Situational Lineups for the Orlando Magic for 2017-18 NBA Season

A new NBA season is drawing near for the Orlando Magic. The team made a valiant effort to restructure the organization as best they could to change recent franchise misfortunes. With many player changes, expect to see the Orlando Magic use situational lineups this season.

The Orlando Magic have options with who to play this upcoming season. The team added seven new players this off-season to improve their erratic, inconsistent play from a year ago. Options on who to play and when to play them was put on a limitation because of the roster and personnel injuries.

That will not be the case this season.

If the regular season follows a similar path of the preseason, the Vogel will continue to put his players in a position of trust — earned trust. Certain situations have allowed players to show they have earned the right to have their number called upon.

When the Magic find themselves in live game situations, they will need to know exactly which players give them the best opportunity to be successful.

Approaching opening day against the visiting Miami Heat, we will analyze the best situational lineups for the Orlando Magic this upcoming season.

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Early Orlando Magic Individual Awards Predictions

At this point in the season, the Orlando Magic are considered one of the bottom tier teams in the league. Because of the past few seasons, not many are familiar with the players on the Magic roster which makes it hard for them to compete for individual awards.

Lack of nationally televised games also has a role in the player’s popularity. But the biggest reason the Orlando Magic players get left out of individual awards talk is lack of winning.

This past season the NBA held its first player awards show and not one Magic player was nominated for anything. It’s hard to believe that Aaron Gordon did not have a dunk worthy of a nomination. Aside from the dunk of the year or assist of the year the Orlando Magic are not even thought of for the major awards in order for that to change the team has to get better and win.

These early awards predictions show how this team needs to play in order to progress and finally realize their potential.

Most Valuable Player

Elfrid Payton

Elfrid Payton will be the driving force of the Orlando Magic if they are going to be successful.  On the offensive end, he has to run the offense and get guys into the right place. The second half of the season Payton showed that he is capable of getting to the basket as well as finding the open man. As has been said every season since he entered the league, Payton must improve his shooting. If Elfrid Payton can get opponents to respect his jump shot he becomes much more of a threat.

On the defensive end, Payton has shown the ability to be pesky. When he is giving his all on defense the rest of the team’s intensity is ratcheted up a notch. The NBA has become a guard-heavy league.  Payton will be tasked with putting pressure on opponents primary ball handler in most situations. Being able to disrupt the flow of an offense and cause turnovers on the perimeter will keep the Magic competitive.

Most Improved Player

Mario Hezonja

Mario Hezonja has to be better this season. Having consistency in the coaching staff has helped Hezonja to know his role on the team. No longer wondering how he fits in Mario will return this season playing with confidence. On an Orlando Magic team that lacks shooting Hezonja only needs to provide a consistent deep threat to be effective. Hezonja is capable of being the teams best shooter. He most likely will not begin the season as a starter but says that is one of his goals. Starting at one of the wing positions is a lofty goal and if Hezonja can keep opponents honest with the three ball, he might get a chance.

Hezonja is capable of being the teams best shooter. He most likely will not begin the season as a starter but says that is one of his goals. Starting at one of the wing positions is a lofty goal and if Hezonja can keep opponents honest with the three ball, he might get a chance.

Defensive Player of the Year

Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon was undoubtedly the Orlando Magic’s best defender last season. Because if his versatility Gordon will be asked to cover opponents best scoring threat no matter what their position(for the most part). If the Orlando Magic are going to be a playoff contender Gordon will need to be a lockdown defender.

Aside from being the best defender for the Magic, Gordon needs to be good enough to get in the DPOY conversation for the entire NBA.

Newcomer of the Year

Jonathon Simmons

The addition of Jonathon Simmons gives the Orlando Magic exactly what they were missing during this entire rebuild. Simmons brings attitude and accountability to the team. Coming from a winning organization in the San Antonio Spurs Simmons knows what it takes to be a championship contender.

Simmons is a hard worker and will push the rest of the team to get better. Whether he ends up a starter or comes off the bench Simmons’ grit will be important to the Magic. He wants to be a superstar in this league. If Jonathon Simmons continues to play at a high level like he did in the playoffs he will help the Magic get to where they want to go.

