NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #25 Orlando Magic

Will Year 2 of Oladipo and new additions Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton result in a jump in wins?

This NBA offseason has been very eventful, and we’re only a few short weeks away from the start of team training camps. To help bridge that gap for hoops junkies, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 25th-ranked Orlando Magic!

The Orlando Magic are still getting fruit from the Dwight Howard trade a couple years ago, so it’s reasonable to expect them to continue to improve as they bring in talent and develop their existing ones. Victor Oladipo could turn out to be the best or second-best player from last year’s draft, and the front office has a lot of hope in new draft picks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. The talent is there; this year is all about development.

numberFire Metrics

Projected Record: 33-49
Eastern Conference Rank: 12th
NBA Rank: 25th
nERD: 38.8
Playoff Chances: 18.14%
Championship Chances: 0.20%

Our algorithms predict a big jump in total wins this year, as we have them winning 33, a whopping 10 game increase from last year’s final tally. While their playoff chances (18%) still aren’t very high, they’re a big jump up from the previous teams in our power rankings. If their young players continue to develop as we expect, they should move to true playoff contention within a couple of years.

Player Movement

Notable Additions
Aaron Gordon (via draft)
Elfrid Payton (via draft)
Channing Frye (via free agency)
Ben Gordon (via free agency)
Luke Ridnour (via free agency)
Evan Fournier (via trade)

Notable Losses
Arron Afflalo (trade)
Jameer Nelson (to waivers)

Losing Afflalo will hurt, as he was one of the more underrated wings in the league last year on both ends of the floor. However, they think highly of incoming player Evan Fournier, and probably want to give significant minutes to Oladipo and Payton. Bringing in Channing Frye at his contract was questionable, but his shooting is something this roster sorely needs. The Ben Gordon signing I can’t defend.

Three Burning Questions

What will be the starting five?
The safe spots at the moment seem to be Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye, and Nikola Vucevic. Filling out the other two will depend on additional questions. Is Oladipo going to run the point? If so, do either of their new additions in Gordon or Fournier get the nod? Another option would be to mimic Phoenix’s two guard sets and roll out Oladipo and rookie Elfrid Payton together.

The wing spot is just as complicated. Their top pick of the draft, Aaron Gordon, is still very raw so will likely come off the bench early. The small forward spot for the Magic is very athletic at the moment – Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, and Gordon can all be good wing defenders, and the latter two can probably move to power forward in small lineups. Getting minutes for all of these guys will be a challenge for the Magic coaching staff, but they aren’t short on young talent.

Will they be the worst shooting team in the league?
Shooting is going to be a problem for the Magic this year. Their top draft picks were both poor shooters in college – we know of Gordon’s woes, but Payton was also bad, shooting only .259 from three-point land last season against inferior competition. Oladipo is still developing his shot and has shot selection issues. Harkless isn’t a shooter and Harris is taking threes, but only hitting them at a low .254 rate as of last season. The Magic did bring in sharpshooter Channing Frye to offset these worries, and paid a premium for him. But when he’s not in the game, opposing defenses will sag miles off these guards and wings.

What is the defensive potential of this team?
While the Magic were awful offensively last season, ranking 29th out of 30 in offensive rating, they were much better on the defensive end. They weren’t the Pacers or Bulls, but they were league average, posting a 107.4 defensive rating. For a young team, that stat is full of optimism for the future. Add in the immense defense potential of rookie Aaron Gordon, as well as another year for Oladipo, and things look very bright. They’ll probably be around league average again this season, but this roster has top-five potential in a couple years, especially if they get some additional rim protection.

Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch

PG/SG Victor Oladipo (Yahoo O-Rank: 58)
Oladipo finished the year as the 136th-ranked player on Yahoo, so this O-Rank is certainly optimistic. One thing he has going for him – he has SG eligibility, which is the most shallow position in fantasy basketball. That alone gives him extra value outside of his ranking. It’s probably a good bet that he’ll improve in his second year, and with Jameer Nelson gone, Oladipo is the guard for the Magic. He does a little bit of everything – he’ll get you points, rebounds, assists, and steals. But he’s not a great three-point shooter at this point (which is nice to have at your guard spots) and hurts you in the efficiency categories. And oh yeah, he turns it over a ton. He could be a good pick-up at the right price, but be aware of his flaws if you draft him.

PF/C Channing Frye (Yahoo O-Rank: 109)
Talk about a bargain. I thought about talking about Vucevic here, who averaged a double-double and his O-Rank of 42 is one he outperformed last season. But Vuc you’ll get at value; Frye you’ll probably get way below his value. The Magic gave him a sizable four-year contract this offseason and he will be a big part of their offense. As mentioned above, he’s really their best offensive threat, especially in terms of efficiency. Also, having a guy in the PF/C that can get you a couple three-pointers a game is immensely valuable. Frye in the 10th/11th round? Yes, please.