By John Denton
July 7, 2016
ORLANDO – All throughout his short time in Orlando, new Magic coach Frank Vogel has talked about his vision of building ``a defensive monster’’ that the team can count on every night to suffocate foes and produce consistent success.
It was how Vogel won big in Indiana, leading the Pacers to five playoff appearances and two Eastern Conference Finals in 5 ½ seasons. And it’s how Vogel wants to win in Orlando – even if focusing on the defensive end of the floor runs completely counter to what the rest of the NBA seems to be doing by stockpiling 3-point shooters and ``small-ball’’ scoring threats.
With so much of the NBA dead set on going small, the Magic instead are thinking big. Very big when you consider they could have two of the league’s premier shot-blockers on the floor at the same time next season.
With the Magic’s draft-night trading for shot-swatter Serge Ibaka, their signings of free-agent defenders Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Green and the retention of defensive aces Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, Orlando certainly seems to have monstrous potential on the defensive end of the floor next season. So much so that Green – the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder who can guard five positions when needed – has already started to dream of the possibilities on the defensive end of the floor next season. He spoke about those possibilities on Thursday after signing his free-agent contract with the Magic.
``When you think about it, it’s scary,’’ Green said of the Magic’s potential to be an elite defensive team next season. ``But it’s about transferring it to the floor. It starts Day 1 when we all enter the gym together and we start practice and transferring it to the games. It’s going to take time together as a team. Great things aren’t going to happen overnight. We just have to come into the gym every day and trust the process.’’
GM Rob Hennigan and Vogel have systematically gone about re-working a Magic defense that allowed far too much dribble penetration last season and had little rim protection when those scorers got into the paint. In Ibaka and Biyombo, the Magic have two of the NBA’s most feared shot-blockers and players who also have the mobility to check smaller players when switched out onto the perimeter. Green has both the size to bang with post-up big men and the quickness to chase wing players around the perimeter.
Assuredly, Hennigan and Vogel are well aware of the effect that defense played on successful teams in the NBA this past season. To wit:
BULLET Of the top 13 teams in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) last season, 12 reached the playoffs. Orlando started strong defensively last season, but it went through a frustrating free-fall over the final 48 games and plummeted to 17th in defensive rating (104.6 points per 100 possessions).