2015/16 Record: 35-47 (11th in Eastern Conference)
|Serge Ibaka||TR – Thunder|
|Bismack Biyombo||FA – 4 Years / $72 Mil|
|Jeff Green||FA – 1 Year / $15 Mil|
|Jodie Meeks||TR – Pistons|
|DJ Augustin||FA – 4 Years / $29 Mil|
|Cliff Alexander||FA – 1 Year / $874k|
|Branden Dawson||FA – 1 Year / $874k|
|Arinze Onuaku||FA – 1 Year / $980k|
|Damjan Rudez||FA – 1 Year / $980k|
|Kevin Murphy||FA – 1 Year / $874k|
|Nick Johnson||FA – 1 Year / $874k|
|Stephen Zimmerman Jr||DR – Pick #41|
|Ersan Ilyasova||TR – Thunder|
|Brandon Jennings||FA – Knicks|
|Shabazz Napier||TR – Blazers|
|Andrew Nicholson||FA – Wizards|
|Victor Oladipo||TR – Thunder|
|Tobias Harris||TR – Pistons|
|Jason Smith||FA – Wizards|
|Channing Frye||WA – Cavaliers|
|Dewayne Dedmon||FA – Spurs|
Off Season Analysis:
OK, Orlando, do we know what the plan is? Do we know who you are?
Ever since Dwight asked for a trade, then decided against it, then decided Stan should be fired, then asked for a trade, the Magic have been searching for an identity. They were supposed to get it from Jacque Vaughn, who at the time was lauded as a great hire coming from the tree of Pop. Fast forward 4 years, 6 lottery picks and (now) 3 head coaches, the Magic are still trying to figure out what sort of team they have, what their identity will be. Rebuilding in the NBA is hard.
However, the Magic might be finally onto something. Scoring Frank Vogel after his somewhat surprising departure from Indiana was the sort of Magic (see what I did there?) Orlando desperately needed to make people players and fans excited for the future. He comes with experience in developing young teams, young players and is known for his high work ethic, excellent defence, average offence and unrelenting positivity.
His personality and profile might be the only no brainer in a bizarre summer where they shipped out former #2 pick and rapidly developing Victor Oladipo, this year’s #11 pick (and son of a Legend) Domantas Sabonis, and the remnants of Ersan Ilyasova for a possible Serge Ibaka rental. Once that was done they decided they needed another starting level Centre because, well, who knows why. Enter Bismack Biyombo: elite rebounder, good defender, paint finisher. Finally, when they realised they would need a back up 4/3, they landed on Jeff Green. For $15 million dollars. Did you know Doc Rivers decided against trying to re-sign Green? Did you know that Tobias Harris makes $16 million per season?
For the most part, I feel like the Magic must have accidentally erased their memory of the current roster when making trade and signing decisions. Look at their acquisitions:
- Serge Ibaka – Where does Aaron Gordon fit?
Dikembe MutomboBismack Biyombo – Where does Nikola Vucevic fit?
- Jeff Green – Where does Aaron Gordon fit (again?)
- DJ Augustin – Where does CJ Watson fit?
- Jodie Meeks – Where does Mario Hezonja fit?
Now sure, it’s a bit of a stretch to say “what about Watson and Hezonja” with respect to Meeks and Augustin. Super Mario is not going to be bounced from the rotation, and you can never have enough shooting. But when was Meeks last healthy? Could they not have taken a run at pinching someone like Ben McLemore? PG depth is fine, but you’re spending roughly $12mil combined on Augustin and Watson, when someone like Tim Frazier costs $2 million per.
The team also splashed out serious money on Evan Fournier, who is now the highest paid player on the team. Orlando basically chose Fournier over Oladipo, even though they had very similar per 36 numbers:
It comes down to Offensive Efficiency vs Defensive ability. Orlando took a bet that Fournier’s value on offence will outweigh Oladipo’s ability on defence, especially with a rim protector like Ibaka in the fold. The cost for Fournier will likely be much lower than ‘Dipo once he enters RFA. Would you prefer to pay $17mil per year for offence or $25mil per year for D? The value is there, as long as Fournier continues to grow his playmaking ability and can improve to middling on the other side of the court.
Fournier vs Oladipo can be justified, but the front court rotation is less clear. Serge is a clear upgrade and offers shooting from the 4 spot and elite rim protection. Although when you look at the numbers he had a down year:
Whether or not he is actually 27 or 31 doesn’t matter (for this season anyway). He looks like an ideal fit next to Vooch as someone that can spot up around the PNR, dive hard as a roll man, or play pick and pop while Vucevic seals low for high-lows or putbacks. Not to mention Ibaka’s ability on defence should help to cover Vooch’s lack of athleticism.
