Five Reasons to be optimistic about the 2018 Orlando Magic

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 22: Jonathon Simmons #17 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 22: Jonathon Simmons #17 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Shelvin Mack, Utah Jazz, Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – NOVEMBER 14: Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against Shelvin Mack #8 of the Utah Jazz on November 14, 2016 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

New Additions

Jonathon Simmons was the splashiest signing the Magic made this offseason. And it was not all that splashy. Three years and $20 million dollars is a small bargain by many accounts for a player with valuable NBA skills who has performed well in high stakes situations.

Three years and $20 million dollars is a small bargain by many accounts for a player with valuable NBA skills who has performed well in high stakes situations.

Jonathon Simmons was the only other signing. He is a replacement-level point guard who is a passable three-point shooter, capable ball-handler, and solvent defender.

Jonathan Isaac is their only other new player who figures to be in the rotation for all of next year.

Individually, none of those additions are enough to add more than one or two wins, let alone turn a team around. But consider who they will be replacing: Jeff Green, D.J. Augustin and Mario Hezonja.

None of those three players had a positive impact on the team. Statistically, they were well below average even for bench players with limited minutes.

Not only are Jonathon Simmons, Shelvin Mack and Jonathan Isaac all legitimate NBA players, but they have clear skills that fit a defensive identity. Adding that trio is not just throwing spare parts together and hoping it will work. They all can benefit the Magic immediately in a definable way.

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Isaac has a chance to do much more than that.

It is important not to look too far ahead about what Mack, Simmons and Isaac can actually do on this team in 2018. The Magic still do not have enough shooting to maximize Simmons and Isaac’s offensive capabilities. There is a chance all three could turn into liabilities in the halfcourt offense unless the Magic get some unexpected shooting performances.

Still, there is almost no chance they will be as bad as who they are replacing in the rotation. Even if they are not immediately lights out, they will still be an improvement.

But their presence will really pay off on defense.

Per NBA Math’s Total Points Added (TPA) metric, Augustin saved -102.4 defensive points. Mario Hezonja -19.4. Green -55.7. This is to say, all three were also major negatives on offense.

Simmons saved 24.6 defensive points. Mack was neutral. Isaac projects to be a versatile, disruptive defender in his first year. He will need experience and more bulk to be as good as he can be, but his length and speed will at least be pesky for opponents to deal with.

The point is the Magic are going from three massive defensive liabilities to three players who are at least okay on defense.

Not only will they be solid individually, but their versatility will help them fit together seamlessly. Mack and Simmons have the strength to guard multiple positions and Isaac has the size to do the same.

Communication on defense is very important, but there are few things more valuable in the modern NBA than being able to switch on defense. With those three plus Gordon on the floor, the Magic will be able to switch like crazy.

Their speed will help them play lights-out transition defense. If Biyombo can have anything resembling a bounce-back year, Orlando could easily have a top-15 defense. But that might not even be necessary.

Adding Simmons, Isaac and Mack will immediately pay off on defense in a big way. Without enough spacing, the offense will be a trickier proposition. But if the team can get out in transition enough, there will be highlight after highlight in the Amway Center next year.