Now that the season is over, it is time to review the last five months. This is our yearly look back at what went right and what went wrong during the 2013-14 season.
There is no getting around the inevitable. The entirety of the Magic’s rebuild for the short-term is built around the 2014 Draft. That was the focus.
When you pull the camera back a little bit, it becomes clearer that everything in this rebuild was built on getting a high pick in this Draft and cashing in on a young superstar to grow.
Rob Hennigan has said it time and time again. The Magic want to build something sustainable and that means using some home-grown talent. It is typical of cap conscious teams to seek out rookies and their affordable contracts. Plus with the way stars have gone in this free agent climate, drafting a superstar guarantees you seven years to build a team and win a championship before a big decision has to be made.
Hennigan clearly wanted to go the Thunder route and try to find his centerpiece star in the Draft.
The problem was that the first year for Hennigan featured a weak Draft.
Orlando may have very well gotten the best player in the Draft in Victor Oladipo in the 2013 Draft. But Oladipo will have to really transform to be considered a franchise player. Not that he is not a potential All Star or a very nice player. He is going to have a long NBA career. But is he the superstar a team needs to win a title?
The consensus was this year’s Draft had those players in Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Dante Exum and Julius Randle and even Marcus Smart could also potentially fit into that category. This was a better Draft to really put that foundation in place.
Of course, every other team realized that and “strategic losing” sunk to new lows to get there. Orlando ended up with the worst record in the league in 2013 and the third worst in 2014. That still has plenty uneasy as the fate for the team resides on the Lottery.
And maybe that is where it always was as the team tried to make this move to get better.
The Magic have some significant cap room coming their way next season and even more the year after (when they have to begin wondering about the value of young players Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris and where they fit in the franchise’s future). There is flexibility to look to free agency when the time comes for patience to run out and the team to make a strike to return to the Playoffs.
There are clearly different ways to build championship teams. The Magic have gone down the route of playing the Draft. That meant losing two seasons to get that foundation.
Maybe that is jumping too far ahead in the process. But being a fan is a financial decision too. And fans are not going to sit through wondering in the desert of the bottom of the standings waiting for the lottery balls to go their way. That is an uncertain place to be. Although it might be necessary.
It just is never good knowing before the season how little results matter and how important the Draft is. And then realizing at the end that it is completely out of your hands.