Another season has come and gone Magic fans. The 2018-19 version of your Orlando Magic provided the city and its fan base with many memorable moments to ring in the 30th anniversary of the franchise’s existence.
We were provided opportunities to celebrate big Magic road victories in Boston (twice), San Antonio, Los Angeles, Mexico City (against the Jazz and Bulls), Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana, Charlotte, and Miami (twice). And don’t forget about those huge home wins against the Heat(opening night), 76ers (twice), Lakers, Raptors, Celtics, Rockets, Pacers, Nets, and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
But none of that compares to the emotions all Magic fans felt after coming to the realization that the team they’ve supported through so many tough losing seasons had finally clinched their first playoff birth since the conclusion of the Dwight Howard era.
My progress reports were back for another season on Orlando Pinstriped Post in 2018-19 (third season featured on this site, I’m blessed). If you missed the first volume, Nikola Vucevic earned the highest grade in the class after the team’s first fourteen games due to his stellar shooting and solid defense. Vucevic again earned the highest grade in my second volume (which covered the team’s next fourteen games). And prior to his first career All-Star selection, Vucevic earned the team’s highest midterm grade.
Let’s explore who on the roster pulled their own weight this season. As a teacher who is used to assessing on a regular basis, “grading” is right up my alley!
Included in this series of final grade reports are statistics from Orlando’s 82 regular season games played this season, along with some comments from yours truly that hopefully explain why I graded the guys the way that I did.
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. Enjoy!
Terrence Ross, 28 years-old (81 games played)
Terrence Ross had - what they call in the business - a “contract year”. Coach Clifford carved out a role for the seventh-year swing-man that involved getting up as many shots as Ross could possibly handle.
The Portland-native went down in late November of 2017 (22 games into the season) with a knee injury (MCL sprain, right knee; non-displaced right tibia fracture) that caused him to miss the rest of the ‘17-’18 campaign. At that point, Ross had appeared in less than 50 total games in a Magic uniform, having been acquired in a deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Toronto in February of ‘17.
Before his injury, Ross’ play with the Magic had been wildly inconsistent. So knowing what to expect from Ross this past season, coming back from a significant injury, was anyone’s guess.
To his credit, Ross worked diligently in the off-season to get his body back in shape. Orlando’s veteran shooting guard was routinely in the practice facility over the summer, getting shots up and working on his conditioning well before team members were required to report for training camp.
Ross’ attention to getting his body back in shape paid off for him and the organization in a big way. Ross set an all-time NBA record for three-point field goals made by a player who failed to start a single-game at any point in the season, drilling a career-best 217 attempts from behind the arc.
Ross scored 20 or more points in a contest on twenty separate occasions this season, scoring 30 or more points in a game three times. The University of Washington product enjoyed career-highs this season in the following categories: player efficiency rating (PER), true shooting percentage, three-point makes per/36 minutes, rebounds per/36, points per/36, points per game, and total points scored in a season.
When the “Human Torch” was in the game for Orlando, he was on the floor to do one thing: let it fly. Ross led the Magic this season in three-point field goals per/36 minutes (made and attempted) and three-point attempt rate. He also finished second on the team in points per/36 minutes, three-point percentage, and “corner” three-point percentage (46%).
You could make a real argument that no single player shouldered more of an offensive burden for their team than Ross did in ‘18-’19. Often playing in lineups alongside the likes of Jerian Grant, Isaiah Briscoe, Michael Carter-Williams, Wes Iwundu, Mohamed Bamba, and Khem Birch, Ross was depended upon by his teammates and coaches to provide an offensive spark for his team every night. For the most part, Ross fulfilled his role flawlessly, finishing in the top-six in the NBA in scoring off the bench.
Ross was a major reason why the Magic returned to the playoffs this year. But like many of his teammates, the sharp-shooting wing struggled in the postseason against his former team. Ross was a -12.1 per/100 possessions against the Toronto Raptors; he shot 37% from the floor (34% from three), posting an offensive rating of 96 and an offensive box plus/minus number of -2.3. Ross scored 24 points in Game 3 in front of an energized Amway Center crowd, but that was about it (in the series) for “torch moments”.
Best performances of the season: 3/22 vs. Memphis, 4/10 at Charlotte
vs. Memphis: 31 points (8-12 3PTA’s), 7 rebounds (+25)
at Charlotte: 35 points (6-10 3PTA’s), 6 rebounds (+15)
2019-20 Season Outlook
Ross now heads into the off-season as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. He never really experienced restricted free agency either, opting instead to sign a rookie contract extension with the Raptors (three years/$31.5 million) in November of ‘15.
Ross will be looking to secure what will most likely be his last big pay-day of his career. He will turn 29 years-old next season. I’m guessing Ross will be seeking a guaranteed contract that will take him (at least) through his 31st birthday.
Like Vucevic, Orlando’s other marquee unrestricted free agent this summer, I think the years the Magic offer Ross will be more telling than the money. Orlando holds their Sixth-Man’s Bird Rights, meaning they can ultimately offer him more money (and years) than other clubs can.
The organization can also go over the cap to retain their own free agents. That’s important because the organization will be hand-cuffed bringing in any additional free agents in an effort to try and improve the talent on the roster, that is until contracts like the ones held by Evan Fournier and Timofey Mozgov come off Orlando’s books.
So with Ross, Orlando may ultimately feel like they have to overpay to bring him back. They can front-load his deal. They can try and get away with offering team options later in the contract (although that probably won’t move the needle).
At the end of the day, I think the organization will throw a hefty “bag” at Ross. But it will be up to Ross (and his family) if Orlando is where he wants to be, and if the organization offers enough years for his liking.
Previous “Season in Reviews” in this series