The Orlando Magic is like going into a Museum and looking at painting. People looking at said painting will have different kinds of interpretations. You see Nikola Vucevic, a young talented center who possesses an array of post moves, extended shooting range and is very solid at rebounding the basketball. Then you have Victor Oladipo, a guard who is very athletic and capable of creating his own shot. He can slash and has a bit of flair to his game and is willing to step up to the challenge on the other side of the ball. Tobias Harris, who takes on physicality and embraces going into the post, hit the mid-range and three point shot and seems to be improving every year, and lives for the moment, wanting the ball for a chance to win the game. A solid addition, looking to build upon his rookie Season, Elfrid Payton, your Point guard a vision beyond his years ball movement. He’s a crafty scorer when he gets in the paint and loves to play in your face defense. Many other pieces are involved but you try to get a grasp on the team and figure what role is assigned to which player. There’s talent, but it’s still trying to form an identity. Once this is all figured out, this could a beautiful painting, a team on the rise. If it’s not figured out, like all artists do, you must figure what’s the premise of the painting? Same as what is Orlando Magic trying to do with some of this talent?
This Orlando team started off the season rough on the injury side, Victor Oladipo suffered a sprained MCL and facial fracture at the beginning of the season. Channing Frye was out with a sprained right knee, throughout the Season Aaron Gordon missed some games due to foot issues, Tobias had some Injuries throughout the season. Elfrid Payton was the only player in the rotation who played all 82 games. During the beginning of February, the Magic were 15-37, the same exact record 52 games in the prior year. The Magic relived head coach Jacque Vaughn of his services. There was some player growth among particular players, it wasn’t any improvement seen from this collective group. James Borrego his assistant was promoted on an Interim Basis and led them to a 10-20 record. There was a noticeable difference from him, try to lock down the paint, but it was a pick your poison because the Magic got torched on the perimeter. So the Magic who had their chances to win a few more games than they should just played a really good 3 1/2 Quarters on some nights only to squander the lead on most evenings. It’s a team still trying to find an identity and learning how to win. I will highlight some of their strengths, weaknesses and what most improve going forward.
Orlando’s Field Goal percentage as a team was 45% which was the middle of the pack in the league at 14th. Two point percentage at 49% which ranked them at 17th in the league. Harris and Vucevic were consistent, able to find their shot in various ways via post-ups, Vucevic’s Pick and Pop/Roll offense, Harris slashing to the basket. To take the next step, they need Victor and Elfrid to up their percentage if they continue this drive and kick offense. Most nights they were aware the Magic are not as strong with the three point shot, would crowd the paint and allow them to shoot unless Channing Frye was getting his minutes. Elfrid Payton court vision is beyond his years, averaging 7.7 APG while turning it over 2.9 per game. There were numerous occasions where he find the open guy but the shot didn’t find the net.
There are quite a bit, but I will cover the main weaknesses of this ball club. While they have a top five rebounder talent in Nikola Vucevic, who grabbed 10.9 a game, Orlando ranked 25th in the league in rebounding. When you watch the ball cup, it was Vucevic left on an Island in some cases they needed to spread the Floor with Frye’s shooting. Payton and Oladipo are solid rebounders from the guard positions, and near the end of the season, Dewayne Dedmon started some games in place of Frye because of his limitations on the defensive end. Dedmon was a nice spark and provided some of the rebounding and shot blocking in spurts, but tended to get in foul trouble very often. Which leads to the next point, rim protection. Orlando was 29th in the league in Blocked shots (3.8 BPG) and allowing opponents to shoot 46% from the field. When Borrego stepped in, he shifted his focus to controlling the paint area and then came the problems with three point defense. Orlando was abysmal in guarding the three point line, allowing 37% which was 29th in the League. As much blame goes to Vucevic being a rim protector and Frye Limitations, Payton and Oladipo did gamble a lot on the perimeter which forces a late rotation to the shooters on the wing or a missed rotation when a player rolled or back door to the rim. One last glaring tell of the story are Free Throws. The Magic ranked last in Free Throws made and attempted (13.9/19.1), also 25th in percentage (73%). Oladipo who is strong and quick enough to try to get contact for the most part didn’t get calls, but going into his third year he must improve finishing at the rim. He needs to get his Free Throw attempts up to about six per game. Oladipo is at 4.4 FTA’s and shooting them at 81% which is solid. Vucevic being another player with some post moves must also find ways to the Free Throw line. Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton are a work in progress from the FT line.
Those are ways the Magic can get some easy points and allow them to set up their defense. The Pace of the team is not where it needs to be as well, If Orlando can speed up their offensive, some of this will come easy for many of the athletes they have on this team. Vucevic can get the ball from the mid post and attack as soon as he gets the ball
or hit the 15 foot jumper. Oladipo can attack as soon as he gets the ball to either score for himself or collapse the defense and find a wide open player on the wings. New Head Coach Scott Skiles will figure out roles for each particular individual and I’m intrigued to see what he has stored for this group. Rob Hennigan has the luxury with the Fifth pick from this years draft to decide to go for BPA or a player with a particular skill to help shore up some of the Magic weaknesses. There’s some talent that can protect the rim, attack the rim, and some players are very solid shooters. The draft will be telling if the Magic plans to match any offers coming Tobias Harris way, which the Magic should keep because he’s a part of their core, steadily been improving his jumpshot, his three point percentage jumped 25% to 36% with his attempts increasing within the years, plus his post game is very solid and tends not to shy away from physicality. His defense is still a work in progress but what else he’s brings to the table, he deserves a raise this offseason, it’ll be interesting to see how much teams are willing to spend and if Hennigan wants to match the offers coming his way.
This is still a young team trying to find it’s way. Learning how to win, trying to be consistent and add something to their game to make them better. Orlando has been called intriguing with the talent they do have, but it’s a bit murky to see how these pieces will fit. Like many artists, there is a canvas that Rob Hennigan is still constructing. There’s always something you did at first that you like and now you want to subtract that from the art piece. Sometimes you have the right idea but wrong color, Rob is creating a piece that seems to be interesting but just doesn’t fit yet. While patience is being asked for, hopefully the Magic fans can see the art piece being created to only to hope for to see a clearer picture of what’s being presented to them. Masterpieces are rarely created and that would be wonderful in the grand scheme of things if it turns out to be that, but right now, it’s still under construction and hopefully a bit a clarity forms after the draft and Free agency for this ball club.