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2017-18 Season Preview Series | Will A Star Emerge For The Magic?
Notable Players Acquired: PF Jonathan Isaac (draft), PG Shelvin Mack (free agent), F Jonathon Simmons (free agent), C Marreese Speights (free agent), G Arron Afflalo (free agent),
Notable Players Lost: PG C.J. Watson (waived), F Damjan Rudez (free agent)
The Magic finished last season with a 29-53 record, 13th in the Eastern Conference. In Frank Vogel’s first season, the team ranked 22nd out of 30 in defensive rating and 29th out of 30 in offensive rating. Certainly Vogel, a defensive-minded coach, will want to improve those numbers.
After trading for Serge Ibaka on draft night 2016, the Magic traded him to the Raptors on Feb. 14, when it was clear they were out of playoff contention, for Terrence Ross and a first-round pick.
In 24 games with Orlando, Ross was solid, averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 34.1 percent from the 3-point line.
Evan Fournier led the team in scoring, averaging 17.2 points per game while shooting 35.6 percent from deep. Nikola Vucevic proved his worth as an offensive-minded center (not extinct in the NBA, by the way) averaging 14.6 points and a team-high 10.4 rebounds per game. Elfrid Payton averaged a team-high 6.5 assists per game but continued to be a non-threat from deep as he shot just 27.4 percent on 1.8 attempts per game.
The season marked the fifth-straight Orlando failed to make the postseason.
The Big Question
Can Aaron Gordon make the leap? The third-year forward averaged a career-high 12.7 points to go with 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in 2016-17.
The 2014 No. 4 overall pick overall pick started 72 games and played 28.7 minutes per game, the most of his career.
Orlando has talent on its roster, but not the star talent it needs to be a contender. Could Gordon turn into that star for Orlando? He’s only 21 years old, so there’s plenty of time for him to develop.
Like former Wolves guard and Dunk Contest rival Zach LaVine, Gordon is more than just a dunker, but he’ll need to improve on his 28.8 percent from the 3-point line if he wants to get to the next level.
The Magic signed former Timberwolves power forward Adreian Payne this offseason. Over two-plus seasons with the Wolves, Payne played in 99 games and averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Orlando is a tricky team. I liked their offseason in drafting Isaac and signing Simmons, who was unexpectedly a free agent. But with no proven star talent, it’s hard to see this team making the playoffs despite the East taking a hit this offseason.
There are pieces here and Orlando has a great coach in Vogel. I’m just not sure if there is enough firepower to make a run to the playoffs. But we’ve seen in the past with a team like Denver in the West, that sometimes a star isn’t needed to make a playoff run.