Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be “scouting the enemy,” as we’ll be covering the outlook for the 29 other teams in the league ahead of the 2019-2020 season.
Former Grizzlies: none
The Orlando Magic made the playoffs for the first time since the Dwight Howard trade. Even though they lost to the Raptors in five games in the first round, the taste of the playoffs was enough to satisfy the fanbase.
Well, instead of just enjoying a drink of it, they took the whole damn bottle, taking in as much mediocrity as possible.
Nikola Vucevic had an phenomenal season last year, serving as the catalyst for this team’s playoff berth. Giving the 28-year old center a four-year, $100M deal just doesn’t make sense, considering the timeline of this team. They already have a young, promising center in Mo Bamba. In addition, Jonathan Issac and Aaron Gordon are both capable of taking small-ball 5 minutes.
They also brought back Terrence Ross, which isn’t a bad thing in a vacuum. He was a huge part of their bench. However, did they need a four-year, $54M contract to do that? Probably not a wise move.
They also signed Al-Farouq Aminu to a three-year, $28M deal. Again, not a bad player, but the positional overlap and his age in relation to the core’s timeline seems strange to me.
In the draft, they could’ve taken a player that could be an impact guy immediately — someone like Brandon Clarke, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, or Matisse Thybulle — but they took a player that tore his ACL at the end of the season.
The Orlando Magic weren’t going to do anything stellar this season, and in theory, they made good short-term moves. I just don’t think those short-term moves may be enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Can they hold off the Miami Heat — who missed the postseason last year but added a top-20 player in Jimmy Butler? Could they stay ahead of a team that could emerge out of nowhere like the Atlanta Hawks?
I don’t know.
Their season is hard to judge. They made some good moves to raise the team’s floor, but I don’t know how much it does to their ceiling. They’re counting on the growth of their young players to return to the posteason.
Can Aaron Gordon play like an All-Star over an 82-game season? Does Jonathan Issac take a Pascal Siakam-like leap this year? Can Mo Bamba stay healthy and give Vucevic great backup center minutes? Can Markelle Fultz become a decent, reliable point guard?
Those are all big questions for this team next year. Steve Clifford is a good enough coach to get them close to the postseason, and the veterans on this team could do the same. It’s all up to their young players though, who may or may not be ready for this task.