Season Preview: Orlando Magic

As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day eight’s release of a season preview ends up being the young, exciting Orlando Magic. Saeed Ghassemzadeh provides a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.

Orlando Magic:

Last season’s record: 25-57

Playoff status: Missed playoffs

Year three of the Post-Dwight-Howard era in Orlando did not go smoothly. With a young core of Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic oozing with talent and potential, there was enthusiasm around the Magic fanbase and also the league as a whole that this would be the year the Magic would take the next step. Though Orlando got through early December with a fairly decent 9-14 record, things only went downhill from there. The team started losing winnable games, and the effort level dropped off. From the end of December to the beginning of February, the Magic lost 16 of 18 games, and as a result, ownership relieved Jacque Vaughn of all coaching duties, and replaced him with interim coach James Borrego. While Borrego instilled a new defensive mindset and brought a higher level of consistency, it was not enough to save Orlando’s disastrous season. Going into the offseason, the Magic wanted to have a successful draft, re-sign restricted free agent Tobias Harris, hire a new head coach, and add veteran talent.

The Magic had the fifth pick in the 2015 draft, and after names like Karl-Anthony Town, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, and Kristaps Porzingis were taken, the Magic opted for Croatian scoring machine Mario Hezonja. The 20 year old played last season for Barcelona in the Spanish League, where he displayed the scoring prowess many hope he will bring to the NBA. At 6’8” and 210 pounds, Hezonja has an NBA-ready body, and his killer attitude on the court has Magic fans eager for the upcoming season. The Magic also selected three point sniper Tyler Harvey with the 51st pick in the draft, although Harvey is not expected to get much playing time in a crowded back court.

Prior to the start of the offseason and all of its craziness, the Magic announced they had named former Magic guard Scott Skiles as their new head coach. The Magic hope that Skiles can bring out the talent from the young core in Orlando and lead them to a better 2015-16 season. Orlando was not a location where the top free agents visited this summer, and as such, the Magic didn’t make any major splashes early on. They did, however, join in on the “Trade Luke Ridnour” party, by trading him to Memphis for Janis Timma, who has yet to put on an NBA uniform. The Magic made their biggest move of the offseason by resigning Tobias Harris to a 4 year, $64 million extension. During the season, teams like the Knicks and the Celtics were rumored to be in the running for his services, but the Knicks were never a great match and the Celtics dropped out of the running to preserve future cap flexibility. Orlando’s next move was signing and trading center Kyle O’Quinn to the Knicks in exchange for cash and the right to swap 2019 second round picks. Many wondered why the Magic traded away a decent backup center for basically nothing. However, with Vucevic already in the mix, along with the bigger (and cheaper) Dewayne Dedmon on board, there just wasn’t enough playing time for O’Quinn. To end off the offseason, the Magic added veteran C.J. Watson and Jason Smith, and also acquired NCAA champion point guard Shabazz Napier from the Miami Heat for a protected second round pick. Overall, a fairly decent and well managed offseason.

Going into the 2015-16 season, individual expectations for players like Oladipo, Payton, Gordon, Harris, and Vucevic will be high, as it will be these players who are expected to lead as the experienced players on the team. The overall depth has also improved. Watson, Napier, and Smith make for a good second unit, and Mario Hezonja will be able to get lots of in game experience, which is a good thing for his development. Oladipo and Harris will be expected to be the main scorers on the team, and Vucevic will also be there for easy points in the paint, rebounds, and a defensive presence. Elfrid Payton should improve, both as a passer, with more options around him, and also as a scorer, since by now he has become acclimated to the NBA game. Aaron Gordon should continue to develop after he returns from injury he suffered this summer, but despite a strong showing of offensive improvement in summer league, his defense is what is going to keep him in games for now. With this being said, the Eastern Conference has also improved during the offseason, and teams like Miami and Indiana, who missed out on the playoffs last year, are healthy, reloaded, and ready to go for the new season. At this point in time, it’s hard to see the Magic being a part of the 2016 postseason. However, if Scott Skiles can work some “Magic”, and make the sum of this team more than its collective parts, then the Magic will be a fun team to watch. With a young core that is yet to reach its prime, Orlando will undoubtedly take another step forward this season, but the Magic faithful will have to wait until the 2016-17 season to see their team playing in the postseason. While the 2015-16 season will be better than last year, it likely won’t result in a playoff berth. However, year four of this rebuild will really see all the talent mix in together, and hopefully produce a final product that will be in contention for years to come.

By: Saeed Ghassemzadeh

Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17

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