Projected Starting 5 - Magic Men
A lot of us Magic fans go back and forth on twitter with our projected starting lineups and projected bench lineup. Orlando has been blessed with youth and length which serves the team well. This also sets up a bit of a puzzle aspect to development because a lot of our brightest stars were young players last year, and with the acquisition of a veteran starter who has playoff experience in Al-Farouq Aminu and the retaining of our all-star Nikola Vucevic makes those lineups difficult to gauge. This is our prediction of who will start the year as starters and why:
DJ Augustin (31 YO):
If you watched Magic basketball last season there should be no doubt in your mind that Augustin did an honorable job with his starter minutes last year. DJ zipped up and down the court while putting his body on the line to finish plays through contact in the paint, he ran pick and roll plays with Vucevic to perfection and seemingly always found a way to circle open on the wing for a big-time 3 pointer (or 2 on some occasions). DJ, I’d argue was the heart of the team last year. Especially being that the teams' other options were Jarian Grant (who started for us early in the year but didn’t appear aggressive enough and in pressure-filled moments turned the ball over), and Isaiah Briscoe who did give us good minutes off of the bench but suffered a torn ACL shortly after the all-star break. DJ not only was competent for us but thrived in our offense and became one of the most efficient PG’s in the league last year. Not to mention he gave us our first win in the playoffs in seven years with the most clutch shot of the playoffs outside of Kawhi’s 4 bounce miracle against Philly.
Evan Fournier (26 YO):
Now that Mozgov is gone, Fournier may very well be the most polarizing figure on the Orlando Magic. Fournier is a shooting guard who has seen steady improvement over 6 of his last 7 seasons. His least productive season was this past one where he averaged 15.1 PPG which has been his lowest since the 14-15 season. His struggles from beyond the arc were well documented this past season (34%) which is the lowest he has shot his entire professional career. There were calls from frustrated fans demanding that Evan be traded. Citing a need for a more prolific shooter from beyond the arc at the 2 spot. We expect Fournier to have a bounce-back year, as this past season is a current outlier and his defensive effort (on many nights taking turns guarding the other teams best player ie: James Harden, D’Angelo Russell) has immensely improved. Fournier learned what his new role is and how to attack it.
Jonathan Isaac (21 YO):
J.I. is a special young man! His personality is composed, concise, and reassuring. He has a star quality about him and his defense can be described as lockdown. He is very young and his shot does need to develop but after his first full season of playing NBA basketball, due to injuries from having a small frame and the wear and tear of a fast-paced physical game during his official first-year limited him to 27 games, he is expected to take a big jump offensively. As the year progressed Isaac did become more comfortable with the corner three and his effort defensively was suffocating to offenses plenty of times. Shooting 42% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc in his first real season are great starting platforms but with a full summer of healthy training and weightlifting to make his body stronger, and more inclined to remain healthy for the duration of a season there is understandable excitement surrounding the development of Jonathan Isaac.
Aaron Gordon (23 YO):
Basketball is not all about stats. Some intangibles play just as big of a role as the stats do. Aaron Gordon is the perfect example of this. He is built for speed, high flying, with otherworldly athleticism. His career thus far has been exciting (Aaron gave us one of the most memorable Dunk Contest performances in the history of the contest), and his in-game dunks are just as spectacular, but his ability to take over games and be a go-to scorer has not much developed. There were games during the regular season where AG was nowhere to be found on the stat sheet. After being snubbed for the all-defensive teams (did not receive a single vote), and the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Training Camp AG responded with:
Gordon will have a chip on his shoulder and this should prove to fuel his fire, leading him to career numbers defensively. His offense showed bursts of greatness during the Magic first-round playoff matchup against Toronto, it seemed as though Aaron was recognizing that if Orlando would have a shot he would have to be the primary option, he drove to the paint with bullish intent and scored on opposing defense, if he brings this attitude into the summer his game will take the next jump and we are all waiting to experience the greatness within AG.
Nikola Vucevic (28 YO):
Welcome in our All-Star, Nikola Vucevic! This guy is a bad man, although you’d never know it from his attitude. He is cool, calm, and collected. Vooch was a monster for us in Orlando last year. He was hitting from deep consistently, engaged in pick and rolls with DJ and took a step forward defensively. It appears that Vooch has put in work in developing his footwork and being more active on the defensive end. He consistently kept his hands up and made effort to block or change plays causing him to be dunked on a few times by high flyers like De’Aaron Fox. His play earned him an all-star nod as a 20 & 12 guy shooting some of the best percentages amongst 5’s in the league (35% from 3 and 51.8% from the field). Nikola is a modern 5 with slightly less speed. When he faces physical bigs the likes of Joel Embiid and Marc Gasol he tends to struggle to score in the paint because he is more finesse than brute force. During the 2019 playoffs, he was shut down during 3 of the 5 games against Toronto being that Gasol was too physical and there wasn’t a go-to scorer outside of Vooch. This made the defensive scheme for Toronto pretty simple, lockdown Vucevic and force others to score, the problem was that no one else could score. Vucevic signed a 4Yr/$100Mil deal during the offseason and will undoubtedly be our starting center going forward. His game garners this type of compensation and Vooch’s success will continue so long as the rest of the team continues to develop.
If Orlando’s ball movement and shooting improve with guys off of the bench: Ross, Iwundu, Aminu, Fultz, and Bamba the Magic will be a very dangerous team this upcoming season. John and Jeff are counting on internal development and with the youth on this team, it is not hard to imagine a team with more developed shooters next season which would give us a solid 10-11 man rotation, one of the best benches in the NBA, and definitely, a playoff-contending team. The players that we believe will exhibit the greatest improvement come October will be Gordon, Isaac, and Ross. The veteran presence of Aminu will also go a long way in teaching the young guys how to stay healthy, and remain level headed in high-pressure situations. It is a wonderful time to be a Magic fan!
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