Searching for Positives in Orlando Magic's Tough Season

Kurt JonkeContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2014

Searching for Positives in Orlando Magic's Tough Season

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    There are several reasons for Stuff the Magic Dragon to be happy about despite the abysmal season his team is having.
    There are several reasons for Stuff the Magic Dragon to be happy about despite the abysmal season his team is having.John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Orlando Magic's season definitely cannot be considered successful in terms of their win-loss record. However, there are two sides to each story, and even this poor season offers some positive aspects for the team and its fans.

    Currently, the Magic own a 16-40 record and are the third-worst team in the NBA. Hardly anything to feel good about. However, if you really try, you can find positives in everything.

    Admittedly, most of them concern the next season, like getting a top pick in the 2014 NBA draft or being able to acquire talent due to cap space. In the current situation, fans have to look into the future for comfort.

    Let's take a look at six reasons why Stuff the Magic Dragon can still dance happily.

     

    All stats taken from NBA.com or basketball-reference.com unless stated otherwise.

Reason No. 1: Another Top Draft Pick

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    Orlando Magic's senior vice president Pat Williams is looking forward to another top pick in the upcoming draft.
    Orlando Magic's senior vice president Pat Williams is looking forward to another top pick in the upcoming draft.PETER COSGROVE/Associated Press

    Oh! Hello, Captain Obvious. Didn't see you there.

    Under current draft rules, any team losing badly will have a much better chance of ending up with a top draft pick.

    This is especially important in years that promise top talent—and the 2014 NBA draft happens to be full of great prospects. B/R's own Jonathan Wasserman even dubs it one of the best draft classes in history.

    Getting a top pick in this draft will be worth a lot to any team, struggling or otherwise.

    Currently, the Orlando Magic have the third-worst record in the NBA. This translates into a 15.6 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick, while the worst-case scenario sees them ending up with pick No. 6 (only a 4 percent chance).

    In a draft as loaded as this one, this is a great position to be in.

Reason No. 2: Victor Oladipo's Development

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    Victor Oladipo, Orlando's No. 2 pick 2013, sees a lot of minutes on the court. This speeds up his development considerably.
    Victor Oladipo, Orlando's No. 2 pick 2013, sees a lot of minutes on the court. This speeds up his development considerably.Tom Lynn/Associated Press

    If a coach isn't expected to reach the playoffs, he has the luxury of being able to give his young talent more playing time. And we are talking quality, meaningful playing time when the game is on the line as opposed to garbage time in a blowout.

    That's exactly what happens with Victor Oladipo.

    He can become one of the cornerstones for the franchise. If the Magic were competing for the playoffs, Jacque Vaughn could hardly afford putting the ball into the rookie's hands as much due to his high turnover rate (3.1 per game) and sometimes questionable shot selection.

    However, with Orlando looking ahead at the 2014 NBA draft, the No. 2 pick is allowed to roam free, take responsibility and fail—and subsequently learn from his mistakes.

    Every single minute of game experience is valuable and important for his development—in fact for his entire future career. This is a great opportunity for the franchise as well as the player.

    But it's not only Oladipo—the Orlando Magic have eight players who are 24 years or younger. All of them average 10-plus minutes per game.

    Only four players older than 24 years average double digits in MPG. All of them—Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis and Jason Maxiell—have been involved in trade talks and are possible trading chips for some younger talent or first-round draft picks.

Reason No. 3: Afflalo Emerged, Nelson Shows Consistency

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    The two veterans are team leaders for the Orlando Magic.
    The two veterans are team leaders for the Orlando Magic.Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    With such a young roster, veterans have to take more responsibility.

    One player who has made the most of this situation is Arron Afflalo. He is playing his best season so far, and many expected him to make the All-Star team.

    His display of skill and new-found confidence put him on the radar of NBA fans as well as general managers. If the Magic decide to trade him, they profit from his considerably increased market value. If they want to keep him, it bodes well for the next couple of seasons.

    But it's not only Afflalo who has come through for Orlando.

    Jameer Nelson has proved himself as a team leader in these difficult times. While his numbers, including his playing time, have slightly decreased overall, he is the floor general for his team and a teacher for Victor Oladipo.

    And despite two losing seasons, Nelson wouldn't want to be anywhere else, as told to us by B/R NBA analyst Jared Zwerling.

    I've never ever went to my agent and said I wanted a trade. I've never done that. And as far as I know, the management has never said, “We're trading you.” I was always a guy who stayed loyal to them and they've stayed loyal to me. I want to stay in Orlando.

Reason No. 4: The Players Are Playing Hard and Having Fun

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    The team chemistry doesn't seem to suffer despite the losing season. The players compete hard and celebrate each win.
    The team chemistry doesn't seem to suffer despite the losing season. The players compete hard and celebrate each win.Associated Press

    Winning cures everything. On the other hand, losing can bring teams to their knees. And it certainly shows the players' true characters.

    Each consecutive loss hurts more, little quarrels can quickly explode into full-blown shouting duels and practices become a chore—well, even more of a chore than usual. Players tend to be on the edge during losing streaks.

    Simply put, no one likes losing.

    The Orlando Magic seem to be content with competing as hard as they can any given night; and they do. They seem to accept the fact that they will lose more often than not; and—again—they do. They embrace their role as underdogs in about every game they play.

    It must definitely be considered a big positive that we don't hear of locker-room meltdowns or practice confrontations. It is an indicator of good team chemistry.

Reason No. 5: Orlando's Great Postseason History

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    Vintage Shaq and KG. Orlando has a maximum streak of four seasons without reaching the playoffs, while Minnesota couldn't get there for nine seasons and counting.
    Vintage Shaq and KG. Orlando has a maximum streak of four seasons without reaching the playoffs, while Minnesota couldn't get there for nine seasons and counting.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    The Orlando Magic have a tendency to bounce back with a vengeance after bottoming out.

    The Magic last made the playoffs in 2012, and their longest streak of taking an early vacation is a mere four seasons, from 1989-90 through 1992-93. Only the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs can pride themselves on having fewer consecutive years without a postseason appearance.

    Compare that with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    With nine seasons, they hold the longest active streak of not reaching the playoffs and look set to increase that playoff drought even more.

    Time and time again Orlando managed to return to the playoffs in a hurry, which is something each fan should be looking forward to in these days.

Reason No. 6: The Cap Room Allows for Acquisitions

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    With Hedo Turkoglu gone, the Magic's payroll gives them a lot of options for the upcoming season.
    With Hedo Turkoglu gone, the Magic's payroll gives them a lot of options for the upcoming season.Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Currently, the Magic are approximately $2 million under the salary cap. With no roster changes, their payroll for the upcoming season leaves them around $15 million to acquire new players, mostly due to a supposed salary cap of over $62 million and Hedo Turkoglu's departure.

    Depending on the draft picks Orlando ends up with, roughly another $5 million will have to be taken into consideration.

    Unless the management decides to make a trade by the February 20 deadline, the cap situation will allow the team to pick up some talent from the free-agent market or trade for a star-caliber player next season.

     

    For more on the NBA in general, and the Orlando Magic in particular, follow @KurtJonke.