The Orlando Magic’s plans are becoming clearer

Feb 8, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) tries to control a loose ball going out of bounds in front of Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) and center Nikola Vucevic (9) during overtime at Philips Arena. The Magic defeated the Hawks 117-110 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) tries to control a loose ball going out of bounds in front of Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) and center Nikola Vucevic (9) during overtime at Philips Arena. The Magic defeated the Hawks 117-110 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The moves the Orlando Magic made recently have been scrutinized by the national media. But, a true identity may have finally been uncovered.

The Orlando Magic have seen a ton of change since Dwight Howard‘s departure four years ago. The roster had a complete turnover as the Magic tried to implement a complete and total rebuild, using the draft to restock the cupboard.

Maybe most notably is the coaching turnover. Having four different head coaches in a span of 18 months can bother the chemistry and continuity of a young team. The hiring of Frank Vogel after the sudden resignation of Scott Skiles prompted what many will see as a reset for the Magic.

Those thoughts are further supported by an overhaul of the roster. As Aaron Gordon told Zach Lowe of, it truly feels like a whole new team now.

To many the recent moves by the Magic are confusing. They traded away promising talent in Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. All this while Aaron Gordon is still on the roster.

They then followed that up by adding Bismack Biyombo, who will battle Nikola Vucevic for starting minutes. Oh and let’s not forget Jeff Green, who has the same skill set as Aaron Gordon at both forward spots.

But there is a method to the madness and Frank Vogel mentions in the same article from Zach Lowe:

"“In today’s small-ball NBA, we think we can beat the [expletive] out of teams in the paint,” Vogel said."

Surely a combo of Gordon, Ibaka and Biyombo will be a terror on defense as well as the offensive glass, which were weaknesses for this team last year.

But this move does come with its share of risk. Gordon has played the bulk of his minutes as a power forward. He started to find his way toward the end of the season while slashing to the rim and out-hustling opponents.

With his role as a small forward, he will be given much more responsibility to handle the ball and possibly create for others and himself. Gordon is excited about the new role he will take on after speaking with about his conversations with Coach Vogel:

"“I’m gonna be like a third guard,” he said. “I’ll have a much bigger ballhandling responsibility, and I’m all for that.”"

While Gordon has shown some improvement in his ball handling this summer, a major factor in the success of this experiment will be his ability to shoot the ball.

The Magic’s offense has added some shooting help on the bench, but the starters are still very restricted from long range. Gordon along with Elfrid Payton have struggled from behind the arc and have not shown a ton of confidence when left open.

While both players are undoubtedly working on their shot, it is critical they develop the confidence to let it fly and prove they can make that shot when left open.

It is critical as Vogel said in Lowe’s article for Payton to take that next step as a shooter.

There is another alternative. Orlando is hoping Ibaka and Vucevic can bring enough shooting, along with Fournier and more minutes for Hezonja, to outweigh Gordon and Payton’s struggles from the perimeter.

Ibaka has no problem with shooting the three ball, and may see more looks without ball dominant All Stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Vucevic has also been stellar from mid range at 48 percent, and might be asked to step out a little further.

Frank Vogel told he is not going to make Vucevic shoot 3-pointers if he is not comfortable, but he likes the idea of seeing Vucevic extend his range.

There has been much speculation on whether the Magic will look to trade Vucevic after signing Biyombo. While those talks are not far fetched, Vucevic’s ability to shoot may put any trades on hold.

Bismack Biyombo specializes in defense and is opportunistic on offense with putbacks and the occasional role to the basket. Pairing Biyombo with Ibaka would shrink the court a little on the offensive end if Gordon’s shot is not reliable.

The team will have some massive competition at each position. None moreso than at center. Rob Hennigan told he believes that will be conducive to growth.

With all the talk of a logjam for the Magic, there should be plenty of minutes to go around. There are only three traditional bigs on the roster, if no one else is signed. Two of those players will be starting with the other rotating in.

With Aaron Gordon getting more of his minutes at small forward, his time at power forward may be limited and mostly as a result of matching an opponent’s lineup. The same for Jeff Green, who will give a breather to Ibaka and Gordon, so no problem.

A by-product of having what some call a log jam is that competition. While there are cornerstone pieces in place for the team, they all have someone behind them that is capable of taking some minutes away from them. The added pressure will hopefully raise the level of play both in the starters and the bench players looking to get more minutes.

There is undoubted pressure for the Magic to make the playoffs and end the longest Playoff drought in franchise history. Alex Martins told in plain words: “Our fans deserve a winning product.”

General manager Rob Hennigan may be feeling the pressure to win now.

Going from a bad team to a contender is a tall task without one of the top players in the league. Hennigan has made some questionable moves that have turned out positive for the most part.

With teams like Boston and Houston finding success faster than Orlando, it is fair to wonder if the process was working or if this was in the plan all along. The talent they were grooming has finally been cashed in, somewhat.

Cap space was created with the Tobias Harris trade. That brought in Ersan Ilyasova, who was packaged to get Ibaka. Upgrades were made on defense, and the team is still flexible for the following offseason.

The Orlando Magic are hoping to contend for a playoff spot after a long drought. Taking that step forward will vault them into the free agent conversation for the following season as a team on the upswing just needing one or two pieces to become serious for a championship.

The roster’s versatility and its depth along with a great coaching hire should earn the Magic a few more wins this season.

Next: FiveThirtyEight Projections Analysis: Orlando Magic

Depending on if the pieces fit well like Hennigan and Vogel envision, the Orlando Magic will be a playoff team with the possibility of contending for a championship in the next few years.