Despite winning only 25 games this past season, the Orlando Magic are in excellent shape. With a young, exciting roster absent many bad egos and contracts, we could very well see them take a tremendous leap forward in 2015-16. This summer is critical for GM Rob Heningan, who already made a splash by hiring Scott Skiles as the team’s new head coach.
From a personnel standpoint, Skiles is a perfect fit for an athletic team like Orlando. With an incredible attention to detail, as well as a firm defensive identity, Skiles has had great success with his previous “reclamation projects.”
Not only did he help the Chicago Bulls reach their first postseason without Michael Jordan in 2004-05 (after beginning the season 0-9!), he reversed the fortunes of the miserable Milwaukee Bucks in 2009-10.
Though Skiles’s intense approach wore thin in his previous stops, don’t expect it to happen with the Magic. He is a beloved community member (played 5 years in Orlando; had 30 assists in a December 1990 game; NBA record) and can grow with a young core that includes talented point guard Elfrid Payton, the explosive Victor Oladipo, potential stoppers Maurice Harkless & Aaron Gordon, skilled pivot Nik Vucevic and combo forward Tobias Harris (restricted free agent).
Retaining Harris and developing both Payton & Oladipo is important for Skiles going forward. They aren’t too far off from returning to the playoffs, so what can they do in the draft to help them vault back into the discussion? The Magic have plenty of athletes who lack great shooting ability.
So, conventional wisdom says they will either attempt to build upon their current, defensive framework or draft a potential game-changing scorer.
At number 5 they have a few options to play around with. Here’s some notable names they might target:
1. Justise Winslow (Duke)– Winslow is a nice swing man to run alongside Payton & Oladipo. As an excellent athlete and tough defender, Orlando can excel playing small ball. He isn’t a great shooter right now but is fearless attacking the basket.
2. Willie Trill Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)– Nik Vucevic has a fine-tuned offensive skill set but lacks the athleticism to protect the basket. Enter: Cauley-Stein. WCS is the most versatile defender in the draft and is rapidly improving in every area.
Not only can he get out on the break, he is developing a decent midrange game from the perimeter.
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)– Porzingis is a very special prospect. He fits well with Orlando because he can play both inside spots and create his own offense. Though he needs to add weight to his slender frame, Coach Skiles can deploy him in a variety of situations.
Imagine a lineup of Payton-Oladipo-Harris-Porzingis-Vucevic…that’s a very talented group capable of a fun offensive attack.
Each guy gives Orlando a different dynamic going forward. If we had to choose, Winslow is their best option since he can plug right into the starting small forward spot and become a terror in transition alongside Payton, Oladipo, Gordon and Harkless.
With small ball becoming a norm (GOLDEN STATE STARTED DRAYMOND GREEN AT CENTER IN THE FINALS…AND WON MULTIPLE GAMES), drafting “basketball players” instead of by position and/or need is the new trend.
No matter who dons Magic blue in 2015-16, expect Skiles’s new regime to be competitive enough to return to the postseason.