There’s a game to be played tonight.
So let’s pick up right where we left off yesterday with Part I of our Orlando Magic Season Preview Roundtable discussion between OPP’s Aaron Goldstone, Zach Oliver and Mike Cali.
And while you are waiting for tip-off between the Magic and Heat, be sure to check out some of our other season preview content.
Let the fill in the blank session continue....
My greatest concern about the Magic is ________.
Aaron: …shooting/scoring. This has been my concern with Orlando’s roster for a few years now. The Magic simply lack enough quality NBA-proven shooters (Augustin, Fournier, Ross sort of. That’s not enough).
Mike: …lack of shooters. Defenses can pretty easily stray from the perimeter and clog the paint while playing the Magic, and for a team being built around a frontcourt that doesn’t yet shoot efficiently from the outside, that’s going to be a problem.
Zach: …shooting. I don’t know if Augustin, Evan Fournier and Ross will be enough shooting. They need Gordon and Isaac to be somewhere close to league average to really take some pressure off the others shooting wise.
Steve Clifford will have a positive impact on the Magic’s _______.
Aaron: ...ability to limit their turnovers and team fouls. A couple of the calling cards of Clifford’s teams in Charlotte was their ability to not put the opposing team on the free throw line, as well as not turning the ball over.
Mike: …defensive identity, something the Magic have long been without. The Hornets were in the top-10 in defensive rating in three of the five seasons under Clifford. The Magic have the length, versatility and switchability to become a defensive force in the league and Clifford is an ideal coach to help them get there.
Zach: ...defense. Clifford has built strong defenses in the past, leading the Hornets to a top half of the league defensive rating in every season, so I think they’ll get better, and more consistent on defense with him.
The Magic will win ___ games this season.
Aaron: …34 games. A nine-win improvement from last year would be really nice progress. I think the Magic will find themselves in the lottery next year for the final time (before they go on a run of playoff appearances for years).
Mike: …30 games. A modest improvement from last season. Again, I’m not overly concerned with wins and losses in what will be yet another transitional season where the Magic adopt a new system under a new coach. Just show me player development and the execution of a clear plan for the future.
Zach: …33 games. This might be a bit optimistic, but I think they beat their over/under number by a hair. The defense will win them a few games alone, and guys wil get hot and win some games also.
The Magic can actually make the playoffs this season if _________.
Aaron: …a lot of crazy stuff happens in the East. I really don’t envision a situation in which the team makes the playoffs this year, but you never know – crazier things have happened before. I guess if a few teams suffer some significant injuries (which I hope they don’t, injuries are bad no matter who suffers from them), then maybe the Magic have a realistic chance.
Mike: …Aaron Gordon becomes an elite defender and more efficient scorer, Jonathan Isaac plays more than 70 games, Mo Bamba is in the Rookie of the Year conversation, the team has a defensive rating of under 105 points per 100 possessions, the offense drastically improves its three point shooting percentage, and a miracle takes place in the East.
Zach: The Magic can actually make the playoffs this season if they have a top-five defense. This is probably a bit of a pipe dream, but I think it’s possible with some of the personnel they have. Defense can win you games, and lead to easy buckets offensively, which they’ll desperately need.
The Magic will be a ______ next season.
Aaron: …a playoff team. Orlando will find their way back to the playoffs next season (’19-’20), and I predict they will stay that caliber of an organization for some time.
Mike: …a team that ends its seven year playoff drought. A year of development and chemistry, continuity on the coaching staff, another lottery pick and some free agent pick-ups will put the Magic back in the top-8 of the Eastern Conference. Do you remember the Magic’s starting lineup for their last playoff game? Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Big Baby Davis. Yeah, it’s been too long.
Zach: The Magic will play basketball next season. This might be a surprise, but a basketball team, will play basketball next season.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the job that Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have done so far a ____.
Aaron: …7. Orlando’s front office did a great job with the Jonathon Simmons and Aaron Gordon contracts. Drafting Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba seem to be positive moves; their second-round selections have been somewhat suspect, but those kinds of gambles rarely hit.
Mike: …7. They’ve drafted promising players, they’ve made smart signings that haven’t tied the Magic up financially, and they even unloaded Bismack Biyombo (though it required taking on Timofey Mozgov, the Magic organization had to separate itself from the previous regime’s albatross signing).
Zach: On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the job that Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have done so far an 8. I think, with what they’ve had, they’ve done a fine job. I think they took the right players in the draft, and they didn’t lock themselves up a ton for the future with cap space. They still have work, but they have the right things going.
The Magic returning to the blue pinstriped jerseys is _______.
Aaron: #PureMagic. I’m not a huge jersey guy, usually whatever the team is wearing works for me. But the blue jerseys are the best in franchise history, no doubt.
Mike: …going to bring back a lot of fond memories of Shaq, Penny, Horace and the mid-90s squad (and probably force me to spend money I don’t have on a jersey). And I’m greedy, I want them to bring back the white pinstriped jerseys, too.
Zach: …fantastic. One of, if not the best, jersey in franchise history. Excited to see them back in action.
The Magic game I am most looking forward to this season is ________.
Aaron: …November 17th, when the Los Angeles Lakers come to town. LeBron in his new digs, that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing. And he’s bringing along Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, and JaVale McGee as well (not to mention the Ball circus)? That’s must-see basketball.
Mike: …all of the Sixers games because Mo Bamba against Joel Embiid is going to be a thing over the next decade.
Zach: …November 14th against Philadelphia. It’ll be a good early test for the Magic, and Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co are really good.
The player on the Magic most likely to be traded this season is ______.
Aaron: Vucevic. A playoff-contending organization would be wise to swing a deal for the veteran center. I think he could be a difference-maker for a team coming off the bench.
Mike: …Terrence Ross. Like Vucevic, Ross is in the final year of his contract. Contending teams will value shooting more than a center who, while productive offensively, can’t protect the rim. The offers for Ross will be more lucrative than those for Vooch.
Zach: Nikola Vucevic. I know I said I think he is in Orlando at seasons end, but he’s still the most likely to be moved, largely due to Mo Bamba.
My hottest hot take for the Magic is that ________.
Aaron: …Jerian Grant takes over the starting point guard position by the end of December. Grant will be a free agent at the end of the year, and I think the Magic will use this season as an opportunity to give Grant a longer look.
Mike: …Aaron Gordon will make the All-Star team and win the Slam Dunk Contest. Even if it’s as an injury replacement, he will find his way onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team thanks to improvement on the defensive end and continued improved across the board statistically. And while he’s there, might as well enter the contest and finally get what was rightfully his.
Zach: …D.J. Augustin is a fine point guard option. It’s not always popular, but he’s not overly expensive, and he does things the team needs.
If I could have dinner with any three former or current Magic players, I would pick ________, ________ and ________.
Aaron: …Anfernee Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, and Victor Oladipo.
Mike: …Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Mo Bamba. A dinner among Magic big men where Shaq and Dwight would argue during the entire meal like an old married couple. The personalities would make for a great night.
Zach: …Darrell Armstrong, Dewayne Dedmon and J.J. Redick. Armstrong and Dedmon would bring a lot of comedy, and Redick would bring a nice balance, and I could find my way onto his podcast.