NBA Preview: Orlando Magic

With the second team in the Southeast Division, and the second team in Florida, I will be talking about the Orlando Magic.  The Magic once looked like they had a plan, they had a team building that was led by G Victor Oladipo, C Nikola Vucevic and SF Tobias Harris, with young guys who fit perfectly to surround them.  Now, Oladipo and Harris are gone, Serge Ibaka is in, and C Bismack Biyombo is in line to become the richest backup big man in NBA history.  The Magic still have young talent, have a good coach in Frank Vogel, but I just don't know what is going on in Orlando.  Ibaka is set to become a free agent after the season, and should this season not go smoothly, I don't see him sticking around.  The Dwight-mare continues.

ADDITIONS: Serge Ibaka (trade-Oklahoma City), SG Jodie Meeks (trade-Detroit), G/F CJ Wilcox (trade-Los Angeles Clippers), C Bismack Biyombo (Toronto), F Jeff Green (Los Angeles Clippers), PG DJ Augustin (Denver), PF Cliff Alexander (Portland), SF Damjan Rudez (Minnesota), F Branden Dawson (Los Angeles Clippers), C Stephen Zimmerman (draft)

SUBTRACTIONS: G Victor Oladipo (trade-Oklahoma City), PF Ersan Ilyasova (trade-Oklahoma City), PG Brandon Jennings (New York), PF Andrew Nicholson (Washington), F/C Jason Smith (Washington), C DeWayne Dedmon (San Antonio)

RE-SIGNED: SG Evan Fournier

Like I said, Orlando seemed to be going on the right path, then for some reason did an absolute overhaul.  At this point, Orlando appears to be very big man oriented, and also have good point guard depth.  However, wing depth is almost non-existent now, with natural power forwards Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green looking to take the majority of minutes at the three.  The trades for Jodie Meeks and CJ Wilcox seem to be redundant as well, and Bismack Biyombo probably won't end up starting as long as Nikola Vucevic remains on the roster.  DJ Augustin is an expensive third point guard, and Stephen Zimmerman is their rookie but likely won't receive many minutes up front.  But it should all be fixed with Frank Vogel at the helm, right?

PLAYER TO WATCH: I really don't know who to watch here, there are so many weird parts put together.  Second year G/F Mario Hezonja is likely to have a bigger role this year, as is the recently re-signed Evan Fournier.  Serge Ibaka is the biggest name on this roster, and he goes from third best player to best this season after being traded from Oklahoma City.  Nikola Vucevic has a really expensive backup, so he will likely feel pressure as well.  Vice versa for Bismack Biyombo.  Jeff Green needs to show he actually has a role on this team.  I think, however, the spotlight is on two third year pros, F Aaron Gordon and PG Elfrid Payton.  Both of these players are crucial to the magic of the Magic if they want to make the playoffs, and they both need to have (modest) breakout seasons.  Elfrid Payton is a nice guard (except whatever that is on his head, it's not hair) and Aaron Gordon's minutes should go up now.  It's up to them to produce.

BIGGEST CONCERN: I think it is the hierarchy of this roster.  Ibaka's the biggest name and the guy they gave up Victor Oladipo for, Vucevic was their best player last year, Evan Fournier and Bismack Biyombo just brought in huge contracts and are coming off breakout seasons, and Elfrid Payton is the point guard of the future.  I think the hierarchy should go Vucevic, Ibaka, Fournier, and then down from there, but who knows if the Magic see it that way.  This was Vucevic's team, and despite trade rumors, he had a better season than Ibaka last year.  

BIGGEST UNKNOWN: Why is Jeff Green here?  Just kidding.  I'll go with how big of a role will Mario Hezonja play.  Is he going to be in a sixth man role this year with Oladipo and Harris gone, or is he going to continue his slow acclimation to the NBA and leave that role to Jeff Green or Jodie Meeks?  The Magic drafted Hezonja high, and I think they should try turning to him before Meeks, as everybody knows exactly what Jodie Meeks will do, and Hezonja has more upside.  You made all of these weird moves for a reason, so go with the youngster and if it doesn't work out, you have depth I guess.

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: C Nikola Vucevic, PF Serge Ibaka, SF Aaron Gordon, SG Evan Fournier, PG Elfrid Payton

ROTATIONAL PIECES: F Jeff Green, C Bismack Biyombo, PG CJ Watson, G/F Mario Hezonja, PG DJ Augustin, SG Jodie Meeks

ROUNDING OUT THE ROSTER: SG CJ Wilcox, PF Cliff Alexander, SF Damjan Rudez, C Stephen Zimmerman

PREDICTION: I don't know, but I think they are going to be on the wrong side of 40 wins again this season.  It's just such a weird roster here.  Then again, I wouldn't be surprised at all if all of these moves worked out for the best, and they made the playoffs.  Hey, Frank Vogel is coaching, right?  So they must be a good team by default.  But really, the ten seed and 36 wins is way more likely.