The post-Dwight Howard era was always expected to be a period of rebuilding for the Orlando Magic. We are into the third post-Dwight season, and the Magic are still a long way from contention – even in a terribly weak Eastern conference.
The Magic have the makings of a solid young core, with center Nicola Vucevic –who recently signed a five-year extension– a threat to put up 20 and 10 every night, and Victor Oladipo progressing nicely.
Elfrid Payton looks like a solid long-term heir to Jameer Nelson as a solid floor general. Once he gets healthier and plays consistent minutes, Aaron Gordon will be a critical part of the team’s future.
The odd man out might just be Tobias Harris. Harris has the potential to put up video game numbers on a very average team, but in his absence –-which has been rather too often due to injury in the past two seasons– the team has seemingly looked more balanced and performed better.
Harris’ name has been mentioned in trade talks recently, and the list of potential suitors would be large, given his versatility, length and ability to spread the floor. With the Magic having some good foundational pieces, the objective now must be to assemble a deeper bench, as they looked to build on their solid core.
The other area of uncertainty stems from the coaching ranks.
Maybe I am being a little harsh on Jacque Vaughn, given the youth and inexperience of this young Magic team, but Vaughn has not showed a vast ability to make the team better in any capacity thus far.
Like many young teams, their defense is a major concern, ranking 22nd in the NBA for points allowed per game. For all his offensive skill, Vucevic is still a major concern on the defensive end. The foundation of a good team come from having a defensive anchor (unless you’re Mark Jackson) and Vucevic needs to be developed defensively, before this team can progress.
It will be up to Vaughn to turn the team’s defense around; otherwise, he could see himself joining Jackson without a coaching job.
Expectations are low right now, but the Magic need to show something in the second half of the season to turn the underwhelming season around. They hold an abysmal 5-14 home record, an area where most young teams are generally more consistent. Fans will be expecting a turnaround next season, and given the collective weakness of the East, the team has to be a playoff contender next season.
Call me overly critical, but the core of this team has had time to develop, and Vaughn has been in charge long enough to assert himself as the coach of the team. If they don’t turn it around in the second half and early into next season, Vaughn could end up being the fall guy.