Monday, October 12, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Orlando Magic

ORLANDO MAGIC
[] 25-57
[] Offensive Rating: 102.3 (27th)
[] Defensive Rating: 108.3 (24th)
[] Net Rating: -6.1 (26th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2012
[] Coach: Scott Skiles

The Jacque Vaughn era only lasted a little over two years, as he was fired in February of last season.  Scott Skiles takes over a roster full of raw talent and odd fits, hoping to produce better results than Vaughn, who didn't get over a 28.8 win percentage in his tenure.  Skiles will have a three-headed monster running the offense, as Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Nik Vucevic all had solid seasons on that end of the floor in 2014-15.  While those three shoulder their own weight, they'll need more from PG Elfrid Payton and PF Aaron Gordon in their sophomore seasons.  They also need improvement throughout the bench.  Channing Frye was less than advertised in the first year of a four year deal and the one reliable player on last year's bench, Kyle O'Quinn, is in New York now.  Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja have promise on the wing, and CJ Watson is a proven backup, so things should be better this year.  This team has enough talent for a breakout season, but I think that's still a year off.  This year will still be about squeezing in every learning moment possible for the young core.

Projected Starting Five

PG: Elfrid Payton - 6'4, 185 - 2nd NBA season 
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
82
8.9
13.8
18.3%
45.6%
26.2%
.059
55.1%
.302
32.6%
20.2%

Payton is the PG of the future for the Magic, and the keyword here is "future".  He's got the physical makeup of a dominant perimeter defender, and showed his defensive abilities in year one.  The problem is, his offensive game is a long way behind.  Don't let Payton's 1st team All-Rookie selection fool you, last season was a struggle.  He didn't have a single month with a TS% above 50.0, and the main bright spot among his offensive statistics, a strong Free Throw Rate, is slightly cancelled out by his awful free throw shooting.  I'm not sure if his outside shooting or free throw shooting will improve in year two, but I'm willing to bet he improves on his paltry 43.5% two-point shooting.

SG: Victor Oladipo - 6'5, 210 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
72
17.9
15.9
25.2%
52.7%
33.9%
.228
81.9%
.295
19.3%
14.3%

Oladipo showed improvements across the board between his rookie and sophomore seasons, with the only area where he fell off being a small decrease in Assist Rate.  That likely had much more to do with Oladipo playing less of his time at PG than him falling off as a distributor.  More importantly, Oladipo improved his outside shot, scored more efficiently inside the arc and saw a considerable drop in his Turnover Rate.  Another uptick in his scoring efficiency would likely push him above the 20 PPG mark, and establish him among the second tier of SGs in the league.  He's not there with James Harden or Klay Thompson, but is there another SG in the league under the age of 25 you would rather have?  Unless you want to throw Andrew Wiggins or Jimmy Butler, who both play a lot of SF, in the discussion, I'd take Oladipo over any other two guard not named Thompson or Harden.  Not bad for a guy who got drafted after Anthony Bennett.

SF: Tobias Harris - 6'8, 225 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
68
17.1
16.7
22.5%
55.1%
36.4%
.252
78.8%
.258
10.3%
8.8%

Harris signed a lucrative four year, $64M deal in restricted free agency, keeping the combo forward in Orlando.  In order for Orlando to see the value in that, Harris is going to have to replicate his contract year showing from 2014-15.  Last season saw Harris shoot the three ball a full five percentage points better than any other season in his career.  He'll only be 23 this season, so it's entirely possible that his outside shot is truly rounding into form, but if that's not the case, Harris' value decreases.  He has the ability to play both forward spots, but if Aaron Gordon's healthy, I expect more of Harris' minutes to come at the three spot.

PF: Aaron Gordon - 6'9, 230 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
47
5.2
11.4
15.5%
51.7%
27.1%
.231
72.1%
.293
12.0%
6.3%

Gordon lost a good chunk of his season to a foot injury, but when he was on the floor, he played to mixed results.  He struggled with a still-developing jump shot and had issues with turnovers, but scored well inside the arc and did a good job getting to the free throw line.  He'll only turn 20 a month before the season, so year two should still be focused in seeing growth rather than results.  Summer league can often be deceiving, but Gordon was an absolute beast in Orlando this past July, for whatever that's worth.

C: Nikola Vucevic - 7'0, 260 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
74
19.3
21.5
26.0%
54.8%
18.1%
10.4%
26.0%
75.2%
.181
0.8

Vucevic is one of the most underrated big men in the league, coming off of a season where he topped 19 PPG at age 24.  Orlando will look for another big year from him this coming season, whether the rest of the league recognizes him or not.  He's not an imposing interior defender, but with the rest of the starting lineup featuring a high level of defensive ability, sans Tobias Harris, Orlando is hoping to minimize the issue of Vucevic not being a capable rim protector.

