Orlando Magic 2017 Season Review: What Went Wrong — Frank Vogel

Oct 26, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel reacts against the Miami Heat during the second half at Amway Center. Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic 108-96. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel reacts against the Miami Heat during the second half at Amway Center. Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic 108-96. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Frank Vogel was the coach every Orlando Magic fan seemed to want this offseason. During this disastrous season, Vogel shares his blame for the struggles.

It did not take long for Orlando Magic fans to pick their favorite for the suddenly vacant head coaching job once Scott Skiles announced his resignation. Frank Vogel was recently made a free agent when the Indiana Pacers declined to renew his contract and he was the clear target.

Even before Scott Skiles resigned, fans asked on Twitter whether the Magic could somehow fire Skiles and sign Vogel. It was clear whom they preferred.

And so when the dominos started to fall and the stars began to align, it felt like Vogel would be the perfect fit. He was a successful coach who had a defensive pedigree and the right demeanor to help a young team continue to grow.

The Magic changed other pieces around their team. But with the defensive talent Orlando had brought in, it felt tailor made for Vogel.

The season did not go as planned. The Magic were a haphazard roster, but even the thing they were meant to be strong at never quite worked.

Orlando finished 24th in defensive rating, giving up 108.0 points per 100 possessions. It marked the first time in Vogel’s head coaching career his team did not finish in the top-10.

This essential bet the Magic made on defense — be it from acquiring Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo to hiring Vogel — did not pay off. And Vogel has to share some blame for this failure.

And he would even admit so.

Following the Magic’s embarrassing 47-point loss to the Chicago Bulls in the season’s penultimate game, Vogel admitted he had not gotten enough out of his players.

"“I share responsibility,” Vogel told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel after that game. “I haven’t gotten the most out of these guys. I haven’t gotten enough out of these guys on the defensive end.”"

But it is a reflection on Vogel this season turned out so bad. He must shoulder some responsibility. He had a hand in making the roster — he said he approved the Serge Ibaka deal because he believed Ibaka’s defensive versatility on the perimeter would give the Magic the size advantage. And he never could find a way to get the team working the way he or anyone wanted.

There is plenty to say about the roster’s construction, but without Paul George or that anchor star to cover up the mistakes, Vogel’s shortcomings as a coach in Indiana became more apparent this year.

Pacers fans complained a lot about his unimaginative offenses. And indeed Orlando had plenty of moments where the team’s offense stagnated.

Vogel urged his team throughout the season to “trust the pass” but his offense featured little movement to free up effective passes. The offense left a lot to be desired, especially for a team without a clear one-on-one threat.

According to NBA.com, Orlando averaged 19.1 seconds per possession this season, the 11th shortest in the league. The Magic traveled an average of 8.95 miles per game on offense as a team, ninth fewest in the league. They were about league average with 299.4 passes per game this season. That is not necessarily

That is not necessarily an indicator of much. But it does suggest the Magic did not have a lot of movement within their offense and their passing came off of drive and kicks. The offense, in other words, did not seems extremely complex. It is not the kind of offense that relies heavily on passing.

The proof was in the pudding that the Magic could not get anything going offensively all year. The one point in the season the Magic were soaring defensively, the offense was struggling. The Magic lost a game to Vogel’s former team 88-69 in Indianapolis. And those kind of scores were the norm.

Orlando was clearly going to have some problems overcoming the offensive shortcomings on the roster. But the constant blowouts have to fall on the coach to some extent. The team seemed like it would take a devastating defeat every few weeks.

There is no amount of scheming to get around a 30-point defeat — let alone six of them this season for the Magic — but a coach has to find a way to motivate his team. It was not like these losses came late in the season. These were interspersed throughout the year. Orlando lost the first game in Chicago by 32 points too.

This is where a coach has to be searching for everything he can in his roster to find something that works. And here too, one of his big criticisms from his Pacers days stood out.

Vogel was slow to shift his rotations or think outside the box to help his team improve.

The one obvious move for the Magic laid untried throughout the year. Orlando never went to Aaron Gordon at power forward with Ibaka at center.

Vogel said after the season he wanted to give the team’s original plan a chance to work. And he did not want to seem like he was searching for a solution. This would have eroded trust even further if it did not work. Vogel said he felt he had to play his best players and Nikola Vucevic, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo were among his best players. And these are all fair points and rational thoughts.

But even for a few spot minutes, an Aaron Gordon-Serge Ibaka frontcourt would have been something to explore. The Magic left the lineup everyone anticipated on the shelf for all but 52 minutes, according to NBAWowy.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The team was clearly struggling for some time before the team ultimately decided to trade Ibaka. It always felt like the Magic were leaving one last bullet in the chamber. They never pulled the trigger.

Vogel certainly had his reasons, as noted bove. And with the Magic’s roster construction, it would have been tough to practice that lineup. Still, it was clear something was amiss with the team. It was time to play that card.

Orlando eventually did play that card out of necessity. Gordon and the Magic were better for it. But it was too little too late to save anything this season.

Vogel is still a good long-term solution as a head coach this year. As we detailed earlier today, Vogel helped get the most out of Nikola Vucevic defensively and helped Aaron Gordon develop as a perimeter defender.

Schematically, his defensive schemes still should have some currency. He has to adjust them better to a changing NBA offensive landscape. Vogel is smart enough to find a solution as the Magic continue to reshape their roster.

Next: OMD Podcast: The end of the process

But for this first year, Vogel was not the answer everyone hoped for. And the season was so bad at least partially because Vogel struggled to adjust to this new reality.