After a miserable final three-quarters of last season, few teams need to rinse the taste of the 2012-13 season out of their mouths more than the Orlando Magic. Another year farther in the rebuilding process, Orlando has an air of excitement around them and is more than ready to surprise a few people this year.
Orlando Magic 2012-13 Results
- 20-62 record
- Last in Southeast Division
- Last in Eastern Conference
- No playoffs
Orlando's biggest success from last season was undoubtedly their trade-deadline dump of J.J. Redick which brought back Tobias Harris. Harris was not much more than an underachieving former first-round pick, yet he exploded on the scene from day one in Magic pinstripes. He quickly established himself as a cornerstone talent for this franchise going forward.
The biggest failure from last season was the pathetic three-point shooting. The Magic shot 32.9 percent from downtown, good for second to last in the NBA. Typical sharpshooters like Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo threw up enough bricks to rebuild the Amway Center last year.
The main question that will follow this team all year is what direction they are trying to go in. Even if everything goes right, they will not be good enough to contend this season. With such a stacked draft class next year, it would be advantageous of them to endure one more bad season. After all, tanking is the new fad. All the cool kids are doing it.
Key Additions: Victor Oladipo, SG (No. 2 pick in NBA draft), Jason Maxiell, PF (two years, $5 million)
Oladipo represents a huge piece to the puzzle right from the onset. He has been absolutely killing it in the preseason and has already justified his lofty No. 2 draft selection. Orlando has a gem on their hands, there is not much else to say.
Jason Maxiell will add toughness and veteran leadership to a very inexperienced front line. Orlando has a quartet of youngsters in the post with Nikola Vucevic, Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn that could very much benefit from picking the brain of a guy like Maxiell. Giving him a two-year deal was a very wise under-the-radar move by Rob Hennigan.
Biggest Loss: Beno Udrih, PG (one year, $1.27 million with New York)
Udrih wins this category by default. The only other players Orlando has subtracted from last season's roster are Al Harrington and eventually Hedo Turkoglu. Both of their losses will have fans jumping for joy.
Udrih was tossed in alongside Harris in the J.J. Redick deal last season and provided nice insurance down the stretch with Jameer Nelson injured. That being said, his production is nothing that cannot be replaced. Orlando will have many team-chemistry issues ironed out this season simply due to their large roster turnover.
Glen Davis' Foot
The most troubling aspect of Glen Davis' continued woes to his injured foot was that he recently claimed that he feels it will never be the same.
More recently, we've heard that Davis is starting to take bigger steps (no pun intended) towards a return. There is no timetable set, but Davis is running and taking jumpers and may soon be cleared for contact.
It's no secret how much better Orlando is with Davis on the floor. They started off 12-13 before he went down with his injury, and from that point on, including his very brief comeback, they went 8-49.
Even if Davis only has to play to boost his trade value, it would still benefit both him and the Magic. His foot is a legitimate concern this year and it is important Orlando gets him back on the court at 100 percent. Rushing him along will only hurt the both of them.
Before the draft, Oladipo was pegged by many as the most NBA-ready prospect of the bunch. Early indications are that this preconceived notion was spot on.
Oladipo ran circles around everyone in the summer league and is looking like a veteran already during the preseason. He is forcing Jacque Vaughn's hand from the get-go and playing his way right past the whole "getting his feet wet" stage.
He is already surprisingly adept at the point guard position despite not playing it in college. Some turnovers and questionable shots are to be expected, but he is passing the ball very well during the preseason and there is no questioning his ferocious rebounding and defense.
Oladipo is forcing Vaughn's hand here with his play so far. His development is pivotal to this franchise's future, and it may already be time to let him run free.
To Tank, or Not to Tank
Rob Hennigan has done a remarkable job so far with this rebuilding process. He has his team further along in the process than fans could have expected at this point.
