Three weeks into the 2017-18 season, the Magic were sitting atop the Eastern Conference after winning eight of their first twelve games.
November must feel like a lifetime ago for players in Orlando’s locker room that went through the disappointment and disaster that was this past season. The Magic went 17-53 after November 10th, finished the season with the second-worst record in the conference standings (fifth-worst in the league), and are once again headed towards the lottery for a sixth straight year.
Injuries wreaked havoc on Orlando’s season, causing nearly everyone on the roster to miss time at one point or another due to varying reasons. Now that the ‘17-’18 campaign is complete, it’s time to look back on each player’s individual season. Let’s revisit who pulled their weight this year, and who needs to put this nightmarish season behind them as quickly as possible.
As a teacher who is used to assessing on a regular basis, this is right up my alley! Included in this report are season statistics along with some comments from yours truly that hopefully explain why I graded the guys the way that I did.
Two weeks ago, I assessed the play of Jonathon Simmons and Evan Fournier; last week, Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja. You can read those pieces here (Simmons/Fournier, Gordon/Hezonja).
In the comments section below, please feel free to agree or disagree with any of my assessments, or simply just let me know if this is something that interests you. Credit for statistics goes to Basketball Reference and NBA.com as always. Enjoy!
D.J. Augustin (75 Games Played, 36 Games Started)
D.J. Augustin provided the Magic this season with the exact kind of play they had hoped for when they signed him to a four-year deal two summers ago. Orlando didn’t get much from Augustin last year, this season was much better.
Augustin led the Magic in ‘17-18 in three-point percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive win shares, and overall win shares. His Offensive Rating of 116 this season was good for second on the team (behind only Khem Birch, who play significantly less minutes). Augustin also finished just behind Fournier in Offensive Box Plus/Minus.
The Magic rely on Augustin to provide the team with shooting, floor-spacing, and veteran leadership. This year, Augustin was able to check all of those boxes for his organization. No one on the Magic outside of Marreese Speights was more likely to shoot it from distance this past year than Augustin. He was able to rebound from arguably his worst professional season last year to his best season this year (shooting the basketball at least). Augustin finished ‘17-18 with a true shooting percentage over 60% for the first time in his career.
Augustin took over the starting point guard duties the final 29 games of the season after the Magic traded Elfrid Payton at the NBA Trade Deadline (team went 8-21). I’m grading Augustin this year on a curve of sorts. At this point of his career, Augustin really has no business starting the amount of games he did this past season. His superb shooting aside, Augustin was still a solid negative on the defensive end.
But if you assess Augustin’s production while assuming that he’s a backup instead of an NBA starter (which is what I did), then one should come to the conclusion that the veteran point guard had a great year. For me, he did everything the Magic asked of him and provided the team with a steady veteran leader throughout an otherwise tumultuous season.
The Magic were -3.8 per/100 possessions when Augustin was on the court this season, which is +2.4 per/100 possessions better than when he was off the floor.
Best game of the season: March 14th vs. Milwaukee (Orlando 126, Milwaukee 117)
32 points (9-15 FG, 6-9 3PT, 8-8 FT), 4 assists
Shelvin Mack (69 Games Played, 3 Games Started)
The two-year, $12 million dollar deal Mack signed last July with the Magic was the first signing of the Weltman/Hammond era; I will admit, I wasn’t a fan at the time. I didn’t really see a whole lot in Mack’s career body of work that warranted that kind of deal. However, it was soon announced by the organization that the second year of Mack’s deal is only partially guaranteed ($1M) if he’s waived by the last week of June.
Contract aside, I found Mack to be a very steady presence throughout the year. Coach Vogel was utilizing Mack both at the point guard and off guard positions through the first month of the season. However, Mack found himself mostly out of the rotation from mid-November through late January.
Mack’s season turned around on AFC Championship Sunday as the Magic marched into Boston in an early afternoon matinee and defeated the then Eastern Conference leading Celtics. The veteran guard led the charge against his former college coach’s squad, and Mack remained part of Orlando’s regular rotation from that point forward. After Payton was traded in February, Mack settled in as the team’s back-up point guard.
My expectations this season for Shelvin Mack were extremely low, like at the floor. Best case scenario, I hoped that when he was on the court, Mack could effectively run the second unit while taking care of the basketball. By those standards, it appears that Mack had a pleasantly surprising season.
With Payton getting shipped off to Phoenix, Mack ended up finishing the season as the team’s leader in assists per game (3.9), assists per/36 (7.2), and assist percentage.
Mack achieved a career high Offensive Rating of 106 this season in Orlando, while recording his second best shooting season of his seven year career (2nd best TS%, 3PT%, OWS for Mack in a regular season).
It remains to be seen if Orlando will choose to bring Mack back in ‘18-19. The Magic can save $5 million dollars by waiving him, which represents some modest savings at best. If they decide to bring him back to play out his remaining contract, at least the Magic have a better idea now what they can expect from Mack. He values the basketball and provides a steadying presence, while being able to play both guard positions in a pinch.
The Magic were -2.8 per/100 possessions with Mack on the floor last season, which turned out to be +3.5 per/100 possessions better than when he was off the court. While not always apparent in the box score, Mack made a difference for the Magic when he was in the game (granted, with a -1.2 OBPM & -1.2 DBPM, it was a modest difference).
Best game of the season: February 10th vs. Milwaukee (Bucks 111, Magic 104)
19 points (8-10 FG, 2-4 3PT, 1-2 FT), 10 assists, 4 rebounds
Lets hear from you Magic fans. Where did I go wrong? Lookout for two more player evaluation articles in this series coming over the next couple of weeks!