2015-16 NBA Record: 35-47
Additions: Serge Ibaka (traded from Oklahoma City Thunder), Bismack Biyombo (Toronto Raptors), D.J. Augustin (Denver Nuggets), Jeff Green (Los Angeles Clippers), C.J. Wilcox (traded from Los Angeles Clippers)
Subtractions: Andrew Nicholson (Washington Wizards), Jason Smith (Washington Wizards), Brandon Jennings (New York Knicks), Dewayne Dedmon (San Antonio Spurs)
Projected Starting Line-up (via rotoworld.com)
PG – Elfrid Payton
SG – Evan Fournier
SF – Aaron Gordon
PF – Serge Ibaka
C – Nikola Vucevic
The Magic improved last season but still missed out on the playoffs after a disastrous run following the new year, where they went 2-12 in January. The offseason was a bit confusing from the front office, as they traded away Victor Oladipo and a lottery pick for Serge Ibaka, as well as signing Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Green, which will lead to an interesting frontcourt rotation in Orlando. The team also hired Frank Vogel, who has playoff experience with the Indiana Pacers.
The additions of Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo will help on the defensive end, as both are great shot blockers and rebounders. Ibaka is the defensive stopper the Magic have been looking for since Dwight Howard left. Even though Ibaka has been declining the past few years, last year showed he can still be a factor on defense, holding opponents to 43.6% shooting at the rim and averaged 1.9 blocks – 7th in the NBA. Meanwhile Biyombo will have to prove the Magic didn’t overpay him in free agency, in which they gave $72 million to the former Toronto Raptor after his strong showing in the playoffs. Nikola Vucevic, who is a double-double machine, should get things going on the offensive end, since no one in the frontcourt offers much on that side of the ball. Playing the role of floor general will be Elfrid Payton once again, however he continues to struggle shooting the ball. If he can develop his shot in his third year, he can become a triple-double threat in years to come The best offensive threat may be Evan Fournier, who has his most productive season last year, averaging 15.4 points. Fournier’s ability to create his own shot and finish at the rim makes him the top option for Orlando’s offense. Although Nikola Vucevic was the team’s leading scorer last season, Fournier may have to step up in the role left by Victor Oladipo. Jodie Meeks is another shooter who can contribute to scoring. The addition of Jeff Green is a solid veteran signing, while D.J. Augustin’s signing gives the Magic an experienced backup at point guard. Fans should be excited about the development of former first-round picks Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja. Gordon, who stole the show at last year’s dunk contest, is showing he’s more than just a dunker by providing an impact on both ends of the floor and a strong work ethic that makes him a favourite in Orlando. He is expected to break out in his third season and have a big role under Frank Vogel. Coach Vogel is a fan of Hezonja’s confidence and style of play, which he feels suits the type of game he wants to coach.
The Magic improved to 17th in defense under Scott Skiles last season, but the hire of defensive mind Frank Vogel and rim protectors Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo wil make their defense significantly better. However, their main struggle will be to score points as there are not many offensive weapons on this side. Fournier and Vucevic seem to be the only options after Victor Oladipo was traded away. The Orlando front office seemed to have completely changed their direction this offseason. Rather than developing a young, talented squad, their traded young players for veterans who can lead a team into the playoffs. They attempted this last season, by trading away Tobias Harris for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. When they failed to make the playoffs, Jennings went to New York, while Ilyasova was sent to Oklahoma City along with Victor Oladipo. The Magic will be hoping their big offseason trade, as well as the additions of Biyombo and Green will land them in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. I think the Magic can finish ahead of Miami and may sneakily end up in 3rd, but with the Eastern Conference becoming more competitive, it’ll be tough for this side to make the playoffs.
Prediction: 4th in Southeast Division