In the new NBA season, the Orlando Magic probably can’t expect to make the playoffs, given how poor they were last season. However, this team can certainly make progress and take a big step forward.
The Magic have two bright and very skilled players, Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo. Vucevic is a very agile and savvy big man who has a fluid European game and can operate from many spots on the floor. Vucevic, who averaged roughly 14 points and 11 rebounds last season, did what he did for a team on which he didn’t receive much help. If he had more support around him, imagine how many additional looks at the basket he could get without defenses keying on him. He’s a fine player who will continue to make his share of big baskets. He’ll keep Orlando afloat at various points in the season.
The other quality player on this roster is Victor Oladipo, the energetic, two-way player out of Indiana who averaged 13 points, four assists, and four rebounds in his rookie season. Oladipo is an excellent and versatile defender who is extremely active and has a long wingspan, making him good at double-teaming and providing helpside defense. Oladipo isn’t a muscle man, but he is not weak. He’ll stand up to punishment on defense while also being able to take his man on the wing. With Vucevic and Oladipo in the fold, Orlando has a foundation from which it can build.
The Magic have no real shortage of weaknesses. First of all, Jameer Nelson, such a cornerstone of the franchise and the point guard who led the team to the 2009 NBA Finals, when it lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, is no longer with the team. That’s a big blow, partly because the presence of Nelson on the court could have been such a boost for Oladipo and Vucevic. This team is going to be stitched together at point guard by Luke Ridnour, a journeyman player, new NBA draft pick Elfrid Payton, and backup E’Twaun Moore. None of those guys look like immediate answers to the Magic’s problems. That’s going to bottle up this team’s halfcourt offense and cause all sorts of problems during the season.
When you move past the point guard position, the shooting guard spot is held down by Oladipo and has a solid backup in Evan Fournier, formerly of the Denver Nuggets. Small forward is extremely thin, with Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, and Anthony Randolph trying to provide some scoring production. Vucevic is a good center, but who will play power forward? New draftee Aaron Gordon is the man the Magic hope will develop into a good one, but he might be a multi-year project before he really comes into his own and learns to adjust to the pace of the NBA game. Channing Frye will get some work at the power forward spot, but he’s not much of a low-post guy. He’s better as a stretch four who can shoot threes.
The Magic finished 15 games behind the eighth team in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. If they can cut that gap in half, more or less, they’d have a good season. When making your NBA picks keep in mind it’s hard to expect anything more than 30 wins out of a team that won only 23 last year with a fairly similar roster. Let's review the NBA odds for the Magic.
Odds To Win Division: 66/1
Odds To Win Conference: 150/1
Regular Season Win Total: 27.5
NBA Prediction: Last In Southeast Division