Orlando will be looking for Ibaka to take on an expanded role on offence, but it’s not clear if he is either capable of this or going to have the right teammates surrounding him to maximize his abilities. Pairing him with a non shooter like Payton means teams will likely respect his shooting more than Payton’s drives. Put him in action with Hezonja, Gordon or Fournier and teams should be able to switch without fear of being hurt in the post. Unless there is a whole side to Ibaka’s game that we haven’t seen with the Thunder, I would say it is unlikely he is capable of being a 20ppg scorer. And that is a problem, since he is going to be expecting to be paid like a foundational piece next summer.
Biyombo also pairs well with both Ibaka and Gordon. Biz elevated himself as an elite rebounder and scary defender. He has good lateral quickness, and he improved his ability to defend without fouling. More importantly, he was able to catch the ball as the roll man on ball screens. This meant he became a viable threat when diving to the ring, averaging 1.18ppp as the roll man.
With Ibaka holding down the 4 spot and Vooch and Biyombo soaking up the minutes at the 5 (not to mention Stephen Zimmerman, who looked good in Summer League), this puts a squeeze on Gordon. Vogel is bullish on Gordon at the 3, but his handle and J need to show vast improvement for him to be functional in that role. Orlando basically picked Aaron Gordon to be the team’s starting 3 man over Tobias Harris, who was traded at the deadline for Jennings and Ilyasova. Gordon showed some serious improvement in year 2, but the majority of that came playing at the 4; a position he will see few minutes at.
Harris currently does “3-man things” better than Gordon does, and would make much more sense in that role on a win now team. If it works out for Gordon (which it could, he is very talented), it will surely cost Orlando much more to retain him in RFA than Harris’ team friendly contract of $16 million per year.
If Gordon can’t be the starting Small Forward, then he is stuck behind Ibaka at the 4, and battling with Jeff Freaking Green for minutes. Not only that, Green will potentially take away crucial minutes from Hezonja, which could stymie his development. If Hezonja and Gordon aren’t ready to bear the load on the wing then Green becomes an important part of the rotation. Someone ask Doc Rivers or Dave Joerger how relying on Jeff Green worked out for them.
On defence, Biz is a clear upgrade on Vooch. His defence at the basket compared to expected conversion was top 5 in the league (min 50 games):
Based on overall offensive ability, Vooch shows much more versatility and skill. And isn’t the point of getting Ibaka his ability to cover for Vucevic’s defensive deficiencies? Biyombo-Ibaka-Gordon could form a defensive monster, but add Elfrid Payton to that combo and it’s bye-bye spacing on offence.
Ibaka really should get a look at the 5 in smaller units with Gordon/Green at the 4 and Hezonja at the 3. Anything to open more lanes for Fournier and Payton to get to the rim or find the roll man out of the Pick & Roll. Orlando ranked 2nd in the league in roll men frequency, but were middle of the road in ppp and efg.
Put Payton in 1-5 pick-and-roll action with Ibaka spacing the court at the 4 spot, with 2 of Hezonja/Fournier/Meeks on the floor and you have the makings of an efficient offence. You can achieve the same with Fournier running 2-5 ball screens with Augustin at the 1 to space. These allignments should help a team that really struggled with ball handlers scoring, ranking in the bottom 4 in points per possession and effective FG%. Using Gordon at the 3 makes this hard unless paired with Vooch and Augustin to create more space, and that is horrible for your defence.
Vogel has made it work with tight spacing before by relying on an elite defence. However, Orlando doesn’t have Paul George to bail them out on offence when things bog down. The NBA in general is getting smarter about defending non-shooters too. Every year spacing becomes more and more important.
This Orlando roster has seen lots of personnel changes, and the concept of a defence first roster is there. But they traded away their best perimeter defender, and the line up combinations don’t quite fit yet. Vucevic is on a very friendly contract…more change feels inevitable. If no trades materialise, the Magic need Payton and Gordon to make big jumps on offence and Hezonja and Fournier to improve on D.
If they don’t, this team looks just good enough to snag a low lottery pick and then faces a very expensive summer. GM Rob Hennigan needs to have a couple more tricks up his sleeve.
2016/17 Prediction: 38-44
League Pass Meter: 5.5/10.
Not much in the way of star power, and the likelihood of Gordon doing something spectacular is somewhat diminished by playing more on the wing. Unless Vogel goes 5 out with Ibaka at he 5 for long stretches, this is just for the die-hards.
* Salary likely guarantees 10th Jan 2017
Salary Cap Situation:
2016/17 salaries: $104,824,360
2017/18 salaries: $54,500,000
Max room: $47.5mil
Min room: $27.4mil
2017 2nd (Kings, protected 31-55)
2019 1st (Lakers, if LAL 2017 1st conveyed to 76ers)
2019 2nd (Cavaliers, Blazers or Rockets – Most favourable)
Can Ibaka become a consistent 2nd option on offence?
Will Gordon flourish at the 3?
Can Payton improve his shooting?
How does Vogel juggle minutes at the 4/5 spot?
Will Vucevic be on the roster for the whole season?