The Orlando Magic’s Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years

Mistakes happen. We sleep in a little too late or we forget to do a project. But for us, mistakes are simply, just that – mistakes. For the thirty NBA teams, mistakes cost them, potentially, tens of millions of dollars, a playoff appearance, or even a championship. They have been riddled throughout history. It can be draft picks (Blazer fans know what this is like), it can be free agency (can I get an amen from Knicks fans?), or it can be virtually anything else (in the case of the King’s, EVERYTHING ELSE). Thus, we present the worst mistakes from each NBA team over the past ten years.

The Orlando Magic haven’t had an identity since Dwight Howard was still wearing their pinstripes. Now, they need an identity perhaps more than they need to win. Four years later, any article about the Magic still must include a mention of Howard, which is a stinging indictment of the franchise in itself. No doubt, they had to deal Howard when they did. Orlando, however, lacked a big-picture vision going forward, which is why the Orlando Magic are stuck in the mud of NBA mediocrity. Since the Magic dealt their high-profile big man, they assembled a very intriguing core of young talent, but systematically disassembled it because … well, who knows why?

The Orlando Magic’s Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years

A misguided vision leads to impatience. The Magic did not allow their post-Howard plan develop. At just about every turn, Orlando has put up roadblocks for its young players, in the name of winning a few more games, and make a futile run at competing in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic’s biggest mistake of the past ten years is they have consistently mismanaged the roster since dealing Dwight Howard. Their short-sightedness has put them in a position where it appears they will not be a serious contender for the foreseeable future. 

The Foundation (Or, What Should Have Been)

Orlando had to take a step back after the Howard trade. But they should not have equated losing with irrelevance. One needs only to go back to the 2014-15 season to see a roster of Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Maurice Harkless, (among others) all together on the Magic’s roster. None of those players were in their prime at that time, so it’s no surprise they went 25-57 that season. However, that core was a noticeable mark in the NBA landscape. Despite the record, anybody who follows the NBA closely would examine teams and say “Ohhh, look what’s happening in Orlando … si, si, very intrigued.

Oladipo was the major chip to get Serge Ibaka. The Magic dealt Tobias Harris to the Detroit Pistons for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova (neither of whom are are the roster now). Harkless was sent to Portland (where he is now a meaningful role player on the NBA’s biggest surprise team) for a measly second-round pick. Payton, Gordon, Vucevic, and Fournier are still on the roster.

All Good Moves Aren’t Smart Moves

Acquiring Ibaka, along with signing Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin, Jeff Green, and Bismack Biyombo weren’t necessarily bad acquisitions in a vacuum. But considering the circumstances, those moves will probably cost the Magic future wins. They are a rebuilding team that doesn’t know – or refuses to admit – they are just that. All in all, those acquisitions are all just bricks in a poorly designed wall. Each brick in itself might make sense, but the wall itself has assembled into the Orlando Magic’s biggest mistake. It’s setting the franchise back years.

Beyond becoming a fan favorite at the last two Slam Dunk Contests, who is Aaron Gordon as a player? Shouldn’t Orlando want to find out? Gordon is versatile enough to play small forward and power forward. Now blocked (again) at both spots, Gordon may not get consistent run. Mario Hezonja is in a similar situation, but not to the same extent.

The New, Old Magic

The best acquisition the Orlando’s off-season probably was getting Frank Vogel to be their head coach. Perhaps (unexpectedly) getting an experienced coach provided the spark that made team executives make the moves they did. Vogel is a defensive-minded coach who is no longer in Indiana because the offense was a disappointment. Once Vogel was in place, it’s easy to understand the Magic’s thinking when they decided to bring in good defenders (Green, Ibaka, Biyombo). But that’s doing it backwards. The Orlando Magic’s biggest mistake reveals itself in these sort of moves.

Everything has to start with the on-court talent. Of the four teams that reached the Conference Finals this past season, three of the coaches were in their first or second year. An experienced team can carry an inexperienced coach, but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way. Further, the Magic’s thinking that they should bring in defensive players to play under Vogel displays their fundamental misunderstanding of how they should be building their team. They should have went the other way: Vogel had Paul George in Indiana and the offense still stagnated.

Orlando should have trusted Vogel’s defensive genius, and assumed he could make it work defensively regardless of who was on the roster, because that’s what Frank Vogel does. Instead of neglecting the fact that they really don’t have a formidable scorer on the roster. Instead of having a bunch of guys who will highlight Voegel’s strengths as a coach, they should have brought in players that can cover for his shortcomings.

The Mistake

The Magic will probably be the NBA’s worst offense next season. A team’s ability to make threes has never been more important. Orlando doesn’t have a single player on its roster that has a career percentage of forty or better from range. They don’t have a single player (ZERO!!!) who has a career average over fifteen points per game.

The Orlando Magic’s biggest mistake was not trading Dwight Howard. Management in Orlando knew they had to trade Dwight Howard. They knew they were not going to get value back. But they did not realize they needed to approach the trade with a multi-step plan. When an NBA team trades a superstar, rarely do they get back four quarters for the dollar they gave up. What they should do is invest all the pennies, nickels, and dimes they get in future assets. Orlando did that, but came up short in that department, because they didn’t make it their primary plan. They’re trying to take shortcuts. And shortcuts don’t build championship contenders.

 

 

Main Photo

Orlando Magic’s Tobias Harris makes an uncontested dunk during the final seconds of overtime in an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. Orlando won 113-103. (AP Photo/John Raoux) ORG XMIT: DOA108