Orlando had a terrible summer in 2016, acquiring too many frontcourt players without a place for them all. As a result, Aaron Gordon, one of the team's most gifted athletes, spent the year being hamstrung as part of a mismanaged roster.
An athletic 6'9", 220 pounder, Gordon is ideal as a small-ball center. At the very least he should be a power forward, his position in 2015--16, when he was the Magic's most improved player. But last season Gordon played 63% of his minutes at small forward, much to the detriment of the offense, which ranked 29th in efficiency. Gordon's lack of an outside touch—he's a career 28.9% three-point shooter—prevented Orlando from spacing the floor.
The trade of Serge Ibaka to the Raptors last February finally allowed Gordon to get more minutes at power forward. With Ibaka gone, Gordon averaged 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, up from 11.2 and 4.5 before the trade.
The departure of Jeff Green, who signed with the Cavs, will further ease the power forward logjam. Gordon will be a restricted free agent next summer. This year is his best chance to prove he deserves to be a part of the Magic's future.
COACH FRANK VOGEL
(2nd season with Magic)
2016--17 RECORD 29--53
(5th in Southeast)
96 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
PG ELFRID PAYTON
12.8 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 6.5 APG; 47.1 FG%
SG EVAN FOURNIER
17.2 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 43.9 FG%; 35.6 3FG%
SF TERRENCE ROSS
11.0 PPG; 2.6 RPG; 43.7 FG%; 36.3 3FG%
PF AARON GORDON
12.7 PPG; 5.1 RPG; 45.4 FG%; 28.8 3FG%
89 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
C NIKOLA VUCEVIC
14.6 PPG; 10.4 RPG; 2.8 APG; 46.8 FG%
SG ARRON AFFLALO [NEW ACQUISITION]
8.4 PPG; 2.0 RPG; 44.0 FG%; 41.1 3FG%
SF JONATHON SIMMONS [NEW ACQUISITION]
6.2 PPG; 2.1 RPG; 1.6 APG; 42.0 FG%
C BISMACK BIYOMBO
6.0 PPG; 7.0 RPG; 1.1 BPG; 52.8 FG%
• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP ORLANDO
This has to be the year that ELFRID PAYTON shows that he's capable of orchestration. He's had streaks. At the end of last year he was putting up triple doubles, and I thought he might finally be getting it. I'm curious how Payton is going to generate his scoring. Is he going to be a slasher? How much can he improve his shooting? It's not just that he can't shoot. He doesn't shoot.... NIKOLA VUCEVIC would remind me of Brook Lopez if he could rebound better. He's going to fill the scoring void and can shoot a reasonably high percentage, but how much you can contribute is limited when you can't defend.... BISMACK BIYOMBO is going to be limited offensively forever. If you could take Biyombo's defense and Vucevic's offense, you'd have an All-Star.... EVAN FOURNIER is just a crafty, smart player. He can handle the ball, he can initiate some offense, but the bottom line is that he just produces. He's not an elite athlete, but he plays under control and that makes him consistent.... AARON GORDON has so much raw ability. The dunks are just a manifestation of his athletic superiority. Some guys are difference-makers the minute they step into the league. Then there are guys, like Gordon, who get incrementally better each year. If they can establish a positionless system at times, Gordon can flourish .... You want more from MARIO HEZONJA, but he's never demonstrated—even overseas—that he'll regularly attack the rim. I don't think he knows what his NBA identity is going to be yet and by Year Three, that's kind of important.
TELLING 63 STATISTIC
Despite an intriguing young core, the Magic are still too raw to expect results this year.