Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
The one advantage that the Orlando Magic have on the rest of the teams in the bottom slots of our NBA pre-season ranks is that they are a full season ahead in the rebuilding process. Organizations like Philadelphia and Phoenix have just recently had front office changes that have correctly chosen to strip down their roster and payroll in order to build it back up and with the ultimate goal of creating a legitimate contender.
Orlando is one full season into the rabbit hole of rebuilding, and they’re well on their way to being a respectful club in the relatively near future. This ranking may very well end up being low, considering the dearth of horrible teams in the East, and depending on the growth in Orlando’s host of young talent. One of the most difficult things to project in the NBA is the growth and production that a team will receive from rookies headed into their second professional season.
The Magic will be giving large chunks of playing time to mostly rookies (Victor Oladipo) and second and third-year players like Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, E’Twaun Moore, Kyle O’Quinn, Andrew Nicholson, and Nik Vucevic. The only rotation players that have more than two prior seasons of NBA exerience are point guard Jameer Nelson, swingman Arron Afflalo, and forwards Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu.
While the Magic finished the 2012-13 season with the league’s worst record, it really didn’t feel like you were watching a train wreck in slow motion while, unlike some of the other teams with nearly as futile win-loss records. There is a clear plan in place in Orlando, and as long as a number of the young players pan out to some extent, Orlando should be challenging for a playoff spot in the near future.
In fact, Vucevic and Harris are already rotation-quality players that would have seen court time on pretty much every team in the NBA last season, and if one or both of them can take a step in the direction of stardom in 2013-14, it will only solidify the belief that the Magic are indeed on the right track.
Afflalo, on the other hand, took an obvious step backwards last season after coming over from the Denver Nuggets. In joining a young team with no clear offensive options early in the season, Afflalo’s usage rate jumped considerably, leading to a dip in efficiency and an increase in turnovers. It’s tough to blame it all on Afflalo, as he has never been a number one option on offense, and while he still would be a very nice fourth option and a solid starter on a contender, he still might be asked to do too much on this year’s edition of the Magic.
If the Magic increase their win total somewhere from 7-10 wins in the coming season, it will be seen as a productive season. Count me as someone who believes that this is absolutely a possibility in the Eastern Conference. I love the roster and the plan that general manager Rob Hennigan has in place. It just may not all come together at once, when the majority of the roster is anywhere from 21 to 24 years of age.
Best Case Scenario
Relative health and expected growth in the stable of young talent that Orlando possesses should bring about a jump in win total. If number two overall draft pick Oladipo surprises and proves to have a less-raw offensive game than everyone thinks he does, this squad could certainly push 30-33 wins.
Worst Case Scenario
If Oladipo struggles and Afflalo doesn’t return to the play he exhibited in his pre-Magic career, Orlando will be relying on the rebounding prowess and down-low banging of Vucevic and Harris. They would still improve, but probably sit around 23-26 wins.
Most Likely Outcome
As mentioned, I love what GM Hennigan and the Magic are doing. I think Oladipo will have considerable offensive issues in the NBA, especially not being able to play with a pass-first, fast-breaking point guard (Orlando says that they will play Oladipo at point guard, but I’m dubious). Jameer Nelson isn’t the best fit with Oladipo for now, and while he isn’t the long term solution at the point, I think it will only add to Oladipo’s learning curve.
I love Harris and Vucevic, and Harkless is a nice piece as well. I think the Magic will push the upper reaches of their best case scenario, and a jump a few spots up this ranking and a run at 30 wins wouldn’t surprise me. That said, I think I’ll stick in the 28-31 win range for the 2013-14 Magic.
Philadelphia 76ers (30)
|Orlando Magic (27)|
Utah Jazz (29)
Phoenix Suns (28)