So, we will officially wrap up our thoughts on the 2014 season and our look back at the year that was with some thoughts on where this team ranks in the 25-year history of Magic basketball.
Certainly a 23-win season is not among the best in team history and the four road wins set a franchise low on that mark. It was not a banner season by any stretch of the imagination.
What it was though was a season that saw the team move in the right direction. There were clear improvements over the previous season. Certainly, Orlando would have liked to have seen more than a three-win improvement — or, at least Magic fans would have liked to have seen that considering the Lottery implications wrapped up in each win.
There is plenty of hope for the future. But, as we all know, hope and future prospects are only as good as the decisions you make. The season already feels somewhat wasted with the Magic falling out of the top-3 of the Lottery.
Where does this season rank in the pantheon of Magic history? I have it in the top-20 at 17th best. Certainly the 2014 team performed better than the 2013 team. The players did make individual growth even if that did not translate into the same kind of team growth.
Interestingly enough, the Magic’s 2014 season compared pretty similarly to the Magic’s 1991 season — the team’s second in existence. Obviously, Orlando started ahead of the expansion franchise in 1990 — I have the expansion team as the 24th best team in franchise history while the 2013 team clocked in at No. 19 according to my non-scientific ranking system.
If you remember, the expansion team was built off of the cast offs left open in the expansion draft. It was going to be difficult to put together a strong team with much of a future. Many of the players on that team were quickly shipped off the next year as the Magic began building to having an actual team. Several key players like Reggie Theus were moved on after the expansion season.
Orlando took a very similar approach in rebuilding this year. The team let a lot of the veterans acquired in the Dwight Howard trade go and focused on building around the young players on the roster.
Now, the question is can the team take a step forward?
The 1991 team did not do that. Granted, the team was playing in the Western Conference for some reason that third year. And that fall helped the team net Shaquille O’Neal. I have the 1992 team as No. 23 in team history. That would be a frustrating step back for this franchise at this stage, something probably more acceptable in the third year of the organization’s history.
Orlando likely wants to see the team take a much bigger step forward and continue an upward trajectory.
To what level? The Magic probably want to see a 36-46 season like those first Dwight Howard teams that also featured Steve Francis, Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu. Those teams nurtured a young Howard while competing and staying in the Playoff race. The 2005 team (Howard’s rookie year) rates as my best team that finished below .500 while the 2006 team might have statistically been worse than last year’s team (particularly when considering expectations for the season).
Expectations for this season will probably not be to make the Playoffs, but at least to be in the conversation.
For now, it appears the Magic are on schedule. Within team history, the 2014 Magic met the progression you would expect from a team in a complete rebuild. You only hope to see the team continue its upward trajectory.
Where would you rank this year’s team in Magic history?