The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. Most analysts never predicted they’d reach the post-season this year anyway. However, the expectation was for the team to make real progress. Instead, the team backtracked. In fact, the team record went from 35 wins to 25 in only two seasons. The Magic’s bad season is due to poor roster management, horrible injuries, and just general lack of talent.
Understanding Orlando Magic’s Bad Season
By and large, the Magic didn’t manage the line-up well at all this season. Really, the team didn’t have a choice. After all, the injury problem was a hindrance all season. However, the Magic still ran the floor with too much focus on length and athleticism.
Orlando’s Bad Lineup Rotation
Last season, Orlando lost too many games due to poor bench play. New management did a good job building Orlando’s new bench last off-season. Regardless, the team still digressed. Length and athleticism remain too prioritized on this team.
Surely, those aren’t bad qualities, even in today’s league. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant are obvious proof. However, the Magic have made drafting for physical qualities over talent too much of a priority the last several years. Even the newer, better management is guilty of this.
Drafting is Orlando’s Biggest Woe
Drafting Jonathan Isaac showed that even new general manager John Hammond looks more towards physical qualities than talent in the draft, similar to his predecessor. Of course, Isaac has a great deal of potential despite being a project of a player. But the draft mentality of the Magic remains the same. If the Magic are going to see real improvement, they need to draft for talent instead of roster design.
Injuries Beat the Magic
Ultimately, you can chalk down the Magic’s bad season to injuries. Sure, a healthy Magic team probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs. But it’s worth noting that the Magic probably don’t win a measly 25 games if they had been a healthier team. Notably, the Magic only had a full roster for one of their eighty-two games. That was the home opener against the Miami Heat.
Since then, the injury bug plagued Orlando all season long. At one point, none of the starting players were healthy. Additionally, important players like Jonathan Isaac and Jonathon Simmons also dealt with injuries. Particularly, Isaac’s injury bogged down most of his rookie season. Overall, the Magic probably never would’ve made the playoffs this year. But a year of injury made them struggle even more.
The Magic Needed Talent
Generally speaking, the reason teams don’t make the playoffs is lack of talent. Of course, that’s a given. But sometimes bad coaching or poor chemistry is what holds teams back. Ultimately, that wasn’t the case for the Magic’s bad season. Even with the firing of coach Vogel, the cause for Orlando’s failure was an absence of skill.
While Orlando’s bench rotation was much improved, the starting players were the real trouble this season. When healthy, Orlando’s starting unit is just too weak. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier provide great offense. However, Fournier has little ability to understand defensive schemes. Vucevic is simply too slow to make a difference in the post and catch rebounds. Elfrid Payton didn’t even finish the season with the Magic after being traded to the Phoenix Suns. D.J. Augustin is a great backup, but the Magic will need to go after a new point guard for next season.
What the Magic Can Fix
In summary, a lot of things kept the Magic out of the playoffs. When a team wins only 25 games, that’s a given. But it’s important to point out what it was that kept them out.
The Magic’s bad season was a result of bad team structure, injuries and a lack of top-end talent. John Hammond and President Jeff Weltman will need to keep those things in mind when they take on the draft and free agency process this summer.