Culture of Hoops

2015-16 NBA Season Preview: Orlando Magic

Image courtesy of Michael Tipton/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Michael Tipton/Flickr.

As a franchise, the Orlando Magic is/are like the middle son who always lets you down. Sure he made the honor roll once in his junior year of high school (Shaq), and he did well his sophomore year of college (Dwight), but overall he keeps making mistake (Grant Hill) after mistake (Gilbert Arenas).
As a part of BMF SPORTS season preview series, here is our Orlando Magic season preview!

Last Year’s Record: 25-57 (13th in East)
Key Losses: Kyle O’Quinn, Maurice Harkless, Willie Green, Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour
Key Additions: Shabazz Napier, Jason Smith, C.J. Watson

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The Magic fly under every radar. Hell, like the state of Florida, they are barely above sea level. Get it? Sea as in see. The moves the team made were huge to three guys at three different bars in Orlando, and maybe the players or personnel involved, but to the NBA world as a whole, no one gave a shit. Unless you’re the Knicks, who snaked O’Quinn, as a casual NBA fan you are eating cheese and jerking off to pictures of LeBron James, while riding an Amtrak train with a bunch of Quakers.

The point is that the perception is that no one cares about the Orlando Magic. Well, that just isn’t true. I do. My buddies do. There are a few young kids out there rooting for Oladipo and the rest of the boys. Take it from a pessimist, miracles happen.

The real answer to this question of offseason moves is Mario Hezonja. He is the move everyone in Central Florida is salivating over, hoping against hope that he plays and stays. This kid looks like he has the swagger of a rapper who has actually killed people. Super Mario has murdered a few faces with his moves. Granted, we have only seen flashes in summer league, preseason, and overseas, but those flashes are lightning strikes. The upside to this kid has no end. He is exactly what the Magic need; a cocky young guy looking to force himself unto the scene. Play him outside, he will drive. Play him close he will lose you and fire up a deadly three. The Magic need a player with no filter, and no regret. A fire-at-will type.

The problem with the Magic, as I have said time and again, is that they are not a long-term destination for ideal players. They are the third smallest market in sports, and they get snubbed by these young, rich athletes who’d rather play in bigger cities like…anywhere. I get it. I would rather play in LA over Salt Lake City, or Chicago over Charlotte, or Boston before OKC. Now, I know what you’re thinking: OKC has Durant and Westbrook, but for how long? One of them will probably leave. I am betting on Durant.

Note to reader: I have to write stuff like this, because I can’t get my hopes up anymore. I have a guard up. My heart has been broken too many times. The Magic are like the sophomoric Chicago Cubs of the NBA. We are doomed to lose for a hundred years (until David Stern’s great grandson takes over the league and helps us out or relocates the team to Montreal). And I have to rope the whole NBA, including OKC, into my baggage. Sorry. Let’s move on.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Youth and deceptively low expectations are the tips of the Mickey Mouse ice creams. Orlando is going to be one of those teams that sneak wins away from teams that don’t give them enough credit. Hopefully. The Golden State Warriors were in this same position three or four years ago. Just slowly venomizing wins. Venomizing is now a word.

Moving forward, does stacking draft picks and young assets always work? Not always, just look at the Sixers/Anthony Bennett/Michael Olowokandis of the world. Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon did not have the best rookie seasons, but certainly not the worst, and the difference here is that the Magic know they’re good, know they’re talented, and expect them to be better. As long as the organization stays the course, these youngsters will prosper hungry.
There’s a lot of youth and with that a lot of potential, although production of said potential would be oh so much sweeter. Constant progress is the name of the game. It’s a put-up-or-shut-up type of season for the Magic. The Dwight era is on grandma’s shelf; it is time to create a new identity. Possibility is their greatest strength.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Man, that first part was long, because I had a lot to get off my chest, but just like their strength, the Orlando Magic’s biggest weakness is their youth and inexperience. New coach Scott Skiles is going to put them through the NBA ringer. He will make them better defensively; he is like an alternate Stan Van Gundy.

Then there are further questions; such as will Tobias Harris be able to lead the offense through playmaking and actual facilitating instead of just pooping the bed? Can Aaron Gordon ignite his career, ala Blake Griffin? Can Oladipo, and Payton become the leaders? Possibility is their greatest weakness.

4. What are the goals for this team?
Devils! Aside from defense, the goal is the playoffs, sneaking in under the radar with a better record. Other than that, steady improvement, coming closer as a team, and building on consistency are the ongoing goals.

The defense is broken but mending, there’s no doubt about it – but this is a system issue more so than a lack of talent. This is a confidence issue. The team needs confidence. The city of Orlando needs confidence. Another goal: Get back Jameer Nelson and let him mentor Elfrid Payton and then allow him to retire with the team that drafted him, so we can retire a jersey other than the fans’ No. 6.

The pieces are in place; someone just needs to figure out how to use them correctly. Everyone is hoping Scotty is that guy. At least he isn’t Jacque Vaughn with his silly rotations that amount to nothing but head scratches.

5. Will the Magic validate me spending two hundred dollars on the NBA league pass?
I really hope so. Being out of market for your favorite team is terrible, especially when they are terrible. The best time being a sports fan is when your team surprises you. I think the Magic might surprise the basketball community this year, and that is why I am contemplating getting the League Pass. $200 down the drain?

To me, this isn’t just your cookie-cutter politically correct “we need to be better” response that every bad team’s players say. This is a squad who knows how good they can be, and are sick and tired of losing games. In the age of “tanking”, it’s rare to see this mindset and passion in the minds of a “bad” team – but, I’m tellin ya there’s something there in the blood of this organization right now that doesn’t appear in any box score.

Let’s just hope that the middle son gets his shit together; should be easy in the easy East.

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