical Orlando Magic protocol, right? Fit is important, but talent is more important, and no matter how you slice it, the Magic downgraded their overall talent when they gave up any chance of keeping Ibaka.

By the way? They still sucked after the All-Star break. It was just a different brand of sucking than how they sucked before. Playing small-ball just meant they lost at a fast pace instead of a slow one.

The Magic’s still don’t have “The Guy”

Look, you can talk yourself into a skinny guy who can’t shoot, but right now there’s no reason to think Jonathan Isaac is going to be the savior superstar Orlando fans have pined for throughout the last five years.

Elfrid Payton is useless more than five feet from the basket. Aaron Gordon isn’t Paul George. We know who Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic are at this point in their careers. None of the Magic’s core players are the kind the franchise can build around.

Don’t look toward free agency for answers, either. The Magic picked up a lot of solid veteran players...which is really code for “Nobody who actually matters.” Are you excited for when Nikola Vucevic inevitably gets benched so that Marreese Speights can get more burn? I sure am!!!

Management hasn’t really changed

Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, at the very least, haven’t done anything monumentally stupid in their first few months leading the front office. Don’t bank on that lasting forever, though, because there are still plenty of reasons to doubt the Magic’s management situation.

The most toxic elements of the Magic’s long struggle for stability still exist: Alex Martins, forever in the ear of owner Rich DeVos. How long until Martins decides its time to meddle again, to force the team into a “win-now” move that costs them even more of their future?

We also don’t have reason to think either Weltman or Hammond are master negotiators. The Magic’s few trades under them all involved late draft picks, and those transactions didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Neither has an incredible, one-sided trade to hang their hats on in their careers. When the Magic need to start shifting pieces, will the front office be able to make it happen without repeating the mistakes of their predecessors?

The coaching staff is outmatched

Frank Vogel’s first season did little to inspire confidence that he can run a team without Paul George on it. Nobody really expected him to put together an above-average offense (nor should we, going forward), but there were higher hopes that he could bring his trademark defense to the Magic.

That would not be the case. Instead, despite adding multiple players whose calling card is locking down the opposition, the Magic’s defense was shredded on a nightly basis. Ibaka, Biyombo, and the rest of the players deserve some blame, but much of that has to fall on Vogel, too.

Vogel freely admitted toward the end of the season that he would have to go back to the drawing board, that his old way of running defenses would’t work against modern offenses. If his ability to innovate on defense is similar to his offensive creativity, that won’t bode well for the Orlando Magic.

Truth be told, writing the pessimist’s point of view is as painful to write as it is to read, which is why I’m looking forward to Part 2: Optimist’s Edition.

Until then, try to turn those frowns upside-down, friends.