We are less than a week from the end of the year and so several blogs have begun their yearly retrospectives before the preparations for the Playoffs begin. It is not quite yet time to dissect the season seeing as three games still remain for the Magic and the Playoffs do not begin until next weekend.
However, for a team with 20 wins, you take any accolade or positive recognition you can get.
The Magic might be hurdling toward the second worst record in the NBA, but many around the league and many observers of the league feel the Magic have begun building in the right direction.
Rob Mahoney of Point Forward listed the Magic as one of the season's surprises. Again, that is saying something for a 20-win team with the second worst record in the league:
Magic GM Rob Hennigan is way ahead of the game. Orlando’s trade return for Dwight Howard may have seemed meager at the time, but Nikola Vucevic has blossomed into the NBA’s No. 2 rebounder (11.9 per game to go with 12.9 points), Maurice Harkless is already a useful player with plenty of room to grow and Arron Afflalo has used his new circumstances to expand his offensive game. Orlando still doesn’t have a centerpiece player on a rookie-scale deal, but that’s nonetheless a really solid haul and the Magic have three first-round picks from the deal and plenty of developmental opportunities to come.
The Magic are not going to win many awards, so you take the praise where you can get it in this difficult season.
Flashback to August and the organization was roundly criticized for its haul in the Dwight Howard trade and were tabbed the initial losers of the deal. Everyone wondered why the Magic would not even acquire Andrew Bynum or Andre Iguodala at least to replace a star for a star.
Rob Hennigan stuck to his plan to rebuild the team through young players, hard workers and smart drafting. Now, he seems to be the one laughing to the bank as Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless look like solid players to move the franchise forward in the long term.
This season was never going to be about wins anyway. Not if the goal is to win a championship at some point.
To do that, the Magic needed to get a cornerstone on a rookie contract. And to get that, you have to get a high draft pick. The Magic are in position to do that this year.
The real accolades and prizes will come once this initial rebuilding phase is completed.
As Mahoney writes, the moves Hennigan has made suggest a "stable, cogent process — the hallmark of great management and the foundation of a great NBA franchise."