Beginning the season six wins and seven losses, the Orlando Magic have already found themselves clawing to reach postseason-contention, once again.
After missing the playoffs the last three seasons, Orlando made some very considerable moves in this year’s offseason.
- Hired new Head Coach Frank Vogel.
- Traded-away Guard Victor Oladipo in return for Big-Man Serge Ibaka.
- Extended Free-Agent Guard Evan Fournier to a multi-year contract.
- Brought in Free-Agent Paint Protector Bismack Biyombo.
None can deny going forward — that these are the kinds of transactions you make when you are developing a winning-team. The Magic haven’t been terrible — in comparison to other Easteern Conference rivals, but they’ve had more than a few games of total disappearances between quarters.
After dropping their first three games of the season (Miami, Washington, and Cleveland), the Magic picked it up after three-consecutive wins. Shortly after, Orlando fell back on a three-game slide, and have went 3-1 since.
So if you’ve been watching, it’s been quite a roller-coaster ride for this team. They’ve ranked in the bottom-half of the league in plenty of their team statistics.
Second-to-last in Points Per Game (92.5)
- 28th in Offensive Rating (98.7)
- Second-to-last in Field-Goal Percentage (41%)
- League-worst in Steals Per Game (5.7)
- 22nd in Assists Per Game (20.5)
- 27th in Free-Throw Percentage (.740)
- 26th in Pace (93.7)
- League-worst in Effective Field-Goal Percentage (49.3%)
It just doesn’t come easy in Orlando, especially from the offensive-end. However, the more surprising issue of their team efforts, has been their defensive identity.
The Magic haven’t been horrible on defense — as they’re in the upper-half in Defensive Rating, and are also top-ten in Shot-Blocking. They’re 16th in Opponent Field-Goal Perentage, so there’s always room for improvement. I believe what Frank Vogel hasn’t done much of — is permute a consistent and lineup for this Magic-squad. But what’s different with his time with Indiana to now, he always had either a long-wingspan versatile defender like Paul George, or a 7’2″ size presence like Roy Hibbert. Frank’s built great defensive teams with those parts.
Being a different story in Orlando, sacrifices should (and most definitely will) be made soon. But if I was in Vogel’s chair, this is who I’d go with to begin any game — moving forward:
PG: ELFRID PAYTON
SG: EVAN FOURNIER
SF: AARON GORDON
PF: SERGE IBAKA
C: BISMACK BIYOMBO
Now this move obviously sends Nikola Vucevic to the bench, which I believe is best for him. Vucevic hasn’t been consistent nor as aggressive as he should be offensively, and it’s bad enough that his rim-protection and overall-value as a defender has always been questioned. I don’t see much of a reason to bring him off the bench, letting him run with a young second unit of C.J Watson, DJ Augustin, Mario Hezonja, and Jeff Green (!!!). Vooch wouldn’t have too much of a problem against most of the league’s second-unit Centers.
But referring back to the recommended five of Payton, Fournier, Gordon, Ibaka, and Biyombo — they’ve played 24:58 minutes together, with Net-advantages (Per-100 Possessions) of +12.5 in Total Points, +2.2 in Field-Goals Made, +17 in Field-Goals Attempted, and +.274 in Three-Point Percentage.
Vogel must simply give this lineup a chance. In such a short time, the impact was there from all-five positions. Not only do you have immediate rim-protection for when the game opens, and the opponent is at an attacking, sped-up pace, but there’s also more room to run on both ends. Biyombo made it clear in last year’s playoffs that he can start in the NBA, and I’m definitely seeing a great chance to do so here in Orlando.
As I’ve said earlier, the Magic shouldn’t be in “panic mode” right now, since their new pieces are still trying to fit. But nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with just trying something different.
This only driects me back to an important statement Vogel hinted at via fansided.com
“The roster here was very, very attractive to me,” he said. “I really see a lot of similarities to this team that I saw with the team that we took over in Indiana. That team had Lance Stephenson, Paul George and Roy Hibbert and it was still trying to find its way to get over that hump, but it then became a monster in the East. I see that similarity there.”
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