Orlando Magic searching for a general manager to make his own luck

May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s previous rebuilding plan relied on the Draft Lottery to rebuild the core. That did not quite occur and now the Magic look for a new way.

Next week in Secaucus, N.J., 13 NBA teams will send representatives to watch ping pong balls determine their futures. Fourteen ping pong balls rattling in a drum drawn four times will change the fortunes for a franchise and make their future either sublime or bleak.

There is nothing anyone can do about this. The numbers that get drawn from that vat are out of everyone’s control. All the analytics and careful and reasoned decision making come down to blind luck.

The NBA Draft Lottery sends executives obsessed with control and certainty into a deep sweat over something they have no control over. Whole offseason plans turn on whether a ‘2’ or a ‘3’ comes up out of the vat. It is enough to drive anyone crazy.

For five years, the Orlando Magic’s plan centered around this process. The Magic were ready to move on from Dwight Howard and then-general manager Rob Hennigan believed the best way to build the team’s talent base back up was to sacrifice a couple season to the NBA Draft Lottery and get a couple high picks to build a core that would grow together.

His luck was not good. The Magic landed the second pick in the 2013 Draft, one of the worst drafts in recent memory, to get Victor Oladipo despite having the best odds at winning the Lottery. The following year, Orlando had the third-best Lottery odds and fell to fourth, missing out on Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. They “settled” on Aaron Gordon.

Orlando had three straight picks in the top five — the team selected Mario Hezonja fifth in 2015 — and came out of it without a clearly defined star. Either the opportunity was never there or the team made miscalculations with its scouting or its fit with the roster it tried to build.

There is always regret in every draft. But regardless of whether the Magic made the right picks in the last four years or not, their central plan to build through the draft did not work. And that made Hennigan’s other weaknesses — namely his poor decisions in free agency and inability to supplement the young roster with veterans — more evident.

Essentially, the Magic banked wholly on the ping pong balls bouncing their way and they never did.

It was a theme the Magic talked about often in the wake of Hennigan’s ultimate dismissal at the end of the season. Hennigan did not have the luck his plan called for, but he also did not mitigate this mistake.

In other words, he did not make his own luck. As the Magic search for a new president of basketball operations, they are looking for someone who has the flexibility to change plans and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

They are looking for someone to make their own luck.

"“We took a chance on Rob and he was dealt a difficult hand when he first arrived here at the Orlando Magic,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said the day after the season. “Some would say he did not have the benefit of luck in the NBA Lottery, which is true. But sometimes you have to make your own luck, which we believe we haven’t done enough of.“The facts are that we’ve regressed this year. We made the decision that five years of this leadership team was enough to show improvement, which we have not. I believe we have provided all of the assets, the autonomy, and the tools necessary over the past five years in order to build a successful program.”"

That is to say, Martins believes the Magic are closer to success than their record indicates and they need to bring in someone who believes so too. The important thing for the Magic is to build a winning culture and get themselves on the right track in his estimation.

Martins does not believe the team is so far off. They just need someone who can make the shrewd moves Hennigan was seemingly unable to make.

So how does one make their own luck in the NBA? What kind of attributes is the Magic looking for?

The going thought has been the team is looking for experience. And Martins said the team is looking for a set quality of traits — strong communication skills, strong talent evaluation, experience and a role in building winning rosters. They are looking for someone who can put together a vision for the team and execute it.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

It seems the Magic are looking for a fresh mind and perspective at their roster. Someone who has seen similar situations and the solutions to them.

Results were certainly the driving force for the Magic’s decision to part ways with Hennigan after this season. How those decisions that led to this result were made and piled upon each other is the bigger mystery that may never get a satisfactory public answer.

Martins tried to lay out the kind of qualities he would be looking for in his next executive hire.

"“Certainly trusting a vision and a plan is part of the process,” Martins told Orlando Magic Daily during his season-ending press conference. “Evaluating their experience and how they have been involved in roster building in other situation is a big part of it and what role did they play in building those rosters and how successful was it. How advantageous were they able to make their transactions. All that will be part of the evaluation.”"

It seems the Magic are looking for someone who has the connections to get deals done in the league and improve the roster through his relationships. The team is looking for someone with a bit more of a proven track record and a true plan to take the team to the next stage of its development.

They are swinging from inexperience to experience pretty quickly.

Where the Magic were the last three years, stalled at this mediocre development stage was no longer cutting it. And Hennigan’s miscalculated additions to the core repeated too often.

It is hard to say how a new GM could make his own luck. It is probably a veiled way of saying making smarter secondary moves to support the team’s core.

Next: 2016-17 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Mario Hezonja

Ultimately, the direction the Magic take next does rely on some good fortune. Like everyone else, they will watch the ping pong balls bounce next week without any control over their future.