Bench

PG: CJ Watson - 6'2, 180 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
57
10.0
15.4
18.8%
58.1%
40.0%
.420
82.6%
.400
23.3%
16.9%

The Magic used Luke Ridnour, who was traded, like, 15 times this summer, as a backup to Elfrid Payton last year.  This year, they'll have the capable CJ Watson, who should be a sizable improvement over Ridnour.

G: Shabazz Napier - 6'1, 180 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
51
5.1
9.3
15.5%
51.7%
36.4%
.518
78.6%
.246
19.9%
24.3%

All the Magic gave up to get Napier was a heavily protected 2016 2nd round pick.  They have little skin in the game here.  If Napier can earn minutes away from Watson, great.  If not, they haven't lost anything in the process.  He needs to be more efficient, and also to significantly cut down on turnovers.

SG: Tyler Harvey - 6'4, 205 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
3P%
FT%
32
23.1
3.6
2.6
46.9%
43.1%
85.2%

Harvey was an accomplished scorer at Eastern Washington before declaring for the draft after his junior season.  He went late in the second round, and there are more established options in the backcourt, so I wouldn't expect him to see many minutes, if any, for the Magic this year.

SG: Evan Fournier - 6'7, 205 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
58
12.0
12.4
19.7%
54.6%
37.8%
.391
72.8%
.256
11.5%
11.4%

Fournier scored somewhat efficiently in his first season with the Magic, but he didn't do much else.  There's nothing wrong with that though, as he'll only turn 23 when the season opens, and every team needs a guy who can do what Fournier does off the bench.

G/F: Devyn Marble - 6'6, 200 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
16
2.35.913.1%36.2%18.2%.50031.3%.36411.5%15.0%

Marble saw limited action in his rookie season, and that'll probably be the case again this year.  There's not a big enough sample size to really even judge what he did in year one.

SF: Mario Hezonja - 6'8, 205 - Rookie (2014-15 Liga ACB/Euroleague stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
3P%
FT%
54
5.8
2.0
1.2
45.7%
37.9%
76.7%

Hezonja is arguably the most intriguing prospect from the 2015 draft class.  He saw limited action for Barcelona in the ACB season, but you can see how talented he is when you watch him play.  The Magic have enough pieces on the wings to bring him along at the appropriate pace, but there's a chance he plays so well that it's tough to keep him off the floor.  A spot on one of the All-Rookie squads seems very possible if he gets enough playing time.

PF: Andrew Nicholson - 6'9, 250 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
40
4.9
10.3
20.8%
48.3%
31.7%
.216
60.0%
.132
9.4%
7.3%

Nicholson is going to have to show something good this year if he wants playing time in a crowded frontcourt.  The minutes just aren't there for him at PF with Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris and Channing Frye around.  If Nicholson can prove his worth, the Magic could shift some of Frye's minutes to C, but it seems more like he'll ride the bench for the majority of the year.

PF: Channing Frye - 6'11, 250 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
75
7.3
9.5
14.1%
54.6%
39.3%
.710
88.6%
.072
8.9%
7.4%

Frye didn't have a banner year in 2014-15, but his outside shooting is still viable.  Nonetheless, he needs to rebound the ball better and cut down on the turnovers.

C: Jason Smith - 7'0, 240 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
82
8.0
12.0
19.7%
49.7%
10.5%
6.2%
15.0%
83.0%
.258
0.9

Smith is the de facto replacement for the loss of Kyle O'Quinn.  He doesn't offer the shot blocking or the outside shooting that O'Quinn offered, and I think Orlando is going to be disappointed with their replacement.

C: Dewayne Dedmon - 7'0, 255 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
59
3.7
13.3
13.0%
56.8%
19.7%
15.5%
24.1%
53.1%
.395
2.1

Dedmon should see more playing time this year with Kyle O'Quinn out of the picture.  He's the only C option on the roster who can protect the rim.  He's not an ideal option on the offensive end, but he's not a complete black hole either.  He's an okay backup.

Outlook

The young core has another season under its belt and Scott Skiles figures to be an upgrade on Jacque Vaughn, which suggests that the Magic should improve this season.  However, gains in the win column will probably be limited by a bench with some question marks and the overall youth of the roster.  Regardless, the presence of Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton will make the Magic one of the league's more exciting teams to watch.  Excitement doesn't always mean wins though.  I think the Magic are still a year away from playoff contention, and that a modest improvement to 28 wins is in the works.

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