Magic New Faces: Mohamed Bomba (R), Justin Jackson (R), Isaiah Briscoe (R), Jarrell Martin, Timofey Mozgov, Jerian Grant, Melvin Frazier (5)
Magic 2017-18 Weaknesses: 28th: 3-Point Percentage. 26th: Total Rebounding. 25th: Offensive Rebounding, Offensive Rating. 24th: Defensive Rebounding. Points Scored. 24th: Opponents Points. 20th: Steals, Field Goal Percentage (Defense).
Magic 2017-18 Achievements: 8th: 3-Point Attempts.
Leading Scorer: Evan Fournier, 17.8 points
Best Defensive Rating: Nikola Vucevic, 106
Keep your champagne on ice and your pom-poms in the closet. There wasn’t much to celebrate about the Magic last year as they were abysmal in offensive rebounds (25th), total rebounds (26th), field goal percentage defense (20th). They hovered middle of the pack in 3-point defense (14th), 2-point defense (17th), field goal percentage (19th). They didn’t do anything well. Or very good. Average or worse was the Magic’s 2017-18 banner.
With that as evidence, the Magic front office decided what they needed to do was overpay Aaron Gordon in the same manner they overpaid Bismack Biyombo who has been a bust. Gordon had his best year last season but his $21 million dollar salary this season is the result of someone not looking at the checkbook and bottom line. Gordon doesn’t have an All-Star’s versatile game, he doesn’t lead, he was ranked the 21st best power forward (Real Plus-Minus) and yet he is being paid as if he is the 7th best power forward. The Magic will never get a return on his massive $80 million dollar deal, though his salary descends each year of the contract. The Magic hope the $1 million in incentives will push Gordon into a 20-10 player but that is optimistic considering what Gordon has shown us.
The Magic’s major problem besides not having fiscal discipline is that they need to get rid of their best trade asset: Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is a nice player but he isn’t explosive and can’t guard elite big men. Frankly, he and Gordon do the same thing. If the Magic is all in on Aaron Gordon they need to cut Vucevic loose and get a defensive athlete who can rebound. They will be a continual lottery team not being able to rebound on both ends of the floor.
But they are hoping rookie Mohamed Bomba gives them the elite athleticism and explosion they are so badly missing. He may. He’s a rookie though. Jonathan Issac only played 27 games last year and couldn’t make 40% of his shots so proceed with caution with rookie expectations.
A bad contract several years ago, Evan Fournier was slotted into the face of the franchise box by virtue of his free agent contract but he doesn’t have star game. He can make threes but shot 16% from midrange last year. He’s easy to defend and he can’t lead either. He was never able to raise his game to another level. He has never posted a 20 ppg season. Or a 19 ppg season. Or a 18 ppg season. There are too many players on the Magic like Evan Fournier, who don’t have elite offensive skills. They are either good enough scorers or just not very good putting the ball in the hole.
The Magic averaged 103.4 points last season, an increase of 2.3 from the year before. There has been improvement. You no longer ask yourself which is worse, Magic games or a root canal.
The Magic used to be the 76ers south, until the Sixers won 50 games last year. They are a young team trying to develop their core. Since they traded Dwight Howard without a plan other than to go young, their only recourse was to invest in talent. Sounds good in year one and year two but Howard has been gone for seven seasons and the Magic have not made the playoffs. A lot has changed about the Magic. Their three best players are Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Nic Vucevic.
The Magic are no longer in a killer conference. The Miami Heat are in rebuild mode. The Washington Wizards are in a perpetual John Wall/Bradely Beal confusion. The Atlanta Hawks are focused on Zion Williamson. Charlotte has a bunch of bad contracts and will be back in the lottery after they trade Kemba at the deadline. And the Magic are still at the back of the class. Their fans perpetually waiting for something to celebrate.