Last Season: 29-53 (.354)
Perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Magic continue to be a team without any discernible identity. In their search they have tried all sorts of wacky lineup experiments and have put together a strange arrangement of personnel. This includes trading for Serge Ibaka and starting him with Bismack Biyombo to form a lineup from the stone age. That lineup pushed Aaron Gordon to the 3 position with an attempt by Vogel to make him Orlando’s Paul George, which proved unsuccessful. Given his size and athleticism Aaron Gordon has been disappointing as a pick and roll player so far. This is tough to understand since we know he has the ability to attack the basket and dunk ferociously on fools and we also know he can have a decent mid-range shot. Look to Gordon to make a step up offensively this season, both in decision-making and hopefully outside shooting.
This offseason the Magic added bench pieces Jonathan Simmons, Arron Afflalo, and Shelvin Mack in free agency and Jonathan Isaac through the draft. Nobody had heard of Simmons as he was bouncing around the D-League until he played a major role in the Spurs playoff push last season. He is noticeably athletic yet never adopted sharp shooting as Spurs University students often do. Rookie Isaac could end up being the ideal big man of the future as a lanky 6’10 wannabe guard who can dribble, and shoot J’s but also protect the rim and battle for boards.
One more interesting puzzle piece is that of Elfrid Payton. The point guard didn’t even start the whole month of December because of such poor shooting and inconsistency but ended up having a monster post-all star game run. Dude averaged 13.5 points on 50.8 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists in that stretch. Perhaps because of this run the Magic decided not to sign a starting point guard or draft Dennis Smith Jr. It will be interesting to see if Payton’s hot streak can carry over to the new season, or if Vogel will be looking to point guard alternatives as he has in the past.
Biggest appetite: Coach Vogel has a beard now. Need I say more? Vogel has been out splitting logs all day in his red and black patched flannel, and has worked up quite an appetite. It’s coach Frank Vogel’s second year with this athletic and versatile squad. Considering his history with the impressively defensive Indiana Pacers, if any coach can make the Magic a scrappy, defensive minded team it’s him. Vogel will be looking to prove he can mold the Magic to his old Pacers’ liking this season. Otherwise, he might get the boot.
Vegas over-under: 33.5 wins
With how badly the Eastern Conference is this season, and Orlando’s depth, it’s possible all the puzzle pieces could fall into place and Orlando is fighting for the last spot of the playoffs this season with a record in the mid-thirties. For this to happen, the Magic will have to take on a scrappy defensive minded identity that runs the fast break as much as possible and takes advantage of their athleticism. It’s also possible some prankster mixed two different puzzle sets together and they end up with a 22 or 23 win record. Basketball magicians Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux predict 31 and 29 wins respectively. I’ll land square in between the two and predict 30 wins with several ups and downs through the season.