General manager Rob Hennigan’s Orlando Magic tenure is on the clock

May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan talks with media as Frank Vogel is introduced as the new head coach during a press conference at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan talks with media as Frank Vogel is introduced as the new head coach during a press conference at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the most pivotal offseasons in Orlando Magic history is underway, and it could ultimately decide general manager Rob Hennigan’s future.

It is officially NBA Draft week and no general manager may be under pressure to move the needle for his franchise more than the Orlando Magic’s Rob Hennigan.

Hennigan arrived in Orlando four years ago as a savior. The young wunderkind was expected to instill San Antonio and Oklahoma City’s winning culture onto this Magic squad.

Fast forward to today, and Orlando is still very pedestrian. This past year, they won 35 games and ranked 11th in the Eastern Conference, far from the highfalutin standard Hennigan experienced prior to his time running the franchise.

Even Hennigan would likely admit rebuilding in the NBA has been a little harder than he would have envisioned. That is not to say success might not be right around the corner in Orlando, but everyone involved with the organization finally has to see results.

Magic CEO Alex Martins made that expectation for winning very clear at the press conference to announce the departure of former head coach Scott Skiles.

“Look, when these moments in time occur, everybody’s accountable,” said Martins. “Rob is accountable to progress and success just like everybody else is in this building, and he’ll continue to be accountable. I’m accountable, our coaching staffs are accountable, our players are accountable. Everybody is evaluated on a regular basis, and so in that regard Rob is accountable to what’s happened here, and he’s accountable to what happens in the future.”

The path that has led the Magic to this point leaves very little wiggle room for Hennigan. One cannot simply be on a rebuilding track forever.

That is something another analytics-driven young basketball mind recently learned. The Philadelphia 76ers got tired of “waiting for next year” and parted with general manager Sam Hinkie to allow the experienced Colangelo family to lead the way.

That type of transition in Philadelphia is something that could certainly also materialize in Orlando if on-court results are not seen this season.

Despite the lack of tangible success however, it is important to note Hennigan’s positives. He has made masterful trades, signed a few key veterans and drafted adeptly.

From Dwight Howard to J.J. Redick and Arron Afflalo, Hennigan has dealt the Magic’s veterans away and uncovered significant talent in each deal. Once he felt the roster was rebuilt enough to win, he made a strong play for a top free agent last summer, the Atlanta Hawks’ Paul Millsap.

The effort however has not led to postseason basketball’s return to the City Beautiful. Sometimes solid management does not produce a requisite level of results.

Other circumstances can come into play.

In particular, the Magic’s path back to contender status has been hampered by a lack of draft luck. Ironically, the very vehicle that led the franchise’s ascension in the mid-1990’s with the picks of Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway has not produced this time around.

When the Magic had their highest draft pick in the Hennigan era, the overall talent pool was the weakest it has been in years. Orlando did well with the selection of Victor Oladipo at number two in 2013, but that transformational superstar was just not on the table.

In both 2014 and last year, the ping pong balls just did not bounce in the Magic’s direction. Again, solid players were added to the roster in both drafts, but a ready-made star was not available.

Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Andrew Wiggins, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dec 1, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots the ball as Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) and forward Tobias Harris (12) defends during the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Magic won 96-93. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

One can certainly not blame Hennigan for Orlando not striking draft lottery luck. It is frustrating to watch another team like the Minnesota Timberwolves venture down the rebuilding path and land a duo like Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but those are the breaks.

Hennigan has done the best with the situation that has been in front of him, but even that may not be enough.

The harshest reality of the NBA world is basketball is a results-driven business. That is the standard Hennigan will ultimately be evaluated by.

As he enters his fifth Magic offseason, his role has shifted. The “process” Hennigan famously refers to has to be accelerated immediately if he wants to still be mapping the path of the organization next summer.

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The edict for Hennigan is as clear as ever: Just win, baby.