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

Mar 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 115-114. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 115-114. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic were a disappointment this season. Head coach Frank Vogel was placed in a tough situation with expectations his team was not ready to meet.

When the Orlando Magic announced Frank Vogel was going to become the head coach last summer, it was met with excitement. Vogel led the Indiana Pacers to multiple playoff appearances and even back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals bids back in 2013 and 2014.

Along with Vogel, the Magic brought in some major offseason additions that some felt could push the Magic closer to the postseason.

It did not take long to see that the Magic were going to be a disappointment. The team ended up winning only 29 games and were still in the cellar of the Eastern Conference.

It would be a lie to say a lot of things went right this season. The simple fact is, things went terribly wrong. The Magic’s defense took a step back and the offense was putrid yet again.

Even with all of the negatives surrounding Orlando, Vogel did change a few things about this roster that might make things a little easier as the team looks toward the future.

Vogel was able to develop players on the defensive side of the ball and may be able to create some stability with the right moves from the front office.

For one, Nikola Vucevic was a good defender last year. Even with Nikola Vucevic’s physical limitations, he was able to be a consistent rim protector for Orlando. What makes this even more impressive is the Magic’s perimeter defense was awful. Making Vucevic’s job even more challenging.

Although much of Vucevic’s improvements could be seen through the simple eye test, his defensive numbers shot up in 2017. He had career highs in defensive win shares (3.2) and defensive box plus-minus (+2.4).

Along with Vucevic, Aaron Gordon had another strong defensive season. On most nights, Aaron Gordon was tasked with defending a strong offensive player. Thankfully, Gordon was consistently able to slow down whoever he was matched up with.

Most were already aware Gordon was a strong defensive player, but Vogel has been a big help in Gordon’s development on that side of the ball.

It was a promising sign for the Magic’s most promising player. Even playing out of position, Gordon stood out.

Again, the Magic’s defense this past season was not strong. From game one, many felt that would be the Magic’s strong suit.

For whatever reason, the club could not put together a string of solid defensive performances. Whether that comes down to Vogel’s lineups or sets, it is hard to tell.

Although Vogel is known for his defensive prowess, the Magic’s offense was much improved following the All-Star break and the Serge Ibaka trade.

With Terrence Ross‘ addition, Orlando turned on the jets and started to run the floor. With a team that lacks an identity, running in transition was the closest thing to it.

Following the All-Star Break, the Magic scored more points, attempted more 3-pointers and had more fast break points per game. The team used its athletes to spark its offense on most nights.

With the Magic not playing for much as the season went on, Vogel helped some players take a step forward in their development.

It may have taken longer than some fans wanted, but Vogel provided minutes to some of the Magic’s developing players. From Gordon to Mario Hezonja, Vogel eventually sat veterans to give the youth some time to work the kinks out.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The best example of this is Mario Hezonja. Prior to the All-Star Break, Hezonja was only playing 11.4 minutes per game. After the break, he was playing north of 20 minutes per game. Vogel realized it was time for him to play to see if he can work on some of his flaws. and he worked to put Hezonja in a position to succeed, playing him at power forward. Even if that was not the obvious way to play him.

Thinking back to when Scott Skiles was on the bench, the Magic stayed with the same lineups throughout the season. This was not the case with Vogel. When things were going wrong, he experimented and tried new things. If injuries hit, Vogel also did a solid job adjusting on the fly.

Whether it was putting Hezonja at power forward, or trying to improve the bench by making Vucevic the sixth man. Vogel tried to get the Magic going during this disappointing season.

It may not have worked thus far in Orlando, but the best thing Vogel has brought is his winning formula. During his time with the Pacers, Vogel was able to build strong, championship-contending teams.

Next: OMD Podcast: The end of the process

At this point, Orlando may not have the roster to contend. But Vogel’s system has worked in the past and the youth on this team need to believe in the head coach.