The Drastic Decay of the Orlando Magic (2012-2018)

By Eli Yankelevich

What stands in between players and championship rings is hard work, determination and perseverance. In order for this to come together NBA franchises must string together front offices with a plan and goal in mind. No team in recent history is as good of an example of this than the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors capitalized on the premise of the three point shot in order to reach basketball greatness. Their success pivoted the NBA out of the back to the basket era and into the one of 3’s and advanced analytics. The Warriors have been so successful in their run and gun philosophy it has led teams like the Rockets, Cavaliers, Spurs and Celtics to incorporate horns and three point sets in order to win games by wide margins. However, while these teams at the top reap the benefits of proper ownership and management teams at the bottom suffer in obscurity because of questionable trades and sub par signings. There is only one team in the NBA that is so mismanaged that it is a downright catastrophe from the product on the court to the stability in the coaching and front office. This blemish of a franchise is the Orlando Magic.

At one point this team seemed on the rise with its dynamic of shooters around a superstar in Dwight Howard. It was not until the end of the 2012 lockout season when events turned to the worst. Howard coming off an injury that sidelined him for a majority of 2011-2012 season made his intent clear that he would not resign with the team once the season concluded. So naturally the Magic cooked up a move with 4 other teams that sent Dwight to Los Angeles and left the Magic with veterans and draft picks. Overall this move was not terrible because after all Howard only had a year left on his contract.

With the end of the Howard era in central Florida the Magic then began their ongoing “rebuilding” process. Under the influence of then 30 year old Rob Hennigan the team would go on to make no advances toward being a playoff contender again. Even though Hennigan will go done as one the worst executives in  Magic history he did have moments of competence especially when he traded guard J.J. Redick to Bucks in exchange for Tobias Harris. This move was designed to add to the Magic core of Harkless and Vucevic. The team also added Victor Oladipo in the 2013 NBA draft in order to bolster their weak backcourt. The team also added Aaron Gordon in the following draft with the fourth overall pick. Although Gordon is a promising young player many in the media industry agree that it was a reach to draft the Arizona bigman so early.

Hennigan in that same draft traded the rights for Dario Saric to the Sixers for Elfrid Payton to allow him to develop alongside their young two guard in Oladipo. At this point the Magic look equipped to eventually make some noise in the upcoming years. With an intriguing nucleus of young talent alongside established veterans it was only natural for ESPN and Fox Sports to acknowledge that the Magic were making strides in the right direction.

The Magic then hired their former point guard Scott Skiles to be the new coach in the wake of the upcoming season. Skiles clashed with many of his players and halted the development of both Oladipo and Harris. After a rough 25 win season the Magic made another mistake in selecting Mario Hezonja with the fifth pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Hezonja was and still is a considerable talent but he needed time to develop which the Magic weren’t capable of doing properly.

After that draft the Magic took a turn for the worst because they impatiently traded Harris to the Pistons in exchange for a package that would disappear in half a season. At the conclusion of that miserable year Skiles stepped down from his post as head coach and the Magic replaced him with Indiana’s Frank Vogel. A move that was original praised but then became irrelevant as the Magic were beyond repair and no matter what lineup he tried nothing seemed to work in order to change the gap in the win loss column.

With a new draft the Magic again struck out for they traded their 2013 selection in Oladipo and the 11th pick for an out of place veteran in Serge Ibaka. This move was rightfully met with criticism because they already had a powerfoward capable of minutes in Aaron Gordon. It was even more preposterous when the Magic revealed their plans to play Gordon as a small-forward alongside Ibaka. That summer the Magic payed 24 year old Evan Fournier 85 million dollars to round out their backcourt. The Fournier signing was not a bad move like the rest for now they had a shooter playing next to Payton. The rest of the moves included signing veteran Jeff Green for 15 million dollars, Bismack Biyombo for 72 million dollars and DJ Augustin for 29 million dollars. All overpays to say the least.

The following season included events like the forecasted Ibaka trade to the Raptors for Terrence Ross and the deserved firing of Rob Hennigan after a leaked photo of all the Magic’s potential offseason plans. In the middle of this disaster Magic ownership hired former Bucks GM John Hammond to man the sinking ship. Once the season concluded the Magic drafted Florida State forward Jonathon Isaac who although has potential did not exceed the production of many players taken after him. That same offseason the Magic signed some irrelevant veterans to round out their roster.

After all this chaos the Magic still haven’t sorted out this debacle as they gave up on their point guard in Payton for a draft pick that will never convey. With this past 2018 season coming to an end the Magic announced that they have fired Vogel which is no surprise since this team has no direction. Year after year the Magic attempt to build a winner through ignoring their young talent and signing veterans for outrageous markups. Until the Magic establish a plan like all the other teams in the league they will rot in mediocrity for another six years without anything to show for it.

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