The Orlando Magic left the 2018 NBA Draft on a bit of a high, after adding 22 feet of wingspan to its ranks in Mo Bamba, Melvin Frazier Jr., and Justin Jackson.
President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, and General Manager, John Hammond, continue to add size, athletic potential, and defensive instinct to their ranks.
The Orlando Magic Summer League squad, headed by Jonathan Isaac, and rookie big man, Mo Bamba, has surpassed expectations defensively, holding the Suns under 40% from the field on Monday night, and the Grizzlies to an astounding 26% on Sunday.
Just last night in the highly anticipated match-up with Deandre Ayton, Dragan Bender, Elie Okobo, and Mikal Bridges, the Magic forced 12 steals and 10 blocks. Frazier Jr., and Wes Iwundu paced the perimeter with seven steals between them.
But as exhilarating as this team has been on one end, it’s been equally atrocious on the other.
Frazier and Iwundu combined for eight turnovers. Isaac shot just 2-for-9 from the field, and the Magic drilled a revolting 3 of 20 from three-point range, finishing just 17 of 55 from the field overall.
With all of the transition opportunities afforded by their quick and long arms on defense, the Magic continually shot themselves in the foot on drives to the basket.
Frank Vogel continued to preach ball movement last season, openly declaring the team did not have one-on-one basketball players. And yet on one possession, after recovering his own rebound, Troy Caupain kicked to Wes Iwundu, who held the ball for 15 seconds, missed an open Rodas on the floor, before dribbling underneath the basket and finally moving the ball to Isaac with just two seconds remaining on the shot clock from the three point line. Violation. Turnover.
The Magic committed 20 turnovers, much of it in avoidable circumstances. The team has no awareness when navigating through a defense, misses the correct reads, forces instead of taking what the defense gives them, and rely too heavily on athleticism to create offense.
The Orlando Magic need a point guard.
More than that, the Magic need a signal caller. They need a veteran who can recognize sets, call out assignments, pick the right spots, and move the ball into positions that give its young and inexperienced players the best chance to succeed.
They need a rim attacker who can create space, and they need a wise presence capable of taking what a defense affords them.
Isaac should not be breaking down defenses from the perimeter. Bamba should not be getting his entry pass in the post at the 18-foot mark. Frazier Jr., should not be attempting contested 20-footers at the clock winds down.
Isaiah Briscoe exited the game after three minutes with an undisclosed injury, but Caupain looked equally overwhelmed at times. He’s been a bright spot of sorts, posting the highest positive net rating on the night, and will likely earn a two-way contract this season. But Caupain is not ready to play both point guard, and to teach. You can see him continuing to find his own spots. He had a nice 15-footer on Sunday, then flipped a defender on the following possession for an 18-footer.
We also saw four turnovers, miscommunications, and failed assignments offensively.
D.J. Augustin is a solid rotational player, capable of spacing the floor. And yet, with Augustin on the floor, Mario Hezonja, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, and Aaron Gordon played a lot of one-on-one basketball, resulting in much of the same thing we’ve seen this week in Las Vegas.
The Magic were rumored to be interested in Isaiah Thomas, the former All-Star fallen from grace after the offseason trade with Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Struggling to find his form in January, the Cavaliers again dealt him to the Los Angeles Lakers. At this time, the 5-9 scoring machine is said to have come to a stand still in negotiations with the Magic front office.
So word in Vegas is Orlando Magic talked with Isaiah Thomas but unlikely to move forward with a deal. Magic may hold the line at this point and see what else develops. They want to stay flexible in case something opens up. Did it last year with Jonathan Simmons— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) July 7, 2018
Several of us toyed with the idea of a draft day trade with the Atlanta Hawks, simultaneously shedding Dennis Schroeder’s contract, while adding Luka Doncic to the Magic’s ranks.
However, the Magic seem content to stand pat in free agency, and concerns continue to grow as to who will manage the position on day one of the regular season.
The Orlando Magic find themselves once again at the sixth worst odds to win a NBA championship, and it isn’t difficult to see why. With all the length and promise, with all the defensive talent and potential, this team is still light years away from putting it all together.
Las Vegas has the Magic at +50,000 to win a title this season. The Magic are lumped to a all too familiar group with the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks.
Weltman has preached patience, and rightfully so, during his tenure in Orlando. Rushing, and trading future assets may be a mistake in a year where the Orlando Magic need to simply develop. However, when we see Isaac’s one-on-one shake and bake from the perimeter, we see players learning bad habits.
When we see Frazier Jr.’s contested 20-footer with eight seconds on the shot clock, we see bad habits.
When we see players run the floor in transition, miss the kick out to the three-point line, throw themselves into contact for a charge or a turnover, we see bad habits.
The Magic need to start with the fundamentals, and they need a coach on the floor to teach them. Steve Clifford will have a three-week training camp, and then after that, it’s up the players to learn in-game situations, something that alludes this squad thus far.
Last year, the players’ constantly lamented not trusting each other, making the right play, playing team basketball.
We are seeing the same basketball being played this week in Las Vegas.
So should the Magic offer a trade for Lonzo Ball? Or try bringing back Shelvin Mack, or even Shabazz Napier? How about Tomas Satoransky, Devin Harris, or Marcus Smart?
Time is running out for the Magic to make a decision. Seth Curry, Jose Calderon, Dante Exum, Fred VanVleet, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter Williams, and Tony Parker all reached agreements in the past week.
The Orlando Magic may not make a decision this week, or even this month, but one thing has become clear: the Orlando Magic’s offense will stagnate and continue to deteriorate, until they can add a high IQ signal caller to quarterback their offensive system.
Join Oleh Kosel, Kevin Barrios and myself as we break down the Magic’s play in Summer League, and preview game four on Wednesday.