The offseason is more or less over for the Magic. Friday, the team announced the signing of Luke Ridnour, putting the roster officially at 15 players. That leaves no room for anyone else.
Since it is the end of July and the basketball topics are drying up, it is time to review the offseason.
Generally, the Magic’s offseason has been met with confusion. Tom Ziller of SBNation was the latest to be found scratching his head as he said the Magic are one of three “bad teams” who got worse:
The Magic appear to have had a nice draft haul, picking up Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. But Orlando also dropped its best player (Arron Afflalo) for Evan Fournier, which is a steep downgrade barring a massive jump by the Frenchman. The Magic also said goodbye to Jameer Nelson. Together, Afflalo and Nelson accounted for 67 minutes, 30 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds per game. Payton projects to be really interesting at the very least, but rookie point guards tend to struggle and his shooting needs special attention. Victor Oladipo can pick up more minutes, and he should improve as a sophomore, but he’s unlikely to be as good as Afflalo was in 2013-14 (which was really quite good).
Meanwhile, Gordon and Nikola Vucevic figure to impose on a number of opponents, but the rookie has a learning curve of his own. The Magic did add Channing Frye, which is a real upgrade as a shooting big and should help offset the loss of Afflalo. But the other free agent additions — Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour — aren’t exactly pieces needed for a playoff run. (Gordon got ditched by a playoff team, the then-Bobcats, in the middle of last season.)
Orlando won 23 games in 2013-14. That seems like a decent target to aim for in 2014-15, because I don’t see such a young, unsettled core doing much more yet.
Fair concerns for sure. The Magic did trade away their best statistical player in Arron Afflalo and appeared to get very little in return. Really that move, as well as the Jameer Nelson move, was about handing the team over to the young players and starting to parse out what value these young assets really have.
The confusion over the Ben Gordon signing remains, but the Luke Ridnour and Channing Frye signings make a lot of sense for this team both in the locker room and on the floor. They filled some very obvious needs.
It is a bit unfair to say the Magic are aiming for 23 wins again this year. They are certainly looking to improve and get up to that 30-win mark with an eye to even more improvement in 2016.
Coming off the heels though of Zach Lowe of Grantland named the Magic the runner-up in the Second Annual “Milwaukee Bucks ‘WTF are they doing?’” Award, there is still confusion over the direction this team will take.
That confusion is certainly a bit warranted. Lowe did comment that he trusts the front office in the long term. This season just remains a huge proving point for several players about to hit restricted free agency — Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris — and the team wants to see what the young players can do for the long-term.
They decided to punt on big free agency this summer, waiting for the right time to strike.
When will that right time be? Few people likely know that answer.
What does it mean for this season? Any guess is as good as any other. This team could crater without any reliable offensive player, could perform as expected or could blossom in the fruits of their potential. That unknown might be why the offseason has been so confusing to a national media that may have largely ignored the Magic and the growth the young players have made this past season.
This is why we play the games.