When the Orlando Magic brought in new management at the end of the 2017 season, it was obvious why. The Orlando Magic struggled under previous general manager Rob Hennigan. However, with a new front office comes new hope. This new front office was different, though. They were clear when they said that they weren’t coming in for another rebuild. President Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond were deliberate in wanting to use the season as a year to evaluate existing talent. Halfway through their first year, there’s plenty to analyze.
Analyzing Orlando Magic’s Evaluation Year
For many, the announcement that the Magic weren’t entering another rebuild was welcome news. Likewise, some were wary about showing ambition with a weak squad. Regardless, it seemed obvious that either way the Magic were going to be working towards building a new team. Orlando had just finished a disastrous year. A mismatched roster, log-jammed front-court and questionable contracts kept the Magic from even sniffing the playoffs. But with a new season comes new possibilities
After an excellent start, The Magic eventually began to struggle. At first, the point guard position took some time to recover from injuries. This of course set the Magic back. But it only got worse from there. Several starters now face long term injured reserve, as well as other key players. Rookie Jonathan Isaac has missed more time than any other player so far.
Additionally, every single starter has missed time at some point this season. An average squad facing so much adversity to health brings up a question no fan likes to hear. Should they tank?
The T Word
Magic coach Frank Vogel never minced words when asked about tanking after the first half of the season. Coach Vogel said “tanking” was a word he couldn’t even stomach. Whether that was simply giving a confident answer or not, don’t expect Orlando to roll over on the season. The organization has fought for relevance for far too long and the players don’t want to just throw another season away, and they shouldn’t.
In order for Orlando to keep cornerstone players like Aaron Gordon after this year, they’ll need to show it’s worth staying. Holding on to a competitive spirit is vital for such a young team. Vocal depth players like Jonathan Simmons are put to waste when they aren’t playing to win. Most importantly, it sets a bad precedence for a team that simply wants out of the basement.
Who Will Leave?
Regardless, whether Orlando was healthy and competitive or not, the team still has many holes. An escape from the lottery portion of the draft may not be optional just yet. Namely, they need to revitalize their back-court. That starts with a new point guard. Elfrid Payton has shown great skill in many ways. He’s an above average passer and can drive to the hoop really well.
However, he’s not meeting his draft day expectations. His energy and awareness on defense hasn’t developed and is simply weak. His ability to cover the right players at the right time is poor. To show for that, his Defensive Points Saved (DPS) score is -10.51. This isn’t a horrible number, but it certainly contributes to Orlando’s 27th ranked defense. Additionally, opposing teams score nearly 38% of their 3 pointers against Orlando. That also ranks them 27th in the league for that category.
As a point guard, a lot of that poor range defense falls on him. The Magic will likely get another early pick in the draft. But what does that mean for a roster being so heavily scrutinized by new management?
Orlando will certainly have another lottery pick next year. However, the team (rightfully) seems unwilling to tank for the first overall pick. Either way, they’ll likely land in the top 3 if their current record stays mostly constant. It’s absolutely vital for the Magic to get a new point guard next year. Trae Young is an obvious pick. He’s the most modern player who will be in the draft and fills most of Orlando’s gaping holes.
Draft picks aside, a slew of trades may be on the way. The Magic front office were vocal about this being a year of evaluation. With the team playing so poorly, it may be obvious who new management will want to let go. It’s an easy conclusion to make evaluating a sub-par squad.
LOS ANGELES, USA – JANUARY 08 : Jordan Clarkson (L) of Los Angeles Lakers in action against Nikola Vucevic (C) of Orlando Magic during a NBA game between Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on January 08, 2017. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)