The Orlando Magic are currently the fourth-worst team in the NBA and have five of the last 10 games. Coach Frank Vogel will need to rethink his strategy moving forward.
Tank, Tank, Tank.
With the Orlando Magic winning a close game against the Miami Heat on Monday and blowing out the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, they still sit at 14th in the watered-down Eastern Conference. But winner of five of their last 10, they find themselves in a congested Tankathon at the bottom of the standings.
At some point, a team has to realize the season is lost and try another strategy. Now seems to be that time.
With 36 losses already on the season, the Magic find themselves in a similar position as the previous six years, outside of playoff contention. If the Philadelphia 76ers or Detroit Pistons are on pace to make the Playoffs at 41 wins, the Orlando Magic would have to go 24-5 the rest of the season to meet them.
That is not going to happen. It time to start preparing for next year and why not start earlier than later.
Coach Frank Vogel will probably be on the hot seat all year next year. He gets a sort of pass this year thanks to injuries and a roster with little turnover producing similar results. New management is going to give him the chance to correct things. It would be foolish for the Magic to start next season with this same defensive strategy or roster.
Some critics may think the team needs to clean house and build an entirely new roster. That is not likely to happen, but there will undoubtedly be changes. And then it will be on Vogel to get the most out of them to move the franchise forward.
This roster has talent and room to grow. But finding the right mesh with a particular group to start games and end games seems to be its biggest problem.
The sad truth is the organization needs to find a blueprint style of play. They need to focus on creating an aggressive style of defense in a perimeter-dominated league. A defense where even the bench squad can be successful on that side of the ball.
Before signing with Orlando two years ago, Vogel was considered one of the best coaches in the NBA. People may not feel the same way today after the Magic have struggled on defense the last two years.
That and the fact Evan Fournier is the only consistent perimeter 3-point shooter on team. The team needs another knock-down shooter on the wings in the starting lineup, a player who can potentially become a better shooter or player on the wing than Evan Fournier. The roster is still a bit of a mismatch.
It will be up to management to put together a roster that has a better fit and a chance to continue growing. And growing within Vogel’s style. After so many losses, this team needs to continue to develop those picks and find some continuity going into next season. That may be the only way to turn things around.
That may mean bringing some people from the starting unit to the bench and forcing the players to become ultra competitive in practices. These defensive, pressure-packed style of practices should lead to a more polished defense for Vogel.
The overall problem with this team is a lack of team balance on both sides of the ball and a lack of aggression on the defensive side of the ball. The team also struggles to find opportunities to penetrate the paint instead of settling for 3s.
As much as Vogel and the front office might dislike the notion, the first thing the Magic need to do is tank the rest of the season and give themselves the best chance at a top pick. Orlando should still be in line for one of the top six picks, even after this recent stretch of winning. But those standings are certainly getting tighter.
Tanking, or whatever it wants to be called, may not be what the coaches want to hear. Their goal is to push for wins and they are not about to ease off that throttle. But it is probably the best thing to do, given the last time the Magic had the number one overall pick was in the 2004 Draft. The team has had some rotten Lottery luck throughout the past five years.
The second thing Vogel should do is shuffle around the players and feature players who fit the team’s future. Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon are the two most important players the rest of this year. Next year, adding in the team’s first-round pick and getting him plenty of exposure and playing time will be important for the team’s development.
The bench will need a bit of shuffling as well. The roster needs an overall overhaul. The front office knows this.
But in addition to the changes on offense along should come a change in Frank Vogel’s philosophy. This starting lineup needs to come out pressing opponents at the beginning and end of every quarter. If not for any other reason to show a type of aggression. The team has been a bit passive in these moments and given away opportunities early in games.
This is the blueprint for the Magic to turn things around. Vogel has got to make the tough decisions as the Magic’s leader to right the ship. The habit his team gains now, even through losing, will set the tone for what many hope is a promising future next year.