Has Frank Vogel raised the Magic’s profile?

May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic Head coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Hennigan pose for a photo during the press conference at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic Head coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Hennigan pose for a photo during the press conference at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are entering free agency looking to make a big move. The hire of Frank Vogel gives them experience and a chance to sell the team better.

Seven years ago the Orlando Magic were in the NBA Finals.

Led by Dwight Howard, they had overcome the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers to claim the Eastern Conference crown, and only the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers stood between them and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Related Story: Scott Skiles' departure about the Orlando Magic's process

Of course, the veteran Lakers won out in five games, while the Magic unravelled in the course of the next few seasons, ultimately leading to the Dwightmare and Howard’s eventual departure and the team’s tumble down the standings.

It all seems like a lifetime ago, as a slow and at times painful rebuilding process has taken its toll, leaving many fans wondering just how long it will be before the Magic recapture some of the magic Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu cooked up back in 2009.

Although it could still take some time, Orlando’s star has risen significantly in the past two weeks thanks to the appointment of new head coach Frank Vogel.

After two and a half years of Jacque Vaughn, 30 games of James Borrego and an up-and-down season of Scott Skiles, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has finally found the team a coach capable of driving this rebuild.

As has been well-publicized of late, Vogel was the defensive-minded architect of the Indiana Pacers’ recent success, leading them to the postseason five times in six seasons, while logging a 250-181 record during his time in charge.

Vogel took the Pacers as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back years. They failed to get past the Miami Heat on both occasions, losing in seven games in 2013 and then again in six the following year.

All this just a couple of years after Vogel had taken over from his predecessor, Jim O’Brien, in 2011, transforming Indiana from a 17-27 lottery-bound loser, into a perennial playoff team. The only year he missed the Playoffs occurred when Paul George missed the entire season after breaking his leg in a summer exhibition game for Team USA.

The roster Vogel adopted was young and inexperienced, much like Orlando’s current roster. It did feature Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson – three key components of the Pacers’ subsequent success – but missing at that stage were George Hill and David West, two of the veteran pieces that helped Vogel elevate his team to the next level.

The belief is that Vogel can do it again in Orlando using the same process. And with all the cap room the Magic have, they have the flexibility to make something happen.

Since being hired, Vogel has highlighted Orlando’s need to add some “tough guys,” as he put it. No doubt he had players like Hill and West in mind when he said that, although it is unlikely he was referring to them directly.

Vogel’s desire to add tough veterans will only enhance the Magic’s profile, provided he succeeds in attracting them. Right now the Orlando Magic have plenty of options come free agency, but just how many of them will actually be interested in signing with a team that has little more than promise to offer remains to be seen.

The prospect of playing under a talented coach like Vogel is certainly a huge plus, but the team itself still needs work. Especially as right now Orlando is without the superstar-in-the-making Indiana had in Paul George.

Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon or Mario Hezonja may go on to prove themselves worthy of that role at some point in the future, but at present those players are some way off the finished product. And that may deter high-caliber free agents, at least in the short term.

One only has to remember last summer, when the Magic reached for the stars by trying to lure Paul Millsap to the club. In fairness to him, he did make the journey down south to meet with Orlando’s executives, admitting afterwards he was very impressed by their pitch. But leaving the established (not to mention consistent) Atlanta Hawks at the peak of his powers to play for the fledgling Magic made little sense at the time.

Perhaps things would have worked out differently had Orlando had Vogel rather than Scott Skiles at the helm at the time, but given the inexperience of the roster at that point even that seems unlikely.

The free agents they did attract – guys like Jason Smith and C.J. Watson – were probably a fair reflection of where the team was at last offseason. But all involved will be hoping with Frank Vogel’s appointment the team’s profile has risen enough to allow it to pursue considerably larger fish this summer.

Players like Mike Conley and Al Horford fit the bill, and snaring one or both of them would do the franchise the world of good. But big-name free agents of their ilk will want the assurance of postseason basketball, and even with Vogel there is no guarantee the Magic can provide it.

It seems as if Rob Hennigan will have to shuffle his deck before free agency if he wants to avoid striking out this summer on the big fish at least.

Unless he succeeds in creating the right environment, he may be relying entirely on one or more of his targets taking a leap of faith on a quality coach and a young core that is still adapting to NBA life.

Next: Orlando Magic must take a different approach to Draft

Stranger things happen in free agency though, especially when there are large sums of money involved.