Sixth Man of the Year

Jonathan Isaac

Jonathan Isaac will be brought along slowly in his rookie season. The Magic are switching Isaac between the small forward and power forward positions to take advantage of his length and athletism. At the beginning of the season, Orlando will only need Isaac to contribute with defense and rebounding. As the season progresses his role on the offensive end will get more defined.

Because of his size and agility, Isaac can be inserted into the lineup for any player positions 2-5. He may not be the first man off the bench. The depth at shooting guard and small forward will likely lead to one of the wings being the sixth man to start the season. Once Isaac gets comfortable with the NBA game he will be easy to bring in to relieve anyone if he hasn’t already grabbed a starting job.

If the Magic can get these types of contributions from each of these players they will be in the playoff hunt. Even more importantly the Orlando Magic will have a base to build on the future of their organization.

 

 

 

The Orlando Magic Should Experiment with Jonathan Isaac his First Year

The off-season for the Orlando Magic has lived past the hype of expectations. With minimum cap space, the team was able to sign veterans but not a bona-fide star. But maybe another option exists with Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac is the type of player a team should tank a season to draft. The Orlando Magic may not have tanked to draft Isaac. But they should be enamored he fell to them at pick number six. The excitement surrounding Jonathan Isaac is similar to buying a brand new Ferrari. No one buys a Ferrari to take it easy. The whole concept of a speedster car is to see its performance at full speed. And the Orlando Magic need to take a likewise approach with rookie Jonathan Isaac this season.

Isaac nearly categorizes as a true seven footer. His physical measurements are amongst the NBA’s elite players. It’s known that he is a jack of all trades but still a project player in need of development. NBA executives believe he is at best, two years away from tapping into his full potential.

Isaac says he models his game after former MVP and world champion, Kevin Durant. Scouts believe he fits somewhere between Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Garnett range. His pro player comparisons are actually quite stunning for a 19-year-old. Most sports outlets agree Jonathan Isaac is a future all-star at the least. With such a wide range of player comparisons, why shouldn’t the Orlando Magic unleash him? They should attempt to see what he can be sooner rather than later.

Jonathan possesses a 7’1 wingspan. He can play and guard nearly any position of the court. He does need refining on the offensive end. But the kid is still ready to play meaningful NBA minutes and not on a gradual increase. He will likely find the bulk of his minutes at the power forward position his first year.

But what if the Orlando Magic decided to think outside the box in regards to Isaac? He can clearly play and has a wide range of skills. They should try to utilize his skills in a different way his first year.

If so, they should try lining him up at shooting guard.

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Can Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon Coexist for the Orlando Magic next season?

Aaron Gordon has not had a consistent role in his first three years in the NBA. The Orlando Magic drafted Jonathan Isaac to reshape the forward position but what does that mean for Aaron Gordon? Can the two players coexist on the court?

 

Aaron Gordon and the word potential have been connected since his days as an Arizona Wildcat. His biggest selling point was his potential to dominate. Gordon was expected to be the freak athlete who would immediately impact the game with his energy and hustle plays. Gordon draws his closest comparison to Blake Griffin. Like Griffin, Aaron Gordon has the ability to create mismatches with his size and his incredible leaping ability. The two received a lot of national attention after stellar performances in the NBA Dunk Contest. And both continue to make highlight reel worthy dunks. But unlike Griffin, Gordon has yet to find his role for an NBA team.

Gordon’s path in the NBA

The Orlando Magic have a special player in Aaron Gordon. Back at power forward, he is a candidate to take a leap to the next level this year. At the end of Gordon’s sophomore season, the Magic traded starter Tobias Harris to the Detroit Pistons. And allowed Gordon to start at power forward. Once Gordon got the starting job it looked like he could indeed blossom into a star. His physicality placed close to the basket was what he needed to carve out a role on the team.

Gordon moved to small forward his third year as the team decided to acquire Serge Ibaka. Success was very minimum for Gordon offensively. Defensively, Gordon played quite well but the team needed more from him in order to win games. The Magic cut ties with power forward Serge Ibaka and Gordon moved back to the power forward position. Again, at end of the season, Gordon began to find his stride. And here we are — again. The Magic have drafted a power forward in Jonathan Isaac who they most likely will build the team around. This move could push Aaron Gordon to the bench or to another team if not handled properly.

Aaron Gordon’s situation with the Magic

Gordon is in the final year of his rookie contract this year.  The Magic will have to make a decision on whether to tender a qualifying offer to him after the season or risk allowing him to leave via free-agency. This coming season will be huge for Gordon and the Magic either way.

