The Orlando Magic are in recovery mode from the Dwight Howard era and still to some extent the Shaquille O’Neal era. But while the rebuilding period is far from over, I personally think it is foolish to pencil them in as a lottery team for the upcoming season. A combination of the talent they have acquired and the changing landscape of the Eastern Conference could result in the Orlando Magic winning their share of games this season while also making the playoffs.
Last season was no doubt a horrible season for the Magic as they went 23-59, but the good that came of it was drafting Arizona forward Aaron Gordon with the #4 overall pick. Gordon is much more NBA ready than most people think he is and I personally think he will make a huge impact on the Magic this season. While his offensive polish isn’t there, his freakish athleticism, defensive abilities, and his hustle is sure to make the Orlando Magic a much tougher team to scheme for. In addition to Gordon, the Magic also acquired Elfrid Payton in the draft who is sure to be a nice fit in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo.
What is probably most overlooked about this Orlando Magic team is the veterans that were acquired. Ben Gordon and Channing Frye may be overpaid, but there is no doubt that they will make the Magic a better team. Gordon should really help the maturation of Payton and Oladipo while also providing a quality scoring threat from beyond the arc, and similarly, Channing Frye should help Aaron Gordon develop as a small forward while also putting up quality numbers. If the veterans and the young guns on this Magic team can mesh, it isn’t at all crazy to think that the Magic will win their share of games and possibly sneak into the playoffs.
As for the landscape of the Eastern Conference, things look wide open for that #8 spot with the Pacers, Celtics, 76ers, Bucks, and Pistons all heading to the lottery. Looking at the players that they now have and the state of these other teams, the Magic should easily be hanging around the 9-10 range in the Eastern Conference standings throughout the entire year. In truth, snagging the #8 seed really isn’t an unreachable goal for this Orlando Magic team.
In conclusion, the Orlando Magic appear to be on the right track to have a competitive season this year and also in the seasons to come. They have a nice blend of youth and veteran leadership to keep them in the playoff mix until the very end.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord