OffSeason: Bringing in D-Lo
The Orlando Magic undoubtedly surpassed expectations this season by achieving a playoff berth with an unlikely run through the last 31 games of the season going 21-9 to finish with the 7th seed in the east (42-40). While that was one of the most amazing runs in Magic history there was a short time to celebrate. We had to get to work on figuring out a game plan for the Toronto Raptors, who we ultimately bowed out to in 5 games after a game one win in the north with a heart-stopping 3pt shot from the top of the key in the closing seconds of the contest by D.J. Augustin. During that series, many of Orlando’s weaknesses were exposed. Our Ball Movement was quite stagnant at times, and our transition defense off of turnovers was horrid.
Orlando, although visibly much improved from the beginning of the year, spiked with the confidence of going on an unreal post-all-star weekend run thought that they could make a push to win a first-round series against a Toronto team that was swept in the first round just one year earlier.
From the games played it was apparent that Orlando wasn’t entirely outclassed. They kept up with Toronto and made runs at times that looked quite impressive. When Orlando plays with the confidence they move the ball much more and get off on transition baskets. The problem comes when the game slows down, Orlando lacks a star who can control the game, someone who can create his own shot under duress, someone who can pass and get others involved in transition but can also create for others in high defensive pressure situations.
The guy who fits this mold is D'Angelo Russell, someone who has had a developmental boom since being traded from the LA Lakers in 2017 to the Brooklyn Nets. Since joining Brooklyn D-Lo has improved exponentially. According to advanced stats by NBA.com Russell had improved his ppg average in 2 seasons with the Nets from 15.5 to 21.1, while his usage went up 1.7% averaging 30 mins per game. He is averaging star quality numbers with lower than average minutes for his position, all the while leading his team to a playoff berth of their own.
D'Angelo Russell has become a player that will command a lot of attention this offseason. Shams Charania of The Athletic did announce on Monday that D-Lo is receiving interest from the Jazz, Magic, Pacers, and the T Wolves, and of course the Nets will be attempting to bring him back to Brooklyn. With a market this hot for one of the hottest combo guards in the NBA, and at only 23 years old it is an obvious decision for Orlando to be on that list.
Actually executing any moves this offseason that would land us D-Lo would be almost impossible. There are some scenarios that see Orlando moving Evan Fournier to a team with cap space, and somehow finding a new home for Timofey Mozgov. Nikola Vucevic has expressed interest in re-joining Orlando and Terrence Ross is a fan favorite who is also interested in coming back to O-Town. All-in-all this will be one of the most important offseason for the Magic in recent history being that they must prioritize internal development, while keeping a balance between young athletic players, and veteran players as well but if a situation as enticing as the possibility of bringing Russell into the pinstripe culture arises the front office of John Hammond and Jeff Weltman have to discuss those possibilities and ultimately make a decision that some may not agree with.
I will say that D-Lo under the tutelage of Steve Clifford would be incredibly interesting to watch, and at his young age, he would fit marvelously into the Orlando Magic core of youth players with high ceilings. Orlando the clock is ticking, and soon enough we will all know what those big decisions will be.
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