2018-19 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are eager to get things going in the 2020 season. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are eager to get things going in the 2020 season. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls
MEXICO CITY, MX – DECEMBER 13: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic shoots the ball against the Chicago Bulls as part of the NBA Mexico Games 2018 on December 13, 2018 at Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. 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 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Bigs

A-. . Orlando Magic. . THE BIGS

Like the point guards, the going thought before the season was that center was a position in transition. The team had what felt like a placeholder in Nikola Vucevic. But unlike the point guards, the team drafted its future in Mohamed Bamba.

Perhaps the outcome of this season has not completely changed those thoughts but the equation at center is much different today than it was at the beginning of the season.

And like the point guard position, an area that felt like it was in flux and in need of some remaking turned into one of the most consistent positions on the team.

That is all because of Vucevic.

In his contract year when it seemed the team was set to move on from him and transition to their prized rookie, he became the catalyst for the team’s playoff push. He was an All-Star and the most consistent player on the team.

Nikola Vucevic was not the guy to finish games — that usually fell to perimeter players like Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross — but he got them to the end of games with his play all year long. It was hard to point to many games where he was downright poor.

The playoffs exposed some of his flaws — many of them which fans already knew from the previous six years.

The Toronto Raptors were able to cut off much of the Magic’s offensive attack by doubling Vucevic and being physical with him. Without a secondary outlet or much outside shooting, Orlando struggled to find its way.

There is no denying however just how vital Vucevic was to the team’s success. He blew away all expectations and suddenly has the Magic at least pondering delaying their future to bring Vucevic back on a long-term contract.

Some of that has to do with the up-and-down nature of Mohamed Bamba’s season.

Bamba was a rookie and a project at that. The Magic surely did not expect him to enter the team and immediately make a huge difference.

They probably still expected more measured progress from him. Perhaps that would have come before he fractured his leg and missed the final 30-or-so games of the season.

Bamba still showed plenty of promise and got better and more disciplined as the season went on. It is hard to call Bamba’s season a failure — although it is hard also to call it a success. Undoubtedly the team got better when the more steady and reliable hand of Khem Birch stepped in.

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Birch stepped into the rotation and immediately provided a defensive presence that was more consistent than what Bamba could provide. He was a steady hand that pushed the Magic to the playoffs and stabilized the bench.

Orlando got a lot from its centers. It got consistency and reliability from veterans like Vucevic and Birch. And it got promise from Bamba.

The Magic will have to answer questions about the center position of course. Bamba is probably not ready to start quite yet — at least not for a winning team — even if he makes significant improvements this summer. He is the only guy who is in place with this group.

Both Vucevic and Birch are free agents this summer. The Magic are not likely to keep both. And Vucevic’s salary and length of contract will be sticking points in free agency as Orlando plots its future.