The Orlando Magic simply needed more pieces on their roster last offseason. Their solution included drafting forward Jonathan Isaac sixth overall and signing Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons to a three-year contract worth $20 million. Orlando got off to a hot start last season winning eight of their first twelve games. However, they went 17-53 for the remainder of the season and missed the playoffs, but the season was not without positives. A few players emerged as core players for the team moving forward and there is more reason for optimism this season.
What Worked Last Season
The biggest storyline from last year was the development of Aaron Gordon. He averaged a career-high 17.6 points per game. Not only that, but Gordon also posted career-highs in assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, and three-point percentage. It is safe to say that Gordon’s game took a massive leap forward last season. Going forward the Magic will look to him to become the superstar they envisioned when they selected him fourth overall in the 2014 draft, and it is looking more possible every day.
Evan Fournier followed his impressive 2016-17 campaign, in which he averaged 17.2 points per game, by recording 17.8 points per game last year. Fournier has established himself as one of the most underrated players in the league and continues to be a good three point shooter. Simmons also proved to be one of the steals of last summer. His strong defensive play continued in Orlando, and he fits nicely alongside Fournier. Simmons improved offensively as well, averaging a career-high 13.9 points per game. Nikola Vucevic had another strong season posting averages of 16.5 points and 9.2 rebounds. Vucevic has averaged a double-double in four out of his six seasons in Orlando.
What Needs Improvement
The Magic only won 25 games last year. They finished 24th in scoring and 21st in points allowed. This is a young team with a lot of lengths, so they are expected to improve defensively this season. Their rookie, Isaac, appeared in only 25 games, so having him back should help immediately. Isaac is 6’10” with a 7’1″ wingspan. He is capable of defending all five positions. Gordon, Fournier, and Vucevic all are positive contributors on offense. If Isaac or Simmons can take a leap this season and become a reliable secondary scorer, the offense will improve. However, there is one gaping hole in their depth chart, and that is at point guard. Orlando gave up on Elfrid Payton and traded him to Phoenix last season. While D.J. Augustin is a solid veteran, he should not be the best option. Orlando may be willing to flip someone like Vucevic to acquire a point guard, but if they stand pat expect that to continue to be a weakness.
The Magic were able to draft center Mohamed Bamba sixth overall. Bamba has a 7’10” wingspan and is an excellent rim protector. He will help improve the defense and has the potential to develop into a versatile scorer on offense. By drafting Bamba, Vucevic becomes expendable. If the right deal comes along, Vucevic will be traded. They also drafted Melvin Frazier Jr. and Justin Jackson in the second round. Frazier was signed to a three-year deal.
Gordon was then re-signed to a four-year deal worth $76 million. They acquired Jarell Martin, Dakari Johnson, Timofey Mozgov, and Jerian Grant in trades. Isaiah Briscoe was signed to a minimum deal, as well. Grant and Briscoe are potential options at point guards and are both still young. Mozgov will be behind Bamba and Vucevic on the depth chart. He was mainly acquired to gain Grant and offload Bismack Biyombo‘s deal. Martin will replace the departing Marreese Speights. Mario Hezonja departed in free agency and Arron Afflalo remains unsigned.
2018-19 Season Prediction
Expect Bamba and Isaac to help this team improve defensively. Fournier, Gordon, and Vucevic will continue to play well. However, the team is still relatively young and needs to add a point guard. They will win 32 games and miss the playoffs once again. However, they will build positive momentum moving into the 2019-20 offseason.
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