This season will be the first time Aaron Gordon will play for the same coaching staff in consecutive seasons. If Gordon can progress in his development he can secure his role as the team power forward for the future. He will finally have a consistent game plan from the previous year and many experts expect his play to improve. Gordon has shown flashes of all-star capabilities, but has not strung together consistent performances that make him a team cornerstone.

Show time for Aaron Gordon

Gordon is at his best when he can be active around the rim. Last season, Gordon’s rebounding numbers dipped as he played more on the perimeter from 6.5 to 5.0 per game. His jumping ability, creates opportunities for easy rebounds and put backs. Something the team rarely saw last season with him outside the paint. He handled the ball more and attempted to create more offensively. That was not a strength of Aaron Gordon’s game. Gordon’s athleticism and explosiveness helps him get into position for rebounds and second chance opportunities. Last season, we saw him bully smaller players on post up plays for easy scoring. That is the type of play the Magic need to receive from him. In transition, his explosiveness makes him a great rim runner and a target for lobs usually from Payton. According to Josh Cohen of NBA.com, the duo led the NBA in effective field goal percentage last season. The Magic need to continue that trend into next season.

This doesn’t mean that Aaron Gordon can’t take a defender off the dribble or shoot from the outside, but that should’t be a focal point of his game. The team needs to exploit mismatches with Gordon and match him up accordingly. If Gordon gets matched up with a slower defender, he can take him off the dribble. If he is open for a corner three, he has to take the shot. However, Aaron Gordon needs to be closer to the paint to increase his effectiveness.

The vision for Aaron Gordon

Due to his versatility, the Magic attempted to place Gordon in certain situations hoping he would be effective. It’s understandable due to the league gradually transitioning towards power forwards playing on the perimeter. There use to be a favorable match up scenario for teams that had power forwards who could stretch the floor, like Lamar Odom, Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett. Opposing power forwards were not accustom to playing far away from the paint and as a result those players were able to take advantage. Moving Gordon to small forward negated Orlando’s advantage of having a power forward actually capable of playing the perimeter.

Frank Vogel has to figure it out

The task falls on Frank Vogel to figure out how to allow Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac to be on the court at the same time.

Last season Aaron Gordon was not as effective at small forward as the Magic hoped. The experiment to place Gordon at small forward was a forced move due to the team trading for Serge Ibaka. Vogel admitted early last season that if Ibaka was not on the roster, Gordon would be the Magic’s starting power forward. With Ibaka off the roster, Vogel should be able to use Gordon properly — or can he?

The potential logjam at the four

The Magic threw another obstacle in the development of Aaron Gordon by drafting Jonathan Isaac — a power forward. Isaac comes into the league at nearly 7 feet tall, but rail thin. Like Gordon, Isaac was used as a rebounder and defensive specialist in college. Unlike Gordon, Isaac seems to have a more well-rounded offensive game. Jonathan Isaac will most likely play behind Aaron Gordon at the beginning of the season. Depending on the speed of Isaac’s development, he should eventually push for a starting role and that’s where the issue could present itself.

Don’t expect Aaron Gordon to come off the bench in favor of Isaac unless Gordon takes a significant step back in his development. In that scenario, Jonathan Isaac would likely play small forward — another crowded position.  The combination of Isaac and Gordon at the forward spot has great reward potential if used correctly, especially on the defensive side.

What Does Adding Jonathan Simmons Mean To The Orlando Magic Future?

The rewards far outweighs the risks involved

Both Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon can guard positions one through four. That’s a win for any team when you have multiple players who can do that. In certain situations they could defend the center position similar to the Golden State Warriors “Death lineup” with Draymond Green at the center spot. The ability to switch any defensive rotation will change how offenses attack Orlando. A defensive rotation that causes a agile seven footer to switch onto a 6’6″ guard is not something opposing teams will likely want to attack. Isaac is athletic enough to stay in front of guards and with his long wing span, he can easily discourage and intercept passing lanes.

There are only a couple of comparable players in the league with Jonathan Isaac’s length that can give opposing guards trouble defensively. Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo come to mind first. Other players with Isaac’s size are not as nimble on their feet and are not experienced with defending on the perimeter.

