Orlando Magic: Prediction: 13th in the Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 23-59
Coach: Jacque Vaughn
Significant Additions: F Aaron Gordon (draft), G Elfrid Payton (draft trade), F Channing Frye (free agent), F Evan Fournier (trade), G Ben Gordon (free agent), G Luke Ridnour (free agent), G Peyton Siva (free agent), G Willie Green (waiver claim)
Significant Subtractions: G Arron Afflalo (trade), G Jameer Nelson (waived), F Jason Maxiell (waived), F E'Twaun Moore (free agent)
Projected Starters: C Nikola Vucevic, F Channing Frye, F Tobias Harris, G Victor Oladipo, G Elfrid Payton (5/10):
Both free-agent signee Frye and the explosive Oladipo are dealing with MCL injuries which will sideline them for some of the exhibition season, so that's a concern right off the bat. Vucevic is a steadily improving potential star, already one of the best bigs in the East, while Oladipo showed considerable promise during his rookie campaign, even though he wasn't quite as spectacular as expected. He should be better off the ball now that there's a "franchise point guard," on the roster in Payton. The Louisiana-Lafayette product will go through growing pains, and he'll have to lean heavily on Vaughn and Ridnour to mentor him. In fact, don't be surprised if Ridnour starts early on. Aaron Gordon, the fourth overall pick out of Arizona, will surely start at some point as well in Frye's place and he should see considerable floor time with Frye as the stretch five, or even as a big small forward in the place of Harris, whose development plateaued last year. Fournier is also in the mix here.
Projected Reserves (5.5/10):
In addition to Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless are two more youngsters who were picked high and haven't shown any kind of consistency. Their time is running out. Ben Gordon was a questionable signing but he should still be able to provide some points off the bench. The Magic traded their best player last season, Afflalo, to open up the shooting guard spot for Oladipo, and got Fournier, another toolsy wing, in exchange. He flashed here and there in Denver, but looked pretty soft overall. O'Quinn can buy Vucevic some minutes and the aforementioned Ridnour is a serviceable starter and top-notch reserve. Veteran Willie Green can get some run if Gordon burns another bridge and Peyton Siva out of Louisville is another young point to groom and a bit reminiscent of the departed Jameer Nelson. For now, their best reserve will be the springy Aaron Gordon from Arizona, who might be the next Shawn Marion, but I doubt he'll be on the bench for long.
Coach/Front Office (3/10):
I was high on the Magic last season and wound up plummeting to my demise going out on that limb, so from now on I'll wait and let GM Rob Hennigan prove that he knows the difference between basketball players and super athletic guys that look like basketball players. Remember, he didn't draft Vucevic, he traded for him, a throwaway from the Sixers in the three-team deal involving Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Harris, Nicholson and Harkless aren't moving the needle at all. I liked this past draft haul very much but I think he paid too much for Frye, didn't get nearly enough for Afflalo and I don't know why anyone would touch Ben Gordon, let alone give him a two-year, $9 million deal. As checkered as Hennigan's resume is, I think even less of Vaughn, who's shown zero ability to develop these kids in his two seasons. He hasn't been able to design any kind of workable offensive sets and his guys seemed to have tuned him out midway through the past two campaigns, showing no competitive spirit at all post-All Star break amid tanking accusations. Vaughn has Gregg Popovich's endorsement and that buys a lot of goodwill, but at some point ownership will run out of patience, no matter how young the team is.
Team Rating: 47.5 (2.5x starters rating + 1.5x reserves rating + coach rating) x 2 = 47.5 out of 100
Did You Know: That if you replace "Blood," with "Farts," you can sum up Howard's time in Orlando with the title of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' most well-known album.