Orlando Magic fans are in for another miserable regular season, but it's all for the greater good.
Rebuilding can be painful, but in today's NBA, you either have to be absolutely awful and build through the draft or sign a superstar or two. Since no former All-Stars are banging down Orlando's door looking to sign up, the Magic are going to struggle for a few years.
Whatever you think about how head coach Jacque Vaughn and general manager Rob Hennigan have done so far, they're both here for the long haul, having had their contracts renewed in May.
"Rob and Jacque have worked extremely hard in establishing a culture which embodies teamwork, hard work, hunger for success and humility," said team CEO Alex Martins in the Magic's official press release. "With their strategic direction and leadership we feel we are headed in the right direction which will allow us to achieve our goals of contending in a long term sustainable fashion."
Who knows? Maybe Orlando can sneak into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Crazier things have happened. More than likely, though, the Magic will crawl along in the present with an eye toward building a stronger team down the road.
You can view the Magic's full regular-season slate on NBA.com.
Championship Odds: 200/1
If the Orlando Magic win the 2014-15 NBA Finals, you might want to get your affairs in order and tell your family you love them because the rapture might be on its way soon. VegasInsider.com lists Orlando as a 200-1 favorite to win the title.
The Magic have 75-1 odds to win the Eastern Conference.
Note: Odds are up to date as of Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 5:32 p.m. ET.
Orlando Magic vs. Utah Jazz
When: December 19, 2014
The Magic were widely expected to select Dante Exum in the first round of the NBA draft. They selected Aaron Gordon instead. After Exum's impressive NBA Summer League run, The Cauldron's Andy Glockner joked that Orlando was already having buyer's remorse:
Fun game. Lot of guys to watch playing nicely. I feel like ORL is already swallowing a bit hard about passing on Exum for Aaron Gordon.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) July 13, 2014
The Magic, of course, traded for Elfrid Payton to be their point guard for the long term and pair with Victor Oladipo to form a dynamic backcourt.
You can't help but to highlight the Exum and Payton storyline—a snapshot of the future Orlando will have and the future it could've had. If Payton gets outplayed by the Utah Jazz point guard, then you can bet that Magic fans will start to question the team's management, whether it's fair or not.
Orlando Magic vs./at Philadelphia 76ers
When: Nov. 5, 2014, Dec. 21, 2014 and Feb. 22, 2015
In a way, the Magic and 76ers are connected. They're two teams that have decided to blow it up and start from the bottom, although Philadelphia is admittedly starting from a much lower position. In three or four years, they could be among the cream of the crop in the East.
Nobody will be talking about these games having a playoff atmosphere, but it is fun to watch them play one another and look to the future. Nerlens Noel vs. Nikola Vucevic will be a fun individual matchup, as will Michael Carter-Williams vs. Payton.
This game also begs the question: Which team would you rather build around?
Orlando Magic vs. Miami Heat
When: Nov. 22, 2014 and Feb. 25, 2014
In the 1990s, these games were a lot of fun to watch because Shaquille O'Neal would face off against Alonzo Mourning and then the dueling Hardaways—Anfernee and Tim—would do battle.
Howard helped make the Magic a title contender in the mid-to-late 2000s and turned this into a rivalry again.
The competitive balance has swung inexorably toward Miami, though, in the last two years.
Without James, the Heat are a worse basketball team, even after retaining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Magic are rebuilding, but the gap between the two teams has closed a noticeable degree. With that gulf narrowing, this rivalry can become compelling once again.
The Magic will most likely be one of the worst teams in the East. They should be better than they were last year but not by much.
Having Payton will allow Oladipo to handle the ball less but still be effective. The former Indiana star was a turnover machine last year, so maybe getting away from the point will accelerate his development a little bit more.
Of course, you also have to factor the departure of Arron Afflalo, who led the team in scoring last year. Taking him out of the team will obviously be a detriment.
For the most part, though, Orlando's young players should continue improving, leading to a slight uptick in wins.
Final Prediction: 30-52