As a team who has failed to live up to their talent levels, the coaching staff will have to figure out how to get Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon on the court together. It’s only a matter of time until they figure it out.

But we likely wont see it until Isaac is a bit more NBA ready.

 

 

 

Power Forward or Small Forward, Which Position Should Jonathan Isaac Play For The Orlando Magic?

The future of the Orlando Magic hinge strongly on the development of rookie Jonathan Isaac. The Magic’s front office will likely build around Isaac moving forward. But what position will he play best at, a small forward or a power forward?

Jonathan Isaac is a unicorn —in the making. Sort of.

By height, Jonathan Isaac is a power forward or center. Based on his skill set, he projects more as a small forward. He is an unofficially seven footer with the foot speed of a guard — a position he played previously in his career. He is capable of guarding low post players or quickly switching out to cover a faster wings or guards on the perimeter.

Jonathan Isaac is a bit undersized weighing 205 pounds and currently does not possess the strongest body but he will surely gain weight and strength before the season’s start.

The question for the Orlando Magic is where will Jonathan Isaac be best suited to make the greatest impact for the team —small forward or power forward?

Jonathan Issac of the Orlando Magic

During his lone year at Florida State, Isaac’s role was to be a defensive specialist. His primary job was to grab rebounds, block shots, and finish put backs or lobs. He stepped out for the occasional three-pointer but never made a home beyond the perimeter. The Florida State roster consisted of upperclassmen who carried much of the offensive load. It was natural that his length and rebounding ability would see Isaac playing at the power forward position in college. The power forward position in college is much different from the NBA with experience and size being the major factors.

Coming out of Florida State, Isaac drew lofty comparisons to Kevin Durant as his ceiling. Most of those comparisons stem from his frame and athleticism. Isaac doesn’t look to have the alpha dog scorers mentality at the moment, but he can definitely put the ball in the basket in a smaller volume but similar fashion.

During the Orlando Magic Pro Summer League, Isaac spent most of his time at the power forward position. And he played well. When he stepped out in the perimeter, he was able to make larger, slower defenders pay by knocking down open jump shots.

Summer league play is a small sample size of game play against what players need to expect during the regular season. It does however give a team the ability to gauge how a player could perform when placed in certain situations. And Isaac passed the “stretch-4” power forward criteria.

During his second summer league game against the Miami Heat, Jonathan Isaac was matched up against small forward Okaro White. Isaac was able to come away with 15 points, 13 rebounds on 7 of 12 shooting. He also added one steal and one block in only 22 minutes of play. White was one of the standout small forwards during summer league play. Isaac was able to play on the perimeter with him in a battle of small forwards.

Jonathan Isaac had a defensive play in the same game where he switched onto a Miami point guard on defense. The guard tried to dribble around Isaac, but Isaac cut him off before he was able turn the corner. He attempted a crossover move to get Issac off-balance before putting up a shot that was blocked effortlessly. It’s plays like that, that will make Jonathan Isaac a nightmare on defense. His 7’1″ wing span makes its difficult to shoot over. Issac’s anticipation keeps him on is feet and not biting on pump fakes. This game was a clear indication that Isaac should be able to play the perimeter forward position. The Magic will attempt to place him next to teammate Aaron Gordon during certain lineups.

The Magic have yet to see Aaron Gordon play to his full potential but this year should see better results from the fourth year forward. He was sidelined with a jaw injury his first season. He lost time playing behind Tobias Harris his second season. Last season, his third, he failed at playing small forward full-time. The presumption this season is to have Aaron Gordon play out a full season at his natural power forward position. If so, that means Isaac could play more minutes at the small forward spot, eventually becoming the starter.

The Orlando Magic are making the right moves, despite not making a big move this year

If the Magic can find a way rotation that allows Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon to be on the court at the same time the outcome could be amazing. Gordon and Isaac would be able to switch every rotation on defense and could create offensive mismatches due to their individual styles of play.

The Magic have a gem in Jonathan Isaac. It may not matter where he is positioned on paper as it seems he can play both forward spots. If the Orlando Magic can harness Issac’s abilities, he may be their best chance to having an all-star again.

What did the Orlando Magic learn from Summer League?

Another week of Summer League play is in the books and now the Orlando Magic can move forward with a focus on free agency. But what did the Magic learn from the summer league games?

