A center, Nikola Vucevic, led Orlando in usage and scoring last season. So naturally the Magic made a $72 million investment in another center, Bismack Biyombo, who seems incapable of playing alongside him. Vucevic, 25, brings a varied scoring arsenal; Biyombo, 24, is an impressive rebounder and shot blocker whose scoring is negligible. But neither is comfortable defending on the perimeter, and the place Biyombo needs to be on offense—near the rim—is also where Vucevic is most effective.
New coach Frank Vogel will have to toggle between those two, which may not be the biggest frontcourt quandary presented by a muddled roster. The arrivals of Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City and Jeff Green in free agency will leave little room for Aaron Gordon at power forward, forcing the athletic but offensively limited 21-year-old to play out of position at the three.
Just about any lineup Vogel could field would come up short in its spacing, defense or capacity to create. He at least has this option: Go for extended stretches with Biyombo and Ibaka, who can be twin pillars of a stout defense that might help the Magic finally claim some sort of lasting identity.
PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats
COACH FRANK VOGEL (1st season with Magic)
2015--16 RECORD 35--47 (5th in Southeast)
PG ELFRID PAYTON
10.7 PPG; 6.4 APG; 43.6 FG%; 32.6 3FG%
SG EVAN FOURNIER
15.4 PPG; 2.7 APG; 46.2 FG%; 40.0 3FG%
SF AARON GORDON
9.2 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 1.6 APG; 47.3 FG%
PF SERGE IBAKA*
12.6 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 1.9 BPG; 47.9 FG%
C NIKOLA VUCEVIC
18.2 PPG; 8.9 RPG; 1.1 BPG; 51.0 FG%
PG D.J. AUGUSTIN*
7.5 PPG; 3.2 APG; 42.3 FG%; 40.5 3FG%
C BISMACK BIYOMBO*
5.5 PPG; 8.0 APG; 1.6 BPG; 54.2 FG%
SF MARIO HEZONJA
6.1 PPG; 2.2 RPG; 43.3 FG%; 34.9 3FG%
TELLING NUMBER $72 MILLION
A rival scout sizes up Orlando
I didn't like the deal for Serge Ibaka. Trading [guard] Victor Oladipo [to the Thunder] for Ibaka is kind of a wash, but they also gave up the 12th pick, and they're really only renting Ibaka. If he doesn't have a great year, they'll either overpay to keep him or just let him walk.... Some of the changes they made are a little frontcourt heavy even though they lack backcourt strength. How do you find minutes for all these guys: Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Jeff Green? ... Gordon will probably have to play the three because of the logjam. He's a great athlete and he's gonna get a lot of buckets in transition. He's strong and has great size to guard threes. But he lacks the shooting skill to space the floor. I like him more as a four.... When they need offense they'll go with Vucevic; when they need defense and rebounding they'll go with Biyombo. They paid Biyombo a lot of money, but he really has no offense at all. He came off that great playoff series where he was getting 20 rebounds a game and playing great defense. If he can repeat that kind of performance, he'll maybe even win the starting position. Frank Vogel is more of a defensive coach.... You get scoring from Vucevic, though, and I don't know how much of that they'll get from other positions.... Elfrid Payton has been a real disappointment. I don't think he has ever really improved. He's obviously an up-tempo, penetrating guard, but he can't shoot at all.... Mario Hezonja is really limited. Certainly he can give you spot-up shooting, but he's slow defensively.
Looks like the perpetually rebuilding franchise is in for another year of appraisal and deal-making.