Frank Vogel: We need some tough guys

Oct 23, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel calls out to his team during the second half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Pacers win 88-79. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel calls out to his team during the second half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Pacers win 88-79. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

Frank Vogel took the podium last week and declared the Orlando Magic needed to add some tough guys in free agency. The focus of their search seems clear.

The Orlando Magic need something to make the jump from 35 wins to a winning record and the Playoffs.

The team showed plenty of potential and flashes and still has a young core that seems worth building around or at least playing out for another year. A new coach will bring a new mentality and new culture.

Related Story: Frank Vogel no magic wand, Magic must still improve

In one respect the Magic’s 10-win improvement was a big positive. A jump that big with essentially the same roster was truly an accomplishment worth reflecting on.

But that reflection also has to include the realization the team was incomplete. The same team that started 19-13 and seemed on track to make the Playoffs also went 2-12 in January and just 16-34 the rest of the way. A .320 win percentage would seem to harken back to the Magic’s early days in the rebuild.

It is very clear the Magic need to make some changes to the roster to take the next step. The pieces, as many thought, can work together to great result but are not a perfect fit. Banking on individual growth and development could get the Magic incrementally forward, but after four years with missing the Playoffs — and not really sniffing them — there is the desire to begin speeding things up.

That was what the Tobias Harris trade in February was about as much as anything. The Magic wanted flexibility to make a splash in free agency — the chance to make a run at a max player but also make significant upgrades to the roster surrounding this core.

Rob Hennigan in his exit interview remarks said the team needed to add some veterans to the roster to supplement the young team. It was clear throughout the season the Magic and their young team just lacked the experience well to dig deep and get out of the hole they were digging.

The directive this summer is clear.

And Vogel will have his input too. He has a specific type of player in mind to add to this team too.

“We need some tough guys,” Vogel said during introductory press conference last week. “We need some tough guys that are leaders. I think bringing in a guy who has a presence about him that the younger players will respect both with his presence, his voice, his approach, but also his ability to kick some tail on the court. To deliver on the court, that’s the best way to lead. I think we’ll be looking for that. A guy who has winning experience but can lead in the locker room but with his play as well.”

This was certainly something that was missing last year. The Magic’s starting lineup are all players younger than 25 years old. Nikola Vucevic is the oldest player. And outside of Vucevic and Evan Fournier‘s cameos in the Playoffs before coming to Orlando, none have meaningful Playoff experiences.

That deficit was apparent throughout the year last year and is targeted as a need.

The toughness aspect? The Magic certainly need that resiliency that more toughness can bring. There is no doubt too the Magic have a bit of a reputation for shying away from contact and not getting “down and dirty,” as it were.

Certainly the team did not have veterans who could pull the Magic through tough times and impart knowledge. Channing Frye and C.J. Watson just were not big enough contributors to make that impact.

So who might those “tough guys” be?

Magic fans have already locked onto a max-level guy like Al Horford. He is a player who is just supremely consistent and steady for any team. He would be a rock for a team that sometimes struggled to score consistently. The Magic are reportedly one of the many teams who will call the 30-year-old center when free agency opens.

They have also locked onto his former college teammate Joakim Noah. Noah is a non-stats guy who just plays hard and plays good defense. Even with his recent injury history, Noah is a player who changes a team’s defensive mentality just by his presence on the floor. He is transitioning from borderline All Star to grizzled veteran as he prepares to leave the Chicago Bulls, most likely.

A max guy like Mike Conley also fits the bill. Similar to Horford, he is just a solid player who keeps everyone involved and leads with his play. Conley is one of the most underrated point guards in the league because he has so little flash about him.

Other under-the-radar guys who might fit this bill are Charlotte Hornets guard Courtney Lee, perhaps Portland Trail Blazers forward Gerald Henderson, Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, Washington Wizards forward Jared Dudley, Miami Heat forward Luol Deng, Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum, San Antonio Spurs forward David West, Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia and Washington Wizards center Nene.

Obviously some of these names are more realistic than others. Some fit the description of “tough guy” in the way Vogel is thinking better than others.

And, most importantly, price matters in this crazy free agency period.

There are some options though for the Magic. It seems pretty safe to say the team needs to take advantage of this opportunity and make this key addition to the team — maybe even over getting a max guy in because the hope remains Victor Oladipo, or someone else, emerges as an All Star and the core the Magic have drafted the last three years makes a natural progression.

Next: Orlando Magic never developed a clear closer

It will be a free agency of change. And the focus seems to be intent on a certain kind of player to help the roster take a major step forward competitively in 2017.