We’ve been waiting for the Orlando Magic to return to relevance since the Dwight Howard trade. Some thought 2015-16 could be the year the Magic jumped back in the playoff conversation thanks to a lot of young talent and a coach in Scott Skiles who’s been known to do well with young teams. But it didn’t work out as hoped and Skiles abruptly resigned, leading to the hiring of Frank Vogel. The front office also made some splashy acquisitions this summer in Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo Will all these moves result in a winner?
1. Best move of offseason
David Ramil: Hiring Frank Vogel. The Magic had hoped that bringing Scott Skiles aboard in 2015 would create a culture of defensive tenacity but that never manifested. And while Vogel is seen as likely to bring much of the same, there’s enough proof that he can actually get that accomplished. It’s tempting to look at trading for Serge Ibaka as the key move, but there are still too many questions about his ability to bounce back from a down year and his overall fit, and concerns of his aging don’t help. Vogel will be the most important factor in helping shape this team’s identity and ending a four-year postseason drought.
Keith Smith: Trading for Serge Ibaka. The Magic may have given up a lot to get him, but his presence on defense alone is more than worth it. When you also factor in that he could be the best shooter from behind the arc of the starters, it makes even more sense. He’s an ideal fit next to Nik Vucevic because of his ability to protect the rim, but also shoot from deep.
Kelly Scaletta: Bismack Biyombo if I’m forced to say. Most of Orlando’s free-agent signings are fine, independent of one another. I like Biyombo’s defense, and the Magic didn’t overpay for him.
Jason Patt: Re-signing Evan Fournier for five years and $85 million feels like a bargain given some of the other deals handed out this summer. But I’m going to go with hiring Frank Vogel. Vogel is a proven winning coach who should be able to get the Magic playing strong defense. There are questions about the offense, but instilling the defensive philosophy and getting that down first should be a big plus, and hopefully the offense will come.
2. Worst move of offseason
David: This is tougher to answer than you’d imagine. Ibaka’s acquisition was costly with fan-favorite Victor Oladipo being moved to Oklahoma City in the process. But Oladipo, though young and athletic, wasn’t as natural a scorer as Orlando needed him to be. Having Ibaka also could be an issue in developing Aaron Gordon, forcing the third-year player to slide down to small forward in the starting lineup. Will Gordon be able to match his explosive athleticism with as-yet-unseen playmaking abilities?
But signing Jeff Green to one-year, $15M deal seems like the worst move. An unspectacular defender with declining offensive skills, it’s tough to see how he fits in the Magic’s new order. Plus, carving out playing time for him means less for Gordon and second-year player Mario Hezonja, as talented as he is raw.
Keith: Signing Jeff Green for one year and $15 million dollars. Green isn’t a bad player, but he’s wildly inconsistent. He’s likely ticketed for a reserve role behind Serge Ibaka and Aaron Gordon at the forward positions. He’s a solid enough backup, but that $15 million could have been better spent elsewhere on a roster that still has holes. Not to mention he’ll likely take some valuable minutes that Gordon and Mario Hezonja need.
Kelly: As noted in the Thunder roundtable, the Magic got outright scammed on the Oladipo trade. They arguably gave up the better player, a stretch 4 and a first-round pick.
Jason: A lot of the Magic’s moves look fine in a vacuum, but I’m not really sure what’s going on in that frontcourt. Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo are quality players, but there’s a bit of a roster crunch and Aaron Gordon is moving down a position. Then there’s the Jeff Green deal, which makes almost no sense, even on a one-year deal. There are fit issues abound here and I feel like somebody has to go. I’d guess that somebody would be Nikola Vucevic, but he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
3. Offseason grade
David: C+. It feels like Orlando got better, adding proven players like Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin and even Green to help their existing young core. But there are still too many concerns about how this team will fit. They should improve drastically defensively and Vogel will see to that. They’ve also gotten somewhat more versatile, as well. But scoring could be a concern (despite re-signing Evan Fournier, one of the team’s best moves this summer) and a playoff spot is hardly a given with several teams improving in the Eastern Conference.
Keith: B. The Magic have taken a lot of flak for their moves this offseason, but they had to get better. Each player they added has positives. They may have overpaid somewhat for Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green, but no one was giving Orlando a discount. They upgraded the depth of the roster for sure, but the fit is a bit off. Frank Vogel, a tremendous hire in his own right, has his hands full balancing this team.
Kelly: What makes the Magic’s whole offseason so confusing is that none of it fits together. Their three most promising players heading into the offseason were Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon. They got rid of one of them and with their offseason signings cluttered the court for the other two. Now Gordon has to move to small forward — an experiment which looks like it’s bound to fail — and Vucevic is going to have Biyombo breathing down his neck for playing time. And they have no shooting. And now Ibaka, who is not a first-option scorer by any stretch of the imagination is the “star” of the team. This is just a weird mess. Their offseason grade isn’t even a letter. They get a “muggle.”
Jason: C+. The hiring of Vogel brings this grade up a smidge. I’m just not totally sure what direction the Magic are going. They’re young and talented with a good coach, but the parts are wonky. They seem to be stuck between trying to win now and trying to continue a rebuild.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
David: All signs point to the team improving from last season and several players have something to prove. Vogel will keep this team focused throughout the year, just as he did last season with a mediocre Pacers roster. As constructed, the team should be able to get a low seed in the East and make the playoffs. If they ultimately decide to trade away Nikola Vucevic, they could climb higher than expected and position themselves for continued growth, this season and beyond.
Keith: 43-39. I think the defense will be excellent. The offense will need work, but the defense will keep them in just about every game. Essentially, they’ll be your typical Frank Vogel team. The Magic will be among the jumble of teams in the Eastern Conference in the 6-13 range.
Kelly: I don’t see how this team wins more than 25 in an increasingly competitive East. They could be the worst team in the conference.
Jason: I do think the Magic will be marginally better, but good enough to make the playoffs? I’m still skeptical. They’ll be in that giant blob of teams fighting for those last playoff spots.