TRUST THE PROCESS
The Orlando Magic made some noise this offseason as they made a couple of the biggest moves in free agency this summer. They hired perhaps the most sought after jobless coach, Frank Vogel, in May and a month later he helped make the decision to trade their former lottery pick, Victor Oladipo, to OKC for Serge Ibaka. The consensus instant reaction seemed to be….”What in the world are they doing!?” Oladipo, though inconsistent, has the ability to become an all-star caliber player in this league some day and he easily had the most potential of anyone on the roster. So trading him away for a defensive player who is coming off career lows in rebounds, and blocks since he became a starter in 2010, is at the very least a head scratcher.
Ibaka was known for being a great rim protector but this past season he didn’t have nearly the impact that he had in previous years. In 2011-12 Ibaka averaged 3.7 blocks per game and last season he was down to 1.9. His rebounds took a dip as well as he has averaged one less rebound per season since 2013, going from 8.8 per game down to 6.8 per game. The emergence of Steven Adams and the offensive schemes Billy Donovan has implemented may answer the questions as to why those numbers have dropped, but it’s still concerning considering the circumstance.
Who knows, maybe Ibaka needed a change of scenery and has a career year. After all the Magic have been in need of a power forward since Ryan Anderson left in 2012 and you could argue that even then they needed one. Ibaka is definitely an upgrade from what the roster has at the four, so we will chalk it up as a win as far as position need is concerned.
The Magic also went out in free agency and gave big man Bismack Biyombo a big pay day. Biyombo became a hot name after his impressive performances in the playoffs this past season. Though he only started 22 games for the Raptors in 2015-16, he made his impact felt as he averaged 8 rebounds per game while averaging just 22 minutes. Per 36, Biyombo was good for 10th in the NBA at 13 rebounds per game. The aggression that both Ibaka and Biyombo play with will be a complete change of pace for a Magic team that has lacked toughness in the paint for a long time.
But what about the hole left at by Oladipo’s departure? Well, there really isn’t one, and maybe therein lies the reasoning behind the now not so questionable decision. Evan Fournier is coming off a career year with the Magic that saw him score 15.4 points per game, shooting 40% from three and nearly 55% from the field. He without a doubt will be the starting shooting guard going into the 2016-17 season. The point guard position is set as well as Elfrid Payton has proven to be one of the better young point guards in the NBA. His offensive game needs improvement but his jump from year one to year two was significant and there’s no reason to believe he can’t make another big leap this season.
If you add in the acquisitions of DJ Augustin, and Jeff Green to help out the young playmakers Payton and second-year small forward Mario Hezonja, this team's depth is much improved from a year ago.
Overall, the roster will look a lot different next season, but that could end up being a good thing. Though nobody should expect this team to make a run at the Eastern Conference title, there’s no reason to believe Orlando can’t fight for a lower seed in the playoffs. Fans should be excited about the potential edge the newcomers will bring and can expect big improvements on the defensive side of the ball.