Who's New: F Mario Hezonja (draft), G C.J. Watson (free agent), C Jason Smith (free agent), G Shabazz Napier (trade)
Who's Gone: F Maurice Harkless (trade), F Kyle O'Quinn (trade), G Ben Gordon (waived)
Off-season Grade: B-. They won't miss anyone they lost, and I like Watson, one of the better backup points in the league, but their whole summer is basically contingent on how Hezonja, the biggest boom-or-bust player of the draft, works out. If you want to count Skiles as part of the equation, it has to be a net positive. He's like a poor man's Larry Brown in that he always gets improvement from young teams early on before things sour in year two or three.
2015-16 Slogan: "We're way cheaper than Disney World and twice as Goofy."
What Else Is New?: Hezonja is going to be social media gold. He's like a love child of Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli and Ivan Drago. His instagram game is just off the charts. While playing with Barcelona he was asked if he got to meet soccer deity Lionel Messi and he replied, "Let Messi come to see me."
He also described his basketball philosophy as "I want to run over everybody."
He's gonna cause so many fights I can't even wait.
Also, they have new alternate uniforms they'll break out for Christmas. Blech.
Your Likely Starters:
C Nikola Vucevic
PF Channing Frye
SF Tobias Harris
SG Victor Oladipo
PG Elfrid Payton
Vucevic is the best young center in the East and continues to improve year after year. He's not a prolific outside shooter, but his percentages on mid-range shots and long twos are off the charts. Even Tim Duncan admitted last year that there isn't much he can do with the Swiss big man defensively. Vucevic's issue, of course, is in his own end. Ideally he'd play alongside a strong rim protector, but that would involve moving to the four, which doesn't seem likely.
Frye signed a four-year, $32 million deal the past off-season to be Orlando's coveted "stretch four" and was one of the worst starters in the league last season. He shot 39.3 percent from downtown but 39.2 percent overall, which seems impossible, while providing next to nothing on the glass and insultingly bad defense. I'm stunned he's still on the team and can't imagine he'll start long for Skiles.
Harris, 23 and entering his fifth season, is a bit of a tweener who continues to develop his burgeoning arsenal. He can already score in a variety of ways and gives people a lot of match-up issues. He's poor defensively too, however, and the mismatches work against him here, where he's too small against fours and too slow against threes. I imagine he'll play mostly as a four, given their roster, because otherwise the Madge will really struggle to score.
Oladipo is the most explosive two in the East if not the league and showed incremental improvement on his clunky jumper in year two, but the most disappointing thing for the team's brass had to be that his all-world athleticism has yet to translate on defense. He's only 6'4, which limits him, but you'd think he'd have enough lateral quickness to stay in front of people. You wonder if he'll be a worse shooting version of Jason Richardson.
Payton had a promising rookie campaign and stuck mainly to his strengths. He has great floor vision for a young player but his effectiveness is limited not only by the mediocre shooting of his teammates but his own poor marksmanship. People go under screens on him. Oladipo and Payton were billed as the most dynamic, defensively tenacious young backcourt in the league, but they have considerable work to do to get there.
Your Likely Bench:
G Evan Fournier
F Mario Hezonja
G C.J. Watson
F Aaron Gordon
C Jason Smith
C Dewayne Dedmon
G Shabazz Napier
F Andrew Nicholson
Fournier got a lot of playing time last year because nobody else on the wing could shoot, but as a consequence they sacrificed any semblance of playing defense. With Hezonja on board, you'd think Fournier would be redundant on the roster, but the two of them sharing the floor would be quite the sight, the equivalent of Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire playing together for the Knicks. Gordon's a high flyer coming off a disappointing rookie year, but it's important to remember that he just turned 20. He should at least be more active on both ends than Frye is. Watson should be a valuable mentor for Payton --also worth noting that Skiles is a former point guard too-- and can lead a second unit badly in need of direction. Smith is a banger and a bit of a goon, but he was a good signing for the Magic. They desperately need some toughness on the squad. Nicholson's playing time has decreased each of the past two years and he's barely hanging on at this point. LeBron James convinced the Heat to trade for Napier in the draft through Twitter before deciding to leave, and Miami gave up on him after one year.
The one guy besides Hezonja that's interesting is Dedmon. He's the only guy on the roster who can actually provide some rim protection. He can't do much of anything on offense, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Skiles try him as a starter at some point alongside Vucevic.
Your Coach: Scott Skiles
Just 51, and already in his fourth stop as a head whistle, after stints in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee. The definition of a "retread," Skiles gets jobs when a front office feels the previous guy wasn't tough enough with players and curses themselves for hiring a hotshot young assistant with no experience instead of a "proven" taskmaster. That Skiles' best playing days also came in Orlando no doubt helped his cause.
Skiles is already lighting a fuse under the team for their shoddy defense in the preseason and said of Hezonja's debut: "Yeah I thought he was good offensively and on the other end was terrible."
This will go well.
Bottom Line: Something's cooking in Orlando!
The Magic look like they will be so fun on paper --a lot more fun than Burt Wonderstone was, at any rate-- but we've been saying that for the past couple of years and it hasn't really played out that way due to their awful shooting. If Hezonja can't make them mandatory League Pass viewing, then we should just disband the Eastern Conference.
Also, they're not making the playoffs because: come on, that defense.
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