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Monday, October 20, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 30. Orlando Magic

Overall Win/Loss Record 23-59, fifth place Southeast Division

2014/2015 Projection: 22-60, fifth place Southeast Division, fifteenth place Eastern Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 96.5 (25th)
  • Points Allowed: 102.0 (17th)
  • Team FG%: .445 (21st)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .456 (13th)
  • Team FT%: .763 (12th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .353 (21st)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.0 (21st)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 44.0 (27th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.2 (17th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.5 (22nd)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
Projected Opening Day Starters Ranked by Past Performance and Potential Impact:

Key Reserves Ranked by Past Performance and Potential Impact:

  1. Moe Harkless (F)
  2. Andrew Nicholson (F)
  3. Luke Ridnour (G)
  4. Kyle O’Quinn (F/C)
  5. Aaron Gordon (F)

Three years after the monumental trade that netted the team a solid crop of young talent, plus numerous first round picks, the Orlando Magic still remains as one of the league's perennial bottom feeders and from what the roster looks like now, it will probably stay that way for quite some time. Despite boasting a treasure trove of young talent that any NBA team owner would give a vital organ for, the Magic have yet to harness their players' full potential as both the team and organization lack an identity and have little sense of knowing which way to go. So far, there has yet to be a player who has shown that he can rise above the fray to take any real leadership role and become the focal point in which his teammates can rally upon.  Some may tab third year center Nikola Vucevic--who finished third in team in scoring (14.2ppg)along with leading it in rebounds, minutes played and field goal percentage--as having the potential to possibly rise to fill in that huge leadership void; however, despite his impressive numbers that placed him among the top producing big men in the NBA, he has yet to show the character, charisma, and cult of personality to become a franchise player.  The same can be said about Victor Oladipo, who had shown flashes of star potential during his rookie campaign last season, but still remains a question mark on whether he can take those glimpses of hope and develop into a true NBA star.

It does not help that the majority of the team are under the age of 25 and have no real qualities that separate themselves from one another.  All of them have the skill and talent to become quality players in the league and have very long and fruitful careers, but neither one of them can set themselves as a go to player because they all basically at the same level.  No one can point to any one player on this team and say that he is a definite starter or that he can be counted on to be the go to guy when the game is all the line.  Sure Vucevic, Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and Moe Harkless have thus far shown potential to be the future faces of the franchise, but so have Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O'Quinn on quite a few occasions as well showing that they too can easily interchange roles with the aforementioned players.  Add newcomers in Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Seth Curry, and Peyton Siva into the mix, the look of the team become even murkier as they also hover in that under 25 age group in addition to possessing the same talent, skill, and abilities as the returning players. One can now certainly envision a roster as quite an open playing field when it comes to getting playing time and touches which may cause plenty friction among the players and thus result in hampering any future progress that this young team can possibly have.

Credit Head Coach Jacque Vaughn for keeping this young team focused playing together rather disciplined and efficiently despite coaching one of the youngest teams in the NBA and finishing last season with one of the worst records in the league. In spite of just winning 23 games last season, the Magic still proved to be quite the competitive group only losing by an average of just five points per game winning five of twelve games by three points or less--seven of which went into overtime with Orlando taking two of them.  Statistically, this young and inexperienced team with little or no leadership to speak of managed to hold its own against the competition almost evenly matching them in field goal percentage, rebounds, and turnovers--whether they be committed by themselves or forced upon by others.   Certainly other teams who found themselves on the outside looking in and fell into the lottery could not boast that they did so kicking and scratching though 82 games as the Magic had over the past season, but sadly it does not look like Vaughn will be able to bring this team any further.  With the players that he currently he has at his disposal, it is very doubtful that in his third year, Vaughn will be able to pull this team out of the Eastern Conference's gutter which may result in him losing his job by season's end.

The team does not look as it will accomplish any more than it already has thanks to the host of questionable off season moves which would have even the most die hard Magic fan scratching his or her head in shock and disbelief.  First came the draft where the Magic used the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft to select a wiry, long athletic pogostick in Aaron Gordon who does not have a real defined position nor does he have skills polished enough to make an immediate impact in the league.  In a draft which boasted the most potential star talent in recent memory, the Magic pass up sure things in Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, and Julius Randle, to pick up what many consider an unknown whose skill and talents do not separate himself from the rest of his teammates.  To make matters even more confusing, the Magic went out to spend up to 32$ for the next four years on Channing Frye--a 31 year old seven footer whose claim to fame is being a spot up three point shooter and nothing else--along with spending 4.5$ million on a washed up Ben Gordon, who was a pariah on the previous team he played for and can be considered by many as one of the worst free agent signings of all time.  For those that don't remember, Gordon has signed a near 60$ million deal five years ago with the +Detroit Pistons  after posting an All Star like performance in Chicago, only to completely crash and burn upon arriving then spent the next four or so years eating up the Pistons' cap space becoming a virtual dead weight on the team.

Add the acquisitions of rusty old veteran spare parts in Luke Ridnour and Willie Green, one has to really question whether or not Orlando's front office has any real plan to bring this team back into playoff contention any time soon.  It is almost depressing to watch a team that had so much going for it at one point with all the trades and influx of young talent to find itself stuck in the mud spinning its tires going nowhere fast.  What was once a team that had plenty of promise for the future now looks like a disjointed mess with rusty and useless parts being thrown into a once efficiently running machine.  Now it is anyone's guess on what kind of team will come onto the court on opening tip-off with an overcrowded roster that has an unsavory blend of misguided youth mixed with a toxic veteran influence.  It will certainly not be the team which gave numerous of its opponents a run for their money the last couple of seasons--that's for sure--and thatwill be a shame because there is little if any sign that things will improve for the better.