Their goal for this season is still a bit cloudy. Orlando has actually assembled a respectable hodgepodge of talent that could possibly fight for a playoff spot in the East if everyone stays healthy.
But, as we all know, there is no glory in mediocrity. That is likely Orlando's ceiling this year, whereas one more stinker of a season could land them one more electrifying talent to push them to the next level.
It is difficult to gauge the direction of the team this upcoming season right now, so we're just going to have to see how this one plays out.
Depth Chart Breakdown and Grades
|2013-14 Orlando Magic Depth Chart|
|PG||Jameer Nelson||Ronnie Price||E'Twaun Moore|
|SG||Arron Afflalo||Victor Oladipo||Doron Lamb|
|SF||Maurice Harkless||Andrew Nicholson||Hedo Turkoglu|
|PF||Tobias Harris||Glen Davis||Kyle O'Quinn|
|C||Nikola Vucevic||Jason Maxiell||Solomon Jones|
Heading into his 10th NBA season, there are not going to be any surprises from Jameer Nelson. He is an average NBA floor general with a great outside shot and underrated passing ability.
Nelson averaged a career-high 7.4 assists last season as the leader of this team for the first time. Despite that, he now holds the unenviable position of just being a seat-warmer for Oladipo.
It still remains to be seen whether Oladipo will settle into the point guard or shooting guard role, but he is grasping the point guard position about as well as could be expected of him so far. For the time being, he is a dynamic backup off the bench due to his energy and tenacity. He also stands to learn a lot from Nelson as long as he is still in town.
The signing of Ronnie Price was very low-key, but it added another calming veteran presence to the roster. He has also had a very nice preseason and will play a nice role on this team as a glue guy in the backcourt.
Arron Afflalo had a tumultuous first season as the lead option in an offense. His three-point shooting regressed significantly after four consecutive years at 40 percent down to a paltry 30 percent. This year, he should improve with a more well-rounded group around him.
Oladipo will be breathing down Afflalo's neck as well unless he continues to thrive as a point guard. Oladipo getting extended minutes at point guard will leave Doron Lamb and Maurice Harkless to eat up the remaining minutes at shooting guard, two interesting options.
Lamb hasn't seen much court action so far in his career but is a solid outside shooter and could take a step forward this year. Harkless has worked tirelessly this offseason to transition to shooting guard.
Gauging this position is difficult, as Orlando has many guys capable of playing multiple positions, just as they do in the backcourt. Harkless will still remain prominently a small forward while Harris has bulked up to 240 pounds in an attempt to log more minutes at the 4.
Nicholson will also likely see some minutes at the 3. All these young guys are not prominently small forwards, which could very much hurt Orlando moving forward. Harkless and Harris are both learning other positions whereas Nicholson is trying to turn into more of a 3.
The talent is there, but the execution will be questionable.
The 4 is clearly Orlando's deepest position on the roster. As it stands, we are not completely sure who will start at that spot, but we do know that it will be a strongpoint on this team.
Kyle O'Quinn has been starting there during the preseason but has been quite underwhelming.
Tobias Harris will either be starting in that spot or taking huge chunks of the minutes off the bench.
The future return of Glen Davis will cloud things even more and force Vaughn into thinking of some creative ways to get all his talented players on the court together.
Maxiell will also need his share of minutes at the spot as well.
We will have to see how this spot shakes out, but they have extreme depth at the 4. Much will depend on matchups and who has the hot hand, but Vaughn has a bevy of riches at power forward.
Nikola Vucevic had a breakout second season last year to the tune of 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, second in the league. How much he can improve off those numbers remains to be seen, but he is a tremendous talent down low.
What Vucevic lacks in defense, his backups make up for. Maxiell and O'Quinn are more defensive-minded than Vucevic is and can spell him for stretches without Orlando missing a beat. Neither can replicate what Vooch does on offense, but they are more than respectable backups.
*For more detailed player rankings, check out B/R's NBA season preview power rankings.
