Since the departure of All-Star center Dwight Howard three seasons ago, the Orlando Magic have been on a rebuilding project. They have gone mainly with young players getting a lot of playing time such as Victor Oladipo, their first round pick right after Howard left. Guys like Tobias Harris, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Evan Fournier have been taking their lumps while getting a lot of minutes.
Now, in the fourth year of this rebuilding project, the Magic start over at head coach with Scott Skiles. Skiles has been a winning head coach in his NBA career with the Suns, Bucks, and Bulls and he was a crowd favorite as a player in the early days of the Magic franchise. If he can get Orlando back into playoff contention this season, the fans will again get excited about this team.
Since the Magic have moved into their spacious new arena in Howard’s last season, the arena has been a quiet place on most nights. The team needs something to get the fans back focusing on the game and not all the cool stuff going on around the arena. In the old Orlando Arena, the Magic had a tremendous home court advantage. That place is very loud and the fans seemed to be right on top of the court. Of course, it helped that the Magic had a good team most of the time as well.
Skiles will have another good young prospect to work with this season in Mario Hezonja, their first round pick in this year’s draft. They got a look at him in the Summer League games in the Amway Center a few weeks ago. He showed some flashes in those games why he was such a high pick. He can take the ball to the rim and also hit the three pointer. Defense will be where he needs to get better.
Graphic via celticslife
In the past three seasons, injuries have crippled the team at times. They have seen Harris go down on several occasions for multiple games. Gordon has had his injury battles as well. Center Nikola Vucevic has missed a lot of games as well. It looks like they are not off to a good start this year either as Gordon has already broken his jaw this week while horsing around with his brother. Broken jaws normally result in weight loss which takes a while to get the player’s strength back.
The Magic did add veteran C. J. Watson who had a career high 208 assists last season while playing for the Pacers. With the addition also of Jason Smith who had his career high of 656 points while playing for the Knicks last year, the Magic roster is as deep as it has been in a while. They have also added another point guard in Keith Appling to go along with Payton and Watson.
The Magic finished 25-57 a season ago. That is a two-game improvement over the previous season when they were 23-59, which followed up their 20-62 record in the first post-Howard era.
A two or three game improvement this season will likely not be enough to satisfy the fan base. The team has upgraded the roster and brought in a proven coach. If they don’t get close to the playoffs this season it will be a big disappointment. To do that, they must avoid that dreaded injury bug.
Oladipo has All-Star talent. When Gordon and Tobias are healthy they are very good. If Hezonja plays as well as many think he can, this team should contend in the weak Eastern Conference in 2015-16.
Graphic via bleacherreport