Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to general manager Rob Hennigan, the Orlando Magic are doing all the right rebuilding things. That shouldn't be a surprise given his history with the OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, models of sound management in their own rights. Hennigan—still just 31 years old—learned a few lessons along the way, and that's already yielding dividends for the Magic.
There haven't been splashy signings, and trade routes haven't been explored beyond necessity. Instead, we've seen a commitment to making the most of a roster's talent and grooming young pieces such as Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris.
That may not strike you as Thunder-like talent in the making, but it's a solid start for a club still reeling from Dwight Howard's departure in 2012.
Even more impressively, head coach Jacque Vaughan has this team playing with an identity—pushing tempo and scoring three more points per contest than the 2012-13 iteration. Those expecting an overnight turnaround have been predictably disappointed, but there's little doubt Orlando is getting better.
Its soon-to-be-improved win total proves as much, but so too has its ability to hold its own against some very good teams—posting 112 points against the Spurs in March and even pulling off narrow back-to-back victories against the Thunder and Pacers in February.
Much of the improved performance can be attributed to Vaughan's success meshing his young core together with veterans Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis. The absence of star power has given Orlando a definitive ceiling in terms of short-term potential, but there's a flip side to that which could become increasingly important over the next few seasons.
Orlando isn't spending big money just to be a middling team. Howard's exit (along with the old managerial regime) paved the way for a more cautious approach to team-building, one that relies on the draft and gradual evolution rather than the often elusive prospect of immediate results.