Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Orlando Magic Newcomer This Season
The Orlando Magic had their share of additions during this offseason. They acquired a total of nine players, three of them via the draft. Here is a ranking of all new athletes, including Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Channing Frye, by the amount of impact on the team during 2014-15.
The youthful Magic became an even younger team after the draft, the Arron Afflalo trade and the waiving of Jameer Nelson. General manager Rob Hennigan understood that the inexperienced roster needed leadership and subsequently pursued some veterans.
Many fans questioned whether giving Ben Gordon a $10 million contract for two years was a sound decision, seeing how he had a disastrous 2013-14 campaign. But Hennigan didn't stop there, acquiring Frye and Willie Green shortly after.
Will the team profit from these additions?
Eventually, it will boil down to how head coach Jacque Vaughn wants to implement his new players into the rotation. Some of them will be role players while others will be expected to be leaders right away or live up to their potential over the course of the season.
This article will shed light on each new addition in order of increasing impact during this upcoming campaign.
Honorable Mention: Dewayne Dedmon
While not a new acquisition during the offseason, Dewayne Dedmon is still a rather new piece for the Orlando Magic. Acquired late last season, he played in 16 games, starting six of them.
He had two 10-day contracts with the team before getting signed and was originally brought in as temporary relief for the injured Nikola Vucevic. Eventually, he proved to Orlando's management that he is more than just an injury backup.
The 7-footer uses his size to challenge shots close to the basket, something the Magic desperately need.
Kyle O'Quinn was the only other worthwhile defender in the paint last season. With the two big men taking turns, the Magic could finally have something remotely resembling an interior defense.
Dedmon isn't going to become a starter, but his minutes and importance for the team should increase once the franchise is on the verge of becoming a playoff candidate again and has to rely on some rim protection.
Hopefully, he can increase his offensive arsenal during the offseason.
If he manages to do so, he should see sufficient minutes to make his case for a legitimate backup center behind Vucevic, allowing O'Quinn to throw his 6'10" frame around at the 4.
No. 9: Peyton Siva
The latest acquisition of the Orlando Magic, Peyton Siva is likely to be an investment into the future rather than someone whom they expect to produce right away.
The recent deal with the Erie BayHawks, an NBA Development League team, was yet another smart decision by GM Rob Hennigan. It allows the Magic to let talented players mature and gather experience.
Siva is a perfect example for that.
He is still a project and needs playing time to improve. If he stays on the Magic roster, minutes will be hard to come by. Sending him down to the D-League will give the former No. 56 pick the opportunity to get a lot of minutes and learn on the job.
Orlando added the young point guard despite already having a full 15-man roster. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel explains:
Siva will be signed to a non-guaranteed contract and participate in training camp and the preseason and then will be waived before the regular season starts, according to an industry source familiar with the situation. The Magic will retain Siva’s rights and then send him to the Erie BayHawks.
If another team picks him up from the waivers, this would of course foil the Magic's plans. Then again, Orlando doesn't risk anything by waiving Siva and hoping for him to develop in the D-League.
In case of a long-term injury to one of the guards, the Magic could fall back on the 23-year-old. Other than that, he doesn't figure to be a factor for the team this upcoming season.
This is a low-risk, high-reward scenario.
No. 8: Roy Devyn Marble
Just like Siva the year before, Roy Devyn Marble was taken with the No. 56 pick. What can you really expect from one of the last picks in 2014?
In Marble's case, the answer may surprise you.
Despite getting drafted late, the 6'6" rookie has enough potential to quickly become a reliable role player and a much-needed sharpshooter for this team. During the Orlando Summer League, he showed that he has both the touch and the personality to come off the bench and produce immediately.
Especially, the remarkable self-confidence was a positive aspect.
Granted, it was exactly this confidence that led to a combined 1-for-16 shooting in his second and fourth games. But teams need that guy who just knows that he will make the next shot, no matter what happened before. Imagine Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson thinking twice about letting it go on a poor shooting night.
It remains to be seen whether the 21-year-old can hold his own against stronger competition than the Summer League and in more hostile environments. If he can, the Magic drafted a sleeper who will make fans and management very happy.
Marble can be one of the missing pieces for a team in need of a more consistent offense.
No. 7: Willie Green
This was one of the low-level acquisitions that may pay big dividends for this young team.
Hardly anyone expected Willie Green to draw much interest during free agency. That includes the man himself, as witnessed in his interview:
I was very surprised. I’m not going to kid you, I was surprised, but at the same time it was exciting. […] We were excited, my family was excited and you know I think there’s a big upside here in Orlando. So, we’re looking forward to it.
The 33-year-old can hardly be considered a key player on the court for the Orlando Magic, but his experience will help the young players around him. His locker room leadership may be even more vital, considering that Orlando's squad is very young.
Youth often leads to rash reactions, and losses tend to bring out the worst in many people. Once tempers start to flare, team chemistry can go bad in a hurry.
Last season, players like Nelson and Afflalo were there to keep their teammates poised and calm. This year, Green will have the job of being the positive influence in tough times.
It doesn't hurt that the 6'4" guard is a reliable shooter and can still play substantial minutes any given night.
No. 6: Luke Ridnour
Luke Ridnour's minutes took a dive last season.
So did his production.
The good news for him is that the Orlando Magic are in dire need of an experienced point guard. The good news for the team is that he is still capable of producing. His presence will allow for an easier transition of Payton into the professional league.
The veteran has 11 years of experience he can pass on to the rookie.
Ridnour can still run the ship, and his pass-first mentality will help improve the team. Proper ball distribution equals easy baskets.
While the acquisition of the 6'2" playmaker may not have been a dazzling move by Hennigan, it will turn out to be a clever signing for this team. Don't be surprised if Ridnour plays 20 or more minutes per game early on in the season until Payton settles in and takes the starting job.
