Additions: Mohamed Bamba, Isaiah Briscoe, Jerian Grant
Subtractions: Mario Hezonja, Arron Afflalo, Bismack Biyombo
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: DJ Augustin
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Terrance Ross
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Vucevic
Key Bench Players: Johnathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Simmons, Jerian Grant, Isaiah Briscoe
Head coach Frank Vogel has a front court logjam in Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Johnathan Isaac, and Mo Bamba. Both Gordon and Isaac have the mobility and athleticism to play the small forward position but neither have flashed a reliable jumpshot in their respective early careers. Gordon knocked down 33.6% of his threes last season on nearly 6 attempts per game and Isaac converted 34.8% but only on 1.7 attempts in 27 games. They both have the potential to be the best player on this squad but both are best suited as a power forward. If one can become a competent enough perimeter shooter, these worries will quickly fade away.
Mo Bamba is not just the name of the Sheck Wes song that is taking over the world. He was also selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2018 Draft out of Texas. At 7’0 with a 7’10 wingspan, he has all the tools to be a Rudy Gobert-type defensive player after averaging 3.7 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game in his lone year with the Longhorns. Bamba may have the highest ceiling out of every prospect in the 2018 Draft and not only because of his defense. Throughout high school at the Westtown School outside of Philadelphia and at Texas, he flashed the ability to knock down threes with a silky smooth jumper. He only converted 27.5% of his threes in college, but the mechanics are there to build on. Luckily for the Magic, Nikola Vucevic will be a free agent next offseason, giving Bamba a clear path to a starting role in 2019-20.
The rest of the roster is rather weak. The Frenchman Evan Fournier is a solid scorer off the wing but should by no means be a team’s leading scorer at 17.8 points per game. Aaron Gordon must step up as a team leader and defined number one option for the Magic this year after inking a 4 year/$80M contract in restricted free agency over the summer. He took a huge step last season averaging career highs in points (17.6), rebounds (7.9), assists (2.3), and three-point percentage (33.6%). Filling out the wings are the uber-athletic but super inefficient Terrance Ross and a solid role player in Jonathan Simmons. The Magic absolutely need Johnathan Isaac to build a consistent perimeter jump shot to become a reliable small forward for this squad. The point guard position is nonexistent on this team. DJ Augustin is a fine backup point guard with his shooting ability but should never set foot in a starting lineup in today’s NBA. The other options are Jerian Grant who is the more athletic of the two but has yet to prove to be a reliable shooter in the NBA.
The other option is Isaiah Briscoe, a wild card and possible dark horse to provide valuable minutes for the Magic this year in a lead guard role. Orlando signed him to a four year deal using the mid-level exception over the summer but with only $500,000 in guaranteed money, he could be cut without a huge cap hit. Briscoe was ranked 13th overall in the class of 2015 recruiting class and was a McDonald’s All American before playing two years at Kentucky under John Calipari and going undrafted in 2017 NBA drafted. He would later play last season with Kalev/Cramo in Estonia, win MVP of the All Star Game after scoring 50 points, and then won VTB United League Young Player of the Year award, given to the league’s best player under age 23 with a stat line of 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.6 steals in 26.7 minutes per game. Could he steal minutes away from Augustin or Grant? I hope so, for the sake of the Orlando Magic.
The Magic will spend another season at the top of the lottery, as they are a bottom three team in the Eastern Conference. It should be a priority for them to snag a top guard in the 2019 Draft, whether it is RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish from Duke, Romeo Langford from Indiana, or Quentin Grimes from Kansas. Fournier still has two more seasons after this one on the payroll, but could be a trade candidate for playoff contenders this year. Next year in 2019-20, with a frontcourt of Isaac, Gordon, and Bamba and one of the guards listed above, the Magic could have a solid young core moving forward as Gordon is the oldest of them at only 23. Good luck Orlando fans. It’s going to be a long season.
Picture Courtesy of Sporting News
*For yesterday’s article on the Oklahoma City Thunder, click here
Up next tomorrow: Philadelphia 76ers
University of South Carolina ’21