Over the next few weeks Orlando Magic Daily will be taking a look at the things that went right and wrong this season as Orlando ended its season with its first Lottery season in six years.
I have already highlighted Rob Hennigan and the positivity surrounding the Magic after a 20-win season and even the youth on the roster. In fact, those are most of the things that went right for the Magic this season. It is hard to find positives in the immediate of the season. The Magic finished with the worst record in the league after all.
It was expected that the Magic would finish at the bottom or near the bottom of the standings. Wins were going to be a struggle. Grasping for something positive would have to come from something intangible.
That intangible might have been the youth on the roster and the hope for the future. It might have been the emergence of young players or the improved decision making that management seemed to be using. It might have been the work and effort that the veterans put in, buying into the message of a team destined to lose and develop many of the players' replacements.
It was an awkward spot for them to be in. But they made the best of it and have added to the future of the franchise.
That was what this season was all about to a large extent. Building the foundations for the future of the franchise. Or at least clearing the underbrush to put down those foundations with this year's upcoming draft.
Pleasant surprises though made the 20-win journey a lot more enjoyable than previously expected. It made the Magic's job of selling the future all the easy.
Unexpectedly, the Magic not only had a promising young center, but someone who could come in and be an immediate contributor. Perhaps it was because of the increased playing time and the confidence coaches put in him, or perhaps it was Vucevic returning to health after a difficult rookie season where Doug Collins said he dealt with injury for really the first time in his basketball-playing life.
It continued on as Andrew Nicholson emerged as a player who could contribute on a seemingly regular basis — certainly off the bench — proving Rob Hennigan had an eye for talent after taking him with the 19th overall selection in the 2012 Draft.
The once lambasted Dwight Howard trade, in which the Magic received no immediate star, bore more fruit in the form of Maurice Harkless. Not only did the Magic receive a productive center in the form of Vucevic, but also an athletic wing in Harkless with boundless upside at 19 years old and at least the rudimentary defensive skills to become a key player for the franchise moving forward.
In case this was not an embarassment of riches (relatively) already, Hennigan traded J.J. Redick for an unknown in Tobias Harris. His research paid off as Harris ended up the Magic's leading scorer by points per game averaging 17.3 points per game in 27 games in Orlando. His strong play and confidence grew as the season went on. Opportunity was a powerful force for him.
Seeing as these players, who for now form the core fo the Magic's future along with this year's upcoming draft pick and possibly their 2014 pick, are all either entering their second or third year. There is lots of optimism after these players played their first year with real playing time at the NBA level that they will continue to improve. There is no reason to think otherwise — particularly when thinking about how the coaching staff helped Maurice Harkless improve so drastically from the beginning of the season to the end.
The Magic's future is banked on how these players — along with the future draft picks — grow together. That is the model Rob Hennigan is bringing over from Oklahoma City.
There will be hard decisions in the days ahead. But right now, Orlando is selling the fans on its future. And the organization's future looks pretty good depending on how the next couple drafts go.