Josh Cohen’s Analysis: Most conversations this offseason have been tied to the Magic’s promising rookies, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, the continued development of Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, especially during their participation in USA Training Camp as part of the Select Team, and some of the key departures, which included Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo.
But perhaps missed in the chatter this summer were some of those less distinguished acquisitions. There is privately a lot of optimism about Evan Fournier, who the Magic acquired from the Nuggets on draft night. He has the tools to develop into a Manu Ginobili-type talent. Also, many forget just how impressive Channing Frye was last season in Phoenix after sitting out the prior year with a serious heart condition. Additionally, have people closed the door on Ben Gordon too prematurely? He is only 31 years old and is believed to be healthy and motivated.
Note: The contents of this feature have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by Josh Cohen are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.
#4 An Eye on the Future
Cohen’s Analysis: Probably the best facet of rebuilding is anticipating the future. Aside from what’s already on the docket, which includes several young blossoming players like Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic, there is more to come on the horizon. Depending on where the Magic finish in the standings this year will determine the type of draft pick they will attain in 2015 and Orlando will have a surplus of salary cap space next summer to try and lure in impending free agents.
#3 A Climb Up in the Standings?
Cohen’s Analysis: It depends on your outlook. The Magic are still remarkably young and patience is required for further growth. It’s going to take time before Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton reach their full potential and it will be another learning year for Victor Oladipo. However, there is no shortage of confidence in the Magic’s locker room and if you ask any of the players or coaches, they believe they can be much improved this season.
In a feeble and waned Eastern Conference, anything is possible. For now, though, it’s probably best to side with traditional sports cliché. Let’s take it one day and game at a time before we judge the final outcome of this season.
#2 Critical Development Year for Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris
Cohen’s Analysis: For reasons tied to economics and expectations, this may be the year we learn the most about Vucevic and Harris. Barring any contract extensions prior to this season, both are set to be restricted free agents next summer. It’s obviously an essential year for them to prove their value in the league. And assuming they are both healthy, which wasn’t always the case last season, we will find out how much they have developed.
We know Vucevic is an outstanding pick-and-pop offensive player and an elite rebounder. He has made strides on defense and continues to be more polished in the post. Harris, meanwhile, has an exceptionally high motor and his versatility gives him the opportunity to erupt offensively on any given night.
#1 Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton’s chemistry
Cohen’s Analysis: There is plenty of eagerness and sanguinity about the Magic’s promising young backcourt. And while most agree that both Oladipo and Payton are bound for individual success, we will learn this season how well they coexist together.
Both are extraordinarily athletic, crafty, explosive and tenacious, especially on defense. Learning one another will be their biggest challenge, however. If they work in harmony, which was evident at Summer League, Vic and Elf have a chance to develop into one of the best guard tandems in the NBA.