In our final Orlando Magic UK Weekly Preview of the season, we dive into reasons for optimism for Magic fans heading into next season and look at the final 2 games of the 2017/18 regular season.
Another disappointing season will come to an end on Wednesday night, a year where the Magic had hoped to turn the corner and improve on last years 29-53 record. Unfortunately, very little has gone right for the Magic that included an injury plagued year, playing just 1 game (opening night) with a fully healthy roster. Despite the problems, their have been some bright points that can give us optimism going into next season and over the next few years. The future is bright because we have…
Aaron Gordon & Jonathan Isaac
Both players have had very different seasons but should have Magic fans excited to see what they can do alongside this summer’s draft picks. We all forget that Aaron Gordon is just 22, turns 23 in September and still has a ton of untapped potential. Gordon really improved his all around game this season that included his shooting form, his ability to stretch the floor and became the leading scorer on the team. It’s an interesting summer as Gordon enters restricted free agency but it seems unlikely the Magic let him go anywhere else next season.
The Magic raised a few eyebrows when they passed on Dennis Smith Jr in last years NBA Draft and selected Jonathan Isaac 6th overall. A raw, lanky, athletic forward with outstanding defensive instincts has already shown in a limited number of games why the Magic think so highly of the rookie. Despite only playing 27 games, Isaac’s ability to guard multiple positions, switching out on perimeter players and challenging shots at the rim have been fun to watch. If the Magic can draft a big who can protect the paint, alongside Isaac and Gordon, that has the makings of a tough defensive matchup for any team next season.
Jeff Weltman & John Hammond
Last offseason the Magic hired two of the NBA’s most experienced front office executives to pull Orlando out of a huge hole. These were two moves that the national media actually applauded the Magic for making, who have over 50 years of combined experience in other organisations. They face a huge task that includes getting the Magic out of a deep cap mess, moving on from players that have no future with the team, continue to add more talent and change the attitude and culture of a team that’s struggled for 6 years. But Orlando are in good hands, but with time and patience, I’m hopeful they can turn this ship around.
This season the Magic had something they’ve never had before and it’s already proven some of it’s worth. Having the Lakeland Magic has allowed Orlando to give extra playing time to Khem Birch, Wes Iwundu, Rodney Purvis and Jamel Artis, something they wouldn’t have got earlier in the season. Allowing the young players to practice in Orlando and play for Lakeland in the same day has to be a positive, something that wasn’t possible when the Magic were affiliated with the Erie Bayhawks. Expect Orlando to make the most of this again next season.
2018 NBA Draft
Unfortunately we’re focusing on who we can draft rather than who we play in the playoffs, but with 2 games left, Orlando will likely finish with either the 3rd, 4th or 5th worst odds going into the Draft Lottery. The Magic could target either a point guard and/or a rim protecting bigman in this years NBA Draft, two things the team has been desperate for a long time.
If Orlando end up with a top 3 pick, they’ll likely have a choice of DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic or Jaren Jackson Jr. But there is still a ton of talent in the picks outside of the top 3 with Trae Young, Marvin Bagley, Mo Bamba, Michael Porter and Mikal Bridges. At this point the Magic need more talent and they have another good opportunity to add that this summer.
The 2nd Year Players
There are 3 players who emerged towards the end of the season who I believe have a good chance of making next seasons roster. Khem Birch, Rodney Purvis and Jamel Artis have all been given valuable playing time to close out the season, 3 players who were given time in Lakeland and have shown flashes of the talent since being called up to Orlando. Let’s not forget last years 2nd round pick Wes Iwundu, who like rookie Jonathan Isaac has a lot of room to grow offensively, is another very good wing defender who could become a good rotation player for Orlando over the next few years.
Next week we will begin to breakdown and evaluate the Orlando Magic season, recapping what went well and what didn’t, and things to look to next year. We will look at each player and their impact on the season, so look out for those.
Monday 9th April
Orlando Magic @ Milwaukee Bucks (1:00am)
The Magic could have a say in the final standings in the Eastern Conference, as they face the 7th seed Milwaukee Bucks in their final road game of the year. Both the Heat and Bucks are 43-37 with 2 games left to play, the 6th seed will face Philadelphia in the first round and the 7th seed will face Boston. The last time these two met was in Orlando back in March, the Magic coming out on top 126-117.
The Bucks have been resting some of their key players to help keep them healthy for the NBA Playoffs, but could make a return against the Magic. Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle), Matthew Dellavedova (ankle), Malcolm Brogdon (knee), Shabazz Muhammad (ankle) have all missed recent games. For the Magic, Evan Fournier (knee), Jonathon Simmons (wrist), Jonathan Isaac (leg) will likely be out for the last 2 games of the season.
Wednesday 11th April
Orlando Magic vs Washington Wizards (1:00am)
The final game of the 2017/18 season at Amway Center, as the Magic welcome the Washington Wizards. Another playoff bound team who’ve had a difficult year, as they played a stretch of the season without point guard John Wall, who went down through injury. This team on paper is better than the 8th seed, but may be a tough team for Toronto in the first round.
On a side note, if the Dallas Mavericks (vs Suns) and Atlanta Hawks (vs Sixers) both win their final game of the season, and the Magic lose their final 2, Orlando will have the 3rd best odds in May’s NBA Draft Lottery.
If all 3 teams fail to win their remaining games, Atlanta, Dallas and Orlando will finish 24-58. A tiebreaker will determine what order the teams select in the NBA Draft, if they don’t land a top 3 pick. To see how the process works check out last years tiebreaker http://www.nba.com/video/2017/04/18/2017-nba-draft-lottery-tiebreaker