It is that time of year again and today is Orlando Magic day in the NBA Blog Preview! Check out the other preview over at Orlando Pinstriped Post. And let us know what you think about the Magic for this upcoming season.
Last Year's Record: 20-62
Key Losses: Beno Udrih (free agency to New York)
Key Additions: Victor Oladipo (draft No. 2 overall), Jason Maxiell (free agency from Detroit)
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The Magic are trying to build a team from the ground up and that takes time. Lots and lots of time. This is just Year Two.
Last year, Orlando laid the seeds of its rebuilding. The team committed to acquiring young players like Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. They want to give these players the time to grow. Bringing in veterans to take their playing time would not be in line with what the future goals of the team are.
The biggest move for the Magic then was drafting Victor Oladipo with the second pick in the Draft last year. Oladipo is being considered as part of the Magic's future core and should be a guy who can contribute at the guard position for the immediate and long-term future. There will be growing pains with him for sure as the team experiments with him playing point guard. But this is a team that can afford to wait.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
The Magic are young and full of hard workers. This is part of the ethos the team is trying to build.
So, the Magic are going to be a team that will play hard and keep fighting until the final whistle. Even if the score is beyond reach and even if the team is struggling to do much of anything. The Magic are going to be a tough out.
Players will be learning but one thing Orlando is sure to do is give teams difficult matchups to crack with the team's versatility. There are a lot of players that can play multiple positions and individually play them pretty well.
Nikola Vucevic is developing into one of the best young centers in the NBA. Tobias Harris was a revelation in his 20 games with the Magic after the trade deadline. Maurice Harkless showed continued improvement and confidence as the year went on.
Mix in the veteran presence of Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson — along with Jason Maxiell off the bench and, eventually, Glen Davis — and there is the chance for this team to surprise anyone they face. There will be some nights this team looks incredibly well. Other nights . . .
Douglas Jones/USA TODAY
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Its youth is its strenght and also its biggest weakness.
The Magic are not the most talented team in the league and a lot of the players are still learning the NBA game. That is going to mean the team is going to go through its growing pains and there are going to be moments where the team struggles mightily.
The Magic lack a true go-to offensive threat and that means teams can squeeze the life out of the team's offense. There will be stretches where the team just cannot score. There are not many knock-down 3-point shooters and so defenses will be able to limit dribble penetration.
Defensively, the Magic are still growing and learning. Nikola Vucevic needs to improve as a shot blocker and threat to defend the paint. Orlando's perimeter defenders are young and are prone to make mistakes. The defensive rotations need work and the team will give up points in bunches as they learn through their mistakes. That is life as a young team.
In all likelihood, the Magic will be able to compete with most teams for somewhere between 36 and 40 minutes on most nights. It is getting them to play at a NBA level for 48 minutes every night and get a chance to win that is the biggest part of this team's growth. This is not an effect on effort, but an effect on execution. At this point, the Magic will be playing at their highest level for a full game every once in a while.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Improvement is a simple goal, but that is truly what the Magic want to see. They want to see individual improvement from the young players and then team improvement from the players part of the core group the Magic plan for the future.
Orlando is probably not going to make the Playoffs. The team is still trying to dig itself out of the Dwight Howard mess from the last two years. This team is probably not going to win only 20 games this season either.
There will be a double-digit losing streak or two most likely. There will be players taking their time returning from injury. There will be lots and lots of growing pains.
The Magic though will show a modest improvement in the win column, but an even bigger improvement from the young players that make up this roster. If that happens, the Magic will be very happy (with some lottery luck).
5. Will the Magic trade any of the team's veterans?
The Magic have three key veterans that could interest teams when the trade deadline comes around in Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis.
Afflalo is a solid shooting guard who can fit in with about any roster. He is improving his scoring efficiency but could easily slide back into the role of a supporting player after playing last year and however long he plays in Orlando this season as a featured player in the offense. Afflalo has a friendly-ish contract with three years left at $7.5 million.
Glen Davis had a breakout season last year before injuries derailed his season. He is a good defender and a guy who can play for a championship contending team. He is hungry to win. And would not mind doing it now.
The most interesting case though is Jameer Nelson. Nelson is owed $8 million this year and next, but only $2 million is guaranteed next year. He is a solid point guard still who can be a spot starter for a good team at this stage in his career. A team hoping to make the Playoffs would be very happy to have him.
However, Nelson has symbolic resonance with the Magic. He has spent all nine of his seasons in the NBA with the team and he has professed his undying love for the city. He wants to remain in Orlando. And, by all accounts, the Magic value his leadership and his loyalty to the organization. It would be a very difficult decision if the Magic decided to trade him.