NBA Season Preview: Orlando Magic


Projected record: 27-55, 13th in East


Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Roy Devyn Marble
Orlando Magic draftees Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Roy Marble. (AP)

Head coach: Jacque Vaughn
2013-14 record: 23-59
2013-14 ORtg: 99.3 (29th)
2013-14 DRtg: 104.9 (T-17th)
Players in: Seth Curry, Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Ben Gordon, Willie Green, Roy Marble, Elfrid Payton, Luke Ridnour, Peyton Siva
Players out: Arron Afflalo, Doron Lamb, Jason Maxiell, E’Twaun Moore, Jameer Nelson, Ronnie Price, rights to Milovan Rakovic
Projected Starting Lineup: Luke Ridnour, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Channing Frye, Nikola Vucevic

Some existential questions will plague mankind so long as we have conscious thought. Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe? What are the secret powers of sriracha sauce? And: four years and $32 million for Channing Frye?

The toughest part? That Frye contract wasn’t even their most head-scratching move of the offseason. That dubious honor goes to the 2 year contract worth $9 million GM Rob Hennigan gave to Ben Gordon.

Frye, at least, makes some sense; that contract’s not really that bad, and his ability to spread the floor has value around Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic, as well as two top-10 draftees in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Ideally, Gordon was signed to provide off-the-bench shooting, even though in his past five seasons in Detroit and Charlotte, Swaggy B never really proved effective in that role. Like, at all.

Elsewhere in the ‘what the hell are the Magic doing’? stakes: in drafting Aaron Gordon at #4 overall, they added to their four other guys who hover around the 6’7″-6′-9″ mark and project in the two forward spots. With an existing forward quartet of Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Maxiell, adding both Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier equals more head-scratching than a watching a Terry Gilliam movie while dealing with lice.

You can see a semblance of design. Frye solidifies their big man rotation with Vucevic, Maxiell, and Kyle O’Quinn. By trading the rights to Dario Saric for Payton, dumping Arron Afflalo back to the Nuggets, and cutting Jameer Nelson, the Magic are concentrating on building up three key facets of their game: speed, athleticism and defense. Then, surround those athletes with shooters.

their young core of Payton, Oladipo and Aaron Gordon is super-athletic, but the flipside is that they’ll be relying on Frye, Harris, and Vucevic to provide the bulk of their offense behind Oladipo, whose development is crucial to their success.

If Ridnour can provide a steady guiding hand for Payton, and if Vaughn proves he can coach (still a big question mark), their combination of hounding perimeter defense and speed will take a lot of teams by surprise. That’s what the Magic need to focus on right for now: be fast and scarier than a period drama staring Channing Tatum on defense, and hope it coalesces from there.

Best-case? Frye’s spacing proves invaluable, and it all magically (*cough*) comes together and Orlando push for a late playoff seed.

Worst-case? Their season is full of Oladipo, Harris Gordon, Payton driving to the basket… and into four bodies en route to yet another lottery seeding.