The Orlando Magic are at a turning point in the franchise’s history. The annual summer league games gave us a preview of what the incoming rookies will be able to do against NBA talent. While most of the players are fighting to make rosters for the coming season, there are a few seasoned current NBA players looking to refine their game.

The summer league is not a clear indicator of what to expect from individuals during the NBA regular season. There won’t be as much experience on the court and not as much of a scouting report or game plan in place to win. Teams are more concerned with the players getting a chance to showcase their talents. Lets analyze what the Orlando Magic can take away from this past week.

1. Jonathan Isaac was the right pick for the Magic

The Orlando Magic came into this week hoping for a glimpse at what the franchise could develop towards down the road. With this year’s draft class being touted as the deepest since the 2003 draft which was headlined by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, it would be a tragedy to end up selecting the one guy who becomes labeled a bust as the Detroit Pistons did with Darko Milicic at pick two.

With Orlando picking in the sixth spot, many fans figured the team would select the best scorer available to add an offensive boost to one of the worst offenses in the league.  Dennis Smith Jr. was on the board. Malik Monk was on the board as well. Both prospects were considered great scorers and can’t miss prospects. Jeff Weltman and John Hammond decided to go with “upside” and “potential” like the last Magic regime. They combined those words with characteristics like “length” and “versatility”. The complete package described the next face of Orlando Magic basketball and they selected forward Jonathan Isaac.

From day one of summer league action, the sixth overall pick of the Orlando Magic did not disappoint. Admittedly nervous in his first NBA game, Isaac displayed flashes of what he is capable of on both ends of the court. By the second game, Isaac came out more comfortable and showed even more of his skills finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block, while shooting 7 of 12 from the floor in 22 minutes. Then he capped off that performance by knocking down a step back jumper at the buzzer to end the game.

Isaac still has a ways to go and he knows it, which is a bit refreshing. He knows that he can affect the game immediately by using his length and athleticism on the defensive end. Because of his length, Isaac showed great timing and control when defending in the painted area or on the perimeter. He doesn’t bite hard on pump fakes and shows hard on help defense knowing he can make up the ground with his long wingspan.

On the offensive end, Isaac scored in a number of ways. He has the confidence to catch and shoot from three-point range.  He is capable of isolating his defender on offense and getting to his sweet spots for open looks. Isaac is listed at 6’10” for the moment, but he seems a bit taller than that. Nearly seven foot tall, Issac has the advantage at being able to shoot over the top of defenders.

The more Isaac plays, the more he will improve. The Magic made a wise choice when they selected Jonathan Isaac.

2. Wesley Iwundu has the tools to be a major contributor this season

Second round pick Wesley Iwundu has the tools to be effective in this league. Projected out as a “3-D” type of player, Iwundu’s 7’1″ wingspan proved to be very useful on the defensive end. Iwundu was able to cut off passing lanes or cause deflections that broke up plays for the opposing team. While those things don’t show up in the stat lines, they contribute to winning ways. Wesley had a memorable chase down block at the rim in which he turned around to finish on the offensive end with a layup.

On the offensive end, Iwundu showed great court vision and passing ability. After a week in summer league, it’s clear that he will be capable of running an offense in spell moments.

Iwundu’s anticipation and athleticism will be great assets on both ends of the court.  The Orlando Magic are looking to be long and athletic at all positions. Iwundu will become more comfortable bringing the ball up the floor and initiating the offense. If he is successful, it will only benefit the Magic by having another long player at a key position. While at Kansas State, Iwundu was the primary ball handler, so the transition should be seamless. Iwundu will need time to learn the offense at the pro level.

3. Derrick Walton Jr. can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor

One of the more impressive performances this week was that of point guard Derrick Walton Jr. He entered summer league as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan. Walton finished the week converting 50 percent from three-point land and will surely earn himself an invite to training camp at the very least with that type of shooting potential.

Aside from his deep shooting numbers, Walton showed that he has the poise to run an NBA offense. After spending four years at Michigan, stepping into the role of floor general on the NBA level is a little easier for Walton than it would be for a typical freshman coming out of college.

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Walton took care of the ball incredibly well this week having only four total turnovers in four games. In a league that is going in the direction of having longer and taller guys at every position, Walton still finds a way to get the job done. With the Magic struggling last year shooting from deep, Walton is a likely candidate to be an addition to the Magic roster.

 

 

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