No. 5: Aaron Gordon
Despite the glaring hole at the 1, the Orlando Magic decided to go with an inside presence rather than a point guard with their first pick.
They chose Aaron Gordon, who has shown a lot of potential but is still very raw. Management and fans alike are hoping for a diamond in the rough, but currently it is hard to tell how good the rookie is going to become eventually.
Gordon certainly looks very talented and appears to have a huge upside.
However, he looks to be at least a couple of years away from really tapping into his potential. He will have to show a lot of dedication and focus to improve as fast as possible. The Magic have several promising athletes at the 3 and 4, which means the 6'9" talent must mature quickly to get meaningful minutes soon.
That being said, the 18-year-old is certain to produce highlights and surprise a lot of people with sporadic outbursts of excellence and pure athleticism over the course of the season. Nonetheless, the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign will be rough for him, and he won't be a starter anytime soon unless the team suffers several injuries.
He will fight with Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris for time at the small forward position and may eventually overtake one of them on the depth chart. In fact, he could become the second option at the 3 if Jacque Vaughn decides to predominantly play Harris at the 4.
Even under perfect circumstances, Gordon's impact during this upcoming campaign will be considerably less than that of his fellow rookie Payton, who was taken six picks later.
No. 4: Evan Fournier
The Frenchman comes with several question marks but also a lot of potential.
For a team full of young, talented players, that's the one thing of which there is plenty. Why bring another player with said quality?
For one thing, Fournier proved that he can shoot the ball, connecting on 38.1 percent of his attempts from long distance in his young career. He has also displayed a variety of other skills, including ball-handling.
With Payton and Ridnour the only nominal point guards, the 6'6" third-year player may be asked to fill in at the 1 unless—heaven forbid—Jacque Vaughn keeps clinging onto Victor Oladipo as a playmaker. If Orlando's head coach doesn't think the rookie point guard can start right away, Fournier may actually bring the ball up early on next season.
His size is a decided advantage over most opposing guards, and he has more experience and maturity than Payton, who—in all fairness—is a rookie, after all.
Fournier's best selling point may be his versatility. He could fill in at the 1 for the time being, just as he could be a backup 3. If Orlando's plan for this season is to find lineups that work together well, having several wild cards is a big bonus.
If nothing else, his ability to fill in at three different positions will give the team more options off the bench. It will certainly translate into more minutes for the 21-year-old than during his time in Denver.
No. 3: Ben Gordon
Just 99 points in 279 minutes of play.
What may sound like a—not particularly good—playoff statistic is actually the 2013-14 total for Ben Gordon. To call it an abysmal season for the veteran would be a huge understatement.
So why did Hennigan offer a $10 million contract for two years?
Clearly, he expects the aging shooting guard to return to form and play an important role on the Orlando Magic. Not only does the 31-year-old bring 10 years of experience, he can be a proficient scorer, connecting on 40.2 percent of his attempts from downtown for his career.
If he can get close to that production once more, Orlando's GM will be a very happy person. But Gordon's numbers are not the only reason to pay him big bucks. He brings experience, from which the young squad will benefit.
If Gordon can get back into shape, both physically and mentally, his signing will be a great move. He can either start or provide instant relief from the bench when needed. In either case, he will be in a leadership role on and off the court.
If he fails, the Magic will terminate his contract after this season. Hennigan made sure the second year is not guaranteed.
No. 2: Elfrid Payton
Elfrid Payton has two distinct features: his hair and his ability to adjust. While the former will not help him on court, the latter means he will soon be a starter for this young team.
Over the course of the Orlando Summer League, he showed the potential to learn from mistakes and adapt his game accordingly. Struggling mightily during his first game, the point guard from Louisiana bounced back in an impressive manner, coming close to triple-doubles twice and ending up first in assists per game with seven dimes per outing.
Like most rookies, he is prone to mistakes, which will translate into a painful amount of turnovers early on.
Magic fans should be used to that by now, after watching Oladipo turning the ball over countless times when filling in at the 1. For the very same reason, it would make sense to put Payton in charge sooner rather than later.
The rookie's impact isn't just about what he can or cannot do, it is about what it means for the rest of the team.
With him on the floor, Orlando will have one of the best perimeter defenses. What may be more important, Oladipo can play his natural position.
The sooner Payton has to take responsibility, the sooner he can learn from the mistakes he will most definitely make—and the sooner the team will have a true point guard. After Nelson's departure, Payton is in fact the only real playmaker apart from Ridnour.
No. 1: Channing Frye
Apart from the draft, the acquisition of Channing Frye was the most notable offseason move by the Orlando Magic.
The tall sharpshooter signed a four-year, $32 million contract.
Orlando had enough salary-cap space to be generous, and it makes sense that Hennigan was so eager to convince Frye to come to Florida.
Having the 6'11" forward hovering around the three-point line gives the team a great option. Over the course of his career, he has a 38.5 percent success rate shooting threes, drowning 160 of them last season alone.
Frye will be a leader for this young team.
His addition to the squad will have the most impact of any new player in Orlando during 2014-15, and the importance of having a consistent scorer from outside who demands a lot of attention from opposing defenses cannot be overestimated.
Looking back at last season, Afflalo was a terrific player and always a threat from beyond the arc. The main difference between him and Frye is simply size. The 6'5" wing player didn't force one of the bigs out to the perimeter.
If the opposing power forward decides to defend the basket instead of patrolling the perimeter, Frye will drain the wide-open three-pointer. His presence on the floor will open lanes for the likes of Oladipo and Harris while at the same time giving Vucevic plenty of room with which to operate.
Expect Frye to be the most valuable new asset for the Orlando Magic.
You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic, in particular.