2013--14 RECORD: 23--59 (5TH IN SOUTHEAST) COACH: JACQUE VAUGHN (3RD SEASON WITH MAGIC)
After watching point guard Jameer Nelson for a decade, Magic fans are in for a major adjustment. Rookie Elfrid Payton, the No. 10 pick, is set to take the reins, and he is scarcely like his predecessor. Nelson is short and stocky; Payton is long and wiry. Nelson's buzz cut is simple; Payton's unkempt mop top has inspired the @ElfridsHair tribute account on Twitter. Nelson was the 2003--04 consensus college player of the year while guiding St. Joseph's to an undefeated regular season and an Elite Eight appearance; Payton was a one-man show at obscure Louisiana-Lafayette and didn't win an NCAA tournament game in three years.
Their styles of play are different too, but Orlando is betting that Payton, 20, can match Nelson's staying power and stabilizing presence. The attacking Payton is quick off the dribble, savvy at weighing his options in the paint and adept at drawing contact. But his jump shot is unpolished (Payton sank 30 three-pointers in 100 college games), he led the NCAA in turnovers last season, and he will need to adjust to the length and agility of NBA interior defenders.
Payton's height (6'4"), wingspan (6'8") and clean footwork make him a potential defensive force. The Magic envision Payton and 2013--14 Rookie of the Year runner-up Victor Oladipo, 22, as a dynamic backcourt that applies constant pressure on both ends. That development could take a while, but rebuilding Orlando can afford to wait.
19.2 PPG; 6.0 RPG; 5.9 APG; 50.9 FG%
13.8 PPG; 4.1 APG; 4.1 RPG; 41.9 FG%
14.6 PPG; 7.0 RPG; 1.3 APG; 46.4 FG%
11.1 PPG; 5.1 RPG; 43.2 FG%; 37.0 3FG%
14.2 PPG; 11.0 RPG; 0.8 BPG; 50.7 FG%
7.4 PPG; 3.3 RPG; 1.2 SPG; 46.4 FG%
12.4 PPG; 8.0 RPG; 2.0 APG; 49.5 FG%
‚Ä†ROOKIE (STATS AT LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE)
‚Ä°ROOKIE (STATS AT ARIZONA)
The two 2014 lottery picks show promise—but not enough to deny the Magic a top choice in '15.
Oladipo and Payton prove incompatible, sending GM Rob Hennigan back to the drawing board.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE MAGIC
They need to start worrying about their talent level. It's fair to wonder if their current pieces are enough to get excited about, even if you let them grow for two or three years.... A backcourt of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton lacks shooting. They are superb athletes, but you have to guard both only as drivers.... Their roster management depends on how they view Oladipo. The Magic experimented with him at point guard as a rookie, but he pounds the ball and takes everyone else out of rhythm. I see him as a two who could have big value next to a very good point guard. They have to hope Payton is that guy.... I could see Nikola Vucevic [who is eligible for an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline] seeking at least $10 million a year for averaging double doubles in each of the last two seasons. But who is sold on him as a key guy for a winning team? He's not an impact defensive center.... Channing Frye [who left the Suns for a four-year, $32 million deal] is underrated. He's a spread four or five, one of their few shooters. They might think of him more as a trade chip in the long term. On a good team he could swing a playoff series.... Aaron Gordon stands out with his athleticism and activity. He's another guy who will be challenged to make perimeter shots. He has to be a four, and he's not a stretch four. I'm sure they're focused on Gordon's development, but Frye is a better complement for Vucevic. They should get Gordon some touches against second-unit players.... There isn't a shooter at the three either. Their hope is that young guys Tobias Harris [22 years old] and Maurice Harkless  develop.
FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Vucevic is a rare reliable contributor.