Of the 14 franchises who did not qualify for this season’s playoffs, the Orlando Magic must surely consider themselves as one of the top three young teams in the NBA, alongside the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.
The squad has an impressive core of young players who have shown glimpses of their full potential early in their NBA careers, as well a brand new coach heading into the summer, Frank Vogel.
Impressive new head coach in place at Orlando
Orlando will be Vogel’s second head coaching job as his contract was surprisingly not renewed by the Indiana Pacers in April after five-and-a-half successful years, and the Magic pounced swiftly to snap up one of the best young coaches in the league.
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This was a savvy move by Orlando who, having seen how Vogel was able to consistently get high quality performances from his side in Indiana, even with key players occasionally missing, will hope he can do the same in Florida.
Vogel’s decision was probably a simple one, as he knows there is a foundation already in place which should be solidified over the next couple of years, and the prospect of coaching players with the potential of Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Nik Vucevic, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja was surely an enticing one.
Although his points dropped slightly, many facets of Oladipo’s game saw at least slight improvement last season, and at this current point he is the most likely of the five to break out and become the star.
However, he was surpassed in popularity last season by Aaron Gordon who, particularly after his spectacular showing in the dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, took great leaps (pun intended) with his performance in the second half of the season.
Orlando will also hope that Croatian youngster Hezonja will have learnt from his first year of basketball in America and will be able to step up next year after spending much of the last campaign on the bench under previous head coach Scott Skiles. If Hezonja figures it out he certainly has the potential to be a star down the line and Vogel should ensure he works closely to with ‘Super Mario’ to get the most of his potential.
Who will the Magic draft?
Many decisions can change in the week of the draft, but at the moment there are many people around the NBA who expect the Magic to take Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere with the number 11 pick on Thursday night.
As Vogel’s squad is currently well-rounded, there would be little pressure on whoever Orlando take in their first season and taking someone like Labissiere, who by all accounts did not have the season he was expected to at Kentucky this past season, wouldn't be a tall ask.
If the Magic, as expected, add a couple of free agents to boost their squad, any rookie would be given valuable time to develop before being given solid playing time, instead of being thrust in at the deep end immediately.
Free Agents Orlando should pursue
Rajon Rondo – Point Guard
After his quick exit from Dallas, Rondo was able to find himself again last season with his time in Sacramento, even though he was rumoured to not have the best of relationships with coach George Karl.
Rondo could be of great use to the Magic squad as it would allow current point-guard Payton to learn from one of the best in recent years, who also has a championship ring from his time in Boston, and improve under his tutelage.
If Rondo opts to sign with another franchise, another option at point guard would be Norris Cole, who could also provide title-winning experience to the squad, although he would more likely as Payton’s backup.
Nic Batum/Luol Deng – Small Forward
Batum and Deng are both available this summer and come off the back of impressive seasons with Charlotte and Miami respectively. Batum would be a statement signing, however many teams are likely to chase him, including the Golden State Warriors.
Deng would provide a good all-around game and defensive ability, as well as one of the best work-rates in the NBA and, after playing impressively at power forward after Chris Bosh went down earlier in the season, has shown his ability is adaptable.
With the pieces currently in place Orlando should certainly be aiming to break their four-year absence from the playoffs next season, and with Vogel at the helm the future of the Magic is heading in the right direction.