'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: #26, Orlando Magic

  • Odds to win the 2015-2016 NBA Championship: 300:1
  • 2014-2015 Record: 25-57 (Missed Playoffs).
    • 2015 Draft Results:
      • Mario Hezonja, Barcelona (5th Overall)
      • Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington University (51st Overall)
    • Key Offseason Additions: Jason Smith, CJ Watson
    • Key Offseason Losses: Kyle O’Quinn
  • Projected Starting Lineup:
  • Player Salaries:
  • Season in Review:

The Good: The team’s three “core” guys: Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, and Tobias Harris all averaged 17 points or more – that is three more players than the #1 seed Atlanta Hawks had on their roster record > 17 points per game, by the way…

Also, the franchise was able to retain the services of their best offensive player: Tobias Harris. This is an underrated re-signing, as Orlando isn’t essentially the most “desirable” of locations for NBA free agents right now. Listen: it’s not LeBron James, however, it is a step back to legitimacy for a Magic franchise that is not only desperate to be relevant again, but, needs to surround its plethora of young talent with a veteran presence in the prime of his career.

The Bad (and The Ugly): The Magic’s “defensive stoppers”. Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton were drafted in 2014 to add much-needed help to the team’s swiss cheese perimeter defense. Long story short: they did not meet expectations, let alone exceed them – each player posted an individual DRTG of 107, and the team’s overall DRTG # increased from 104.8 during the 2013-2014 season to 107.7. That is a legitimate concern. In addition: Despite his “elite” rebounding prowess, Nikola Vucevic might as well be dangling a red cape whenever he’s in the paint on defense. He simply does not block shots – or even try for that matter… to elaborate: of the 25 qualified players in the NBA who are measured to be at least seven feet tall, only two blocked a lower percentage of opponent’s two-point attempts than Nikola did, per OrlandoPinstripedPost.com.

To make matters worse, the Magic can’t effectively start their best offensive front court pair together (Vucevic/Fye) without giving up a zillion easy buckets – as the team allowed an unfathomable 110.5 points per 100 possessions when the two were on the floor together.

  • Baseless God Wob

The biggest thing I took away from Orlando’s 2014-2015 campaign is the Magic’s culture. 2014-2015 was a disappointing season for the Orlando Magic, but, I’m here to tell you that’s a good thing. This franchise has no shortage of dynamic young players — as their roster, with the addition of Mario Hezonja in this year’s draft, now has SEVEN first round picks on it; all of whom were drafted within the last three seasons.

Does stacking draft pick always work? No, i.e. the Sixers/Anthony Bennett/Michael Olowokandis of the world … and Elfrid Payton (13.8 PER)/Aaron Gordon (11.4 PER) did not have the best of rookie seasons … but, the difference here is that the Magic know they’re good, know they’re talented, and expect to be better. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier’s statements to Fox Sports after the final game of the season tells us everything we need to know about this Magic squad:

"Vucevic: “Nobody’s happy with the season we had … That’s not what we expected. I feel like we have more than what we showed.” Fournier: “Do not tell me that Boston has better players than us, because that’s not true.”"

To me, this isn’t just your cookie-cutter politically correct “we need to be better” response that every bad team’s players say. This is a squad who knows how good they can be, and are sick & tired of losing games. In the age of “tanking”, it’s rare to see this mindset and passion in the mind’s of a “bad” team – but, I’m tellin ya there’s something there in the blood of this organization right now that doesn’t appear in any box score.

The defense is broken, there’s no doubt about it – but this is a system issue more so than a lack of talent. This hypothesis is supported by when the front office fired Jacque Vaughn and replaced him with interim coach James Borrego, whose first action as boss was to replace Frye in the starting lineup with Dewayne Dedmon. The result? A 99.6 DRTG vs. 110.5 when Frye was on the floor.

The pieces are in place, someone just needs to figure out how to use them correctly.

  • 2015-2016 Season Projection:
    • 30-52 Record
    • 13th Place in East
    • No Playoffs
  • Fan Mindset, as told by Hollywood:
    • T-1000, Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  • Baseless God Wob’s 3 Divine Questions:
  • Would you trade Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, and a first round draft pick for Eric Bledsoe?
  • Is Nikola Vucevic a legitimate all-star?
  • Why did the Magic stop experimenting with Victor Oladipo at point guard?



#30: Philadelphia 76ers

#29: Portland Trail Blazers

#28: Brooklyn Nets

#27: Denver Nuggets