What To Make of the Orlando Magic
After reaching the NBA Finals in 2009, the Orlando Magic made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010 then lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the following two years. Over the five seasons since then, coincidentally or not following the departure of Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard, the Magic have not the made the playoffs and have won fewer than 30 games four times.
General manager Rob Hennigan finally paid the price with his job after last season, as Orlando finished the worst stretch in franchise history with a 132-278 record during his tenure. Former Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond was hired to replace Hennigan, and his recent track record with that Bucks’ franchise offers some hope.
Over those last five seasons, the Magic have been in an odd middle ground. Never bad enough to get the bounty of lottery ping pong balls required to get the No. 1 pick, and not nearly good enough to make the playoffs. They have had three top-five picks over that time, most notably Victor Oladipo (No. 2 in 2013) and Aaron Gordon (No. 4 in 2014), but Oladipo was traded last offseason and was traded again this offseason. 2016’s first round pick, No. 11 overall Domantas Sabonis, was immediately sent to Oklahoma City with Oladipo for Serge Ibaka as Hennigan tried to add a veteran piece.
Oh, and 2015 No. 5 overall pick Mario Hezonja? He averaged 4.9 points per game and made a shade under 30 percent of his three pointers last season.
From the four drafts prior to 2017, only Gordon is left as any real difference maker going forward for the Magic. Hezonja still represents some level of hope and potential, but his role for this coming season has been minimized by the signing of Jonathan Simmons.
In any sport, there’s nothing worse than being where the Magic have been in recent years. We can criticize the Philadelphia 76ers’ “Process” all we want, but the plan was clear and now it’s set to bear some fruit if everyone can stay healthy. Orlando hasn’t had a consistent plan over the last handful of years, or arguably any real plan at all, so that’s Hammond’s first task as the new general manager. Based on what we’ve seen this summer, the foundation for the Magic will be built around youth with lower level moves in free agency. Hammond won’t be dishing out any inflated contracts like Bismack Biyombo got from Orlando in 2016, which has him due to make $17 million in each of the next two seasons with a matching player option for 2019-20.