I have written a lot about how the Orlando Magic are building somewhat similarly to the Miami Heat.
The Heat were in a really bad spot financially two years ago. They did not have a defining star. They had a lot of bloated long-term contracts. And they had few prospects to improve or even count on a playoff spot consistently.
Suddenly everything seemed to click for them. They drafted Bam Adebayo and they seemed to fit their culture perfectly. They got Jimmy Butler to agree to a sign-and-trade. They boosted veterans like Goran Dragic to hold things steady. And on and on and on.
The Heat culture is a very real thing. Miami does a good job identifying players who fit their style and their ethos. And that has helped them recover and respond quickly. So too has Pat Riley.
The Magic are not the Heat. They will have to take a risk somewhere and convince someone their program is the one to grow in and be successful in. But they are undertaking the same grow-from-the-middle plan.
But from a playing perspective, it is hard to say the Magic are that similar to the Heat. While the building philosophy might be the same, the playing philosophy is not. Certainly not right now.
The Heat like tough-nosed defensive teams too. But they seek guys with a chip on their shoulder who have something to prove. They love guys who have something to prove and want to prove you wrong.
They have done a good job adding shooting in the process too, banking on players who play dogged defense and commit to a high-motion offense that spreads the floor with shooting.
But the two teams are not very similar in the type of players they have. I would not consider Jonathan Isaac as the same kind of players as Bam Adebayo. Isaac is a perimeter player and not really a center in the way Adebayo is.
Adebayo is a center who gained playmaking abilities. He is like Nikola Vucevic . . . if Vucevic could fly to the rim and protect the paint better. They are obviously not the same kind of player — Nikola Vucevic is a playmaking center in the same way that Nikola Jokic is (not as good), but is part of a new wave of playmaking centers that includes Bam Adebayo.
The Magic really should use players like Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon like Andrei Kirilenko. I see a lot of Kirilenko and Isaac. Both are defensive monsters who could guard every position and provide offense with some pull-up shooting and driving to the basket.
I think that is the best comparison for Isaac. Gordon could get there, although he does not have the outright length that Kirilenko had. Simply, neither player is the sort of rim protector or traditional center that Adebayo is.
Really, and I bang on this point a ton, teams cannot copy each other’s rebuilds. They might walk the same path. But they have to carve out their own team and their own identity and stick to those philosophies.