The Magic are inching closer to full strength.
When they return from the All-Star break and host the Knicks on Thursday, they are expected to have Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic in the lineup.
Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon practiced fully with their Magic teammates today and are on track to play when the Magic host the Knicks on Thursday night.— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) February 20, 2018
Vucevic has been out since Dec. 23 when he suffered a fractured left hand on Dec. 23. Gordon has missed the last nine games because of a strained hip flexor. The injury also prevented Gordon from participating in the Dunk Contest, which his replacement, Donovan Mitchell, ended up winning.
The Magic went 4-5 without Gordon, thanks in part to Mario Hezonja. The 22-year-old thrived in Gordon’s absence, averaging 16.9 points and 5.7 rebounds, and shooting 50 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from three, in 29.6 minutes per game. The ball was in Hezonja’s hands in late-game situations and it will be interesting to see how Frank Vogel manages his minutes and usage with the return of Gordon.
Rookie Jonathan Isaac, who has missed the last 22 games with an ankle injury, is also getting closer to game action.
.@OrlandoMagic coach Frank Vogel said Nikola Vucevic & Aaron Gordon are on track to play Thurs vs. @nyknicks. Jonathan Isaac WILL NOT play on Thurs, but could play for @LakelandMagic of G League over the weekend.— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) February 20, 2018
While the Magic are getting healthier, other teams around the league are entering all-out tank mode. The Bulls announced they are benching veteran players. Marc Cuban recently said publicly that, for the Mavericks, “losing is our best option.” With seven teams separated by less than a game in the Tankathon standings, losing is clearly the best option for each.
While it’s obviously difficult to hold healthy players out against their will, it begs the question of whether the return of Gordon and Vucevic is what is best for a franchise in desperate need of the best possible draft positioning.
Under that “losing is the best option” theory, the Magic bringing back their two most productive players is considered counterproductive.
Should the Magic have held Gordon and Vucevic out longer for the sake of the team’s future? What should Vogel do with Hezonja? Who should be in the starting five?
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