The Orlando Magic have been in a state of purgatory over the last five seasons, failing to reach the playoffs with almost an identical record in each term.
In the 2015-16 season they made a slight improvement, but were still off the pace for the post-season in the Eastern Conference, winning only 35 of their 82 contests.
Head coach Scott Skiles resigned at the end of the campaign, claiming that he was not the right man to take the franchise forward.
Frank Vogel took his place on the sideline for the 2016-17 campaign, while the club made moves to bolster their roster, signing Jeff Green, Bismack Biyomobo and DJ Augustin along with a new deal handed to Evan Fournier.
Serge Ibaka was added through the trade market for the rights to the 11th selection in the 2016 Draft Domantas Sabonis, but only lasted 56 games before he was moved on to pave the way for Terrance Ross’ arrival.
Despite the outlay on new players, the Magic took a step back in the 2016-17 season, failing to produce a strong level of consistency over the course of the campaign.
Fournier was the standout for his team, raising his standard of performances, although it was not enough for Orlando to end their playoff drought.
The move to trade away Ibaka and land Ross suggests that the Magic have an eye on the future and based on their displays last term – it could take time before they can return to the post-season.
The Magic had a tough start to the season, losing their opening three matches of the campaign, including a six-point defeat at the hands of the reigning champions – the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, Vogel’s men were able to bounce back immediately, reeling off three wins on the spin, with Fournier starring by putting in a 29-point display to defeat the Sacramento Kings.
Orlando’s problems with consistency were clear from the off, dropping their next three games in a row before producing an outstanding performance to overcome the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road as Ibaka shone with a 31-pointer.
November ended on a low note with another run of successive losses, despite solid displays from Fouriner and Ibaka along with Nikola Vucevic. Although a win over the San Antonio Spurs once again proved that Vogel’s men could rise to the occasion to beat quality outfits.
The Magic endured a frustrating month in December as their bid to move over .500 was thwarted by blowout defeats in their eight losses.
Vogel’s men did put forward eight impressive outings, highlighted with three victories on the spin on the road, beating the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and the 76ers. Another poignant moment came the day after Christmas when Fouriner and Vucevic delivered an overtime victory over the Miami Heat – but it was arguably the peak point in the Magic’s season.
Orlando began the New Year with a decent opportunity to make a surge for the playoffs with their record at 15-19. However, the first game of 2017 would epitomise the rest of the campaign, suffering a hammering at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on the road.
Jodie Meeks got his side back to winning ways with a fine 23-point outing to defeat the New York Knicks, although a four-match losing run put the club well off the pace in the battle to reach the post-season, failing to break the 100-point barrier in each of the contests.
Elfrid Payton and Vucevic put in decent performances for the rest of the month, but it only yielded three further victories, leaving the Magic in a perilous position of 12 games beneath .500 at the end of January following an overtime defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Vogel’s men continued to put in impressive one-off displays, beating the Toronto Raptors at the Amway Center, but sustaining their form was the fatal flaw in their term. They followed their victory over the Raptors by losing their next four matches, forfeiting their momentum.
Ross made an impact in one of his first outings for the club following his move, scoring 24 points in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks at home. However, Orlando’s inconsistent form dogged the final full month of action, winning five of their 16 contests in March to ensure that the club would fail to reach the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.
The Magic signed off with a win over the Pistons on the final day of the term, and although their season ended with a victory, Vogel knows that his side need to improve significantly to become a competitive outfit.
Fournier was the leading player for the Magic last season and should be their integral man for the future. The 24-year-old notched a career-high 17.2 points per game, and Vogel will be hopeful that the point guard can continue to improve as he surrounds his captain with further talent.
Vucevic had a solid defensive season, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game. However, he needs to improve his production in the attacking end of the court to offer support to Fournier. His 14.6 points per game and 2.3 offensive rebounds need to return to the form he displayed in the 2014-15 season for his side to threaten the playoffs.
Ross’ arrival towards the end of the campaign to replace Ibaka signalled that the Magic were committed to their future plans. The forward has been underwhelming since being drafted eighth overall by the Raptors in 2012. Orlando will have to hope that he takes a step forward for the club to become a consistent outfit in the next campaign.
The Magic selected Jonathan Isaac with the first-round pick in the 2017 Draft. The 19-year-old impressed during his college career, averaging 12 points per game in his one term with the Florida State Seminoles. He was part of the outfit that was stunned in the NCAA tournament by Xavier, but still produced enough quality on the court to be selected in the top 10.
He should have ample opportunities due to the Magic’s issues with the salary cap – therefore gametime should not be a problem for the forward. Backing him at odds of +2500 to be named Rookie of the Year could be a prudent option with Bovada sportsbook.
However, his impact should not have a huge role in taking Orlando – at least in his rookie season. As a result, backing the Magic at +100000 to win the NBA Championship next term with SkyBet should be approach with caution.
Jonathan Isaac To Be Rookie Of The Year