The Magic, Jazz and 76ers are the three best examples of teams currently building through the draft and the Magic may actually be the best example of the lot. After all, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja and Aaron Gordon are all top 10 picks that will be part of the long term and short term future for Orlando. They replaced Jacque Vaughn with Scott Skiles this offseason, a coach who took Chicago from a .288 team to .573 in one season and took Milwaukee from 26 to 34 wins in his first season. He is a man who immediately gets his teams into shape, playing hard defence and winning basketball games and as such, it would not surprise me if Orlando were a dark-horse playoff contender this season. Skiles will quickly mature these kids and it will be extremely interesting to see the confident Mario Hezonja butt heads with Skiles at multiple points throughout the season I’m sure.
This Magic team does have a lot of promise, with freak athletes left, right and centre and as such, this team should be able to run and jump all over the gym and leave opposition teams in its wake early in the season. Nikola Vucevic is already one of the top five Centres in the league offensively and will only improve on both ends of the floor and Tobias Harris has the potential to be a poor mans Carmelo Anthony. Throw in a floor spacer like Channing Frye to give the Magic a different look and Aaron Gordon and the frontcourt looks solid. Gordon in particular must improve if the Magic are going to compete for a playoff spot and in the Summer League it looked as if he’d been working on his game over the offseason, showcasing a better handle and a markedly improved outside shot.
Turning to the backcourt and the Magic have Payton and Oladipo starting in one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA. However, neither of these two are good shooters of the basketball (don’t try to tell me Oladipo is when he shot 34% on shots beyond 16ft last season) and this will cause spacing issues for the Magic, especially without a floor spacing Small Forward. To compound this issue, Scott Skiles is not known for being an offensive mastermind and may find it difficult to solve the Magic’s spacing issues. One option is to turn to the extremely exciting Mario Hezonja, the 5th pick in last seasons draft who happens to be able to do everything on the offensive end of the court. If Hezonja can turn out to be closer to Kobe than JR Smith then the Magic may just have stumbled upon the biggest steal in the draft. Overall, the model has them winning 25 games, but I believe that adding a decent coach to this mix of athletic, young talent will see the Magic hovering closer to 30-35 wins this season.
Projected Wins: 25-57
My Predicted Wins: 30-35
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