What to Watch For
The youth movement is continuing down in Central Florida. There are a bunch of tremendous young talents on the roster such as Oladipo, Harris and Harkless, but how they will all eventually fit in with each other remains to be seen since they are all taking on multiple positions at such a young age.
You could almost pick a name out of a hat for this category and have a compelling argument for that player. Aside from the veterans, the rookies and assuming Harris already had a sort of breakout last season, Maurice Harkless is the most likely candidate to break out.
He has really put in the work to improve the weaker areas of his game such as ball-handling and outside shooting. Harkless also has elite defensive potential, which he proved during his rookie year. His long 6'9" frame will harass players on the wing and he can wreak havoc alongside Oladipo for years to come.
Prediction: Maurice Harkless
Tobias Harris is this team's most talented player. The fact that he is not starting during the preseason is slightly odd, but not likely something that will last.
His talent will win out and he will cement himself as a budding young star this season. Once he learns to play in his new body, he will be more impactful on both ends of the floor. Harris is truly a special talent and will burst onto the scene this season.
Prediction: Tobias Harris
Most Disappointing Player
Of all the young talented players on the roster, the one that does not appear to be on the upswing is Kyle O'Quinn.
He has been brutal in the preseason, and if he keeps it up, he will very quickly see himself plummeting down the depth chart since he happens to be a piece of the deepest position on the team.
O'Quinn doesn't seem to have improved much from last year. From day one of training camp we have heard rave reviews surrounding the rest of the young guys, but all has been quiet on his front. Now we are starting to see why.
Prediction: Kyle O'Quinn
Player Most Likely to be Traded
The guy most likely to find himself on a new roster before the year is over is Arron Afflalo. Not far behind him are Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson. All three are seemingly on their way out, but Afflalo is the one who holds the most value. It would make little sense for Orlando to hang onto him, especially with Oladipo ready to roll.
Prediction: Arron Afflalo
That leaves the Charlotte Bobcats as their main foe in the Southeast. The two are both in profound rebuilding processes and will be battling all year to stay out of the basement. The fight could get particularly interesting if they both tank this year and battle to see who can in fact win fewer games.
There will be some fierce battles for years to come between Oladipo and Bobcats' budding star point guard Kemba Walker. We could also see intriguing matchups on the front line between Harris and Cody Zeller, as well as the Vucevic matchup with Al Jefferson.
Despite their futility, they both are improved this year. Both will have their moments, and their battles will be exciting to watch.
Prediction: Charlotte Bobcats
Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios with Predicted W-L Record
Orlando fans will have a tentative positive outlook heading into this year. There are an incredible amount of variables on this roster, but they will for sure provide an exciting and uptempo brand of basketball. The main thing to watch is for them to continue to become a cohesive unit as a rebuilding team.
Harris establishes himself as the alpha dog of the team and the possible superstar going forward. Oladipo and Vucevic firmly plant themselves as foundation players and leave Orlando with somewhat of a Big Three. The Magic win more games than expected while still maintaining solid draft position even after trading many of the veterans.
Nelson and Afflalo fail to improve upon their subpar 2012-13 seasons, hampering their trade value. Glen Davis either fails to return at 100 percent or doesn't see the court at all and subsequently damages his trade value as well. The young guys fail to progress much at all from last year and Oladipo gives legitimate reason to believe that he cannot be an NBA point guard.
Orlando will likely start off pretty well until they decide to sell high and ship the veterans out of town. Their overall talent level is superior to what they had last season, so they will run into a few more wins because of it.
Vucevic should continue to progress, Harris and Harkless should settle into their altered roles nicely with Oladipo validating his lofty draft status.
Predition: 26-56, 14th in the East and last in the Southeast
I deducted a few wins from my prediction in the training camp preview simply because this team looks like they still have no cohesive ability on defense. Teams will rack up lots of points on them just like last year until they learn how to play as a unit.