We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Orlando Magic.
The Orlando Magic by no means would be considered NBA royalty or a perennial juggernaut, but the past five years have literally been the worst in the franchise’s history.
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see (now former) GM Rob Hennigan sent on his way.
The players, for the most part, are the same as the ones from a year ago, but the Magic are banking on a more seasoned front-office being exactly what’s needed in order to make those losing ways for so many years, disappear.
The Magic brought in Jeff Weltman as their president of basketball operations and John Hammond as the GM.
Both worked together in Detroit as well as Milwaukee, although with the Bucks it was Weltman reporting to Hammond.
The two bring more than familiarity to the table, but also a track record of success in building lottery teams into legit playoff contenders.
One of the first challenges they will face is trying to make sense out of a roster that on many levels, doesn’t fit in with today’s NBA landscape.
Orlando paid big money to land Serge Ibaka after having already signed Bismack Biyombo who joined a front line featuring Nikola Vucevic.
Like most of the Orlando roster, the Magic’s Big three big men never meshed on the floor with any kind of consistency.
And in their efforts to make it work, it to some degree stunted the growth of promising forward Aaron Gordon, who is one of the more athletic players in the NBA.
Still, one thing we know about teams assembled by Hammond is that he loves length, athleticism and versatility.
That’s why the Magic didn’t hesitate to go out and sign former San Antonio Spur Jonathan Simmons to a three-year, $20 million contract.
Simmons, 28, had a solid season with San Antonio, but really made a name for himself (and a few dollars along the way) by the job he did at both ends of the floor when Kawhi Leonard was hurt and he had to contend with Houston’s James Harden.
No one would put Simmons in the same class as Leonard as far as being a two-way talent, but there was no mistaking how well Simmons held his own against the always-explosive scoring of Harden.
And the Magic, which picked sixth in the June NBA draft, once again looked to add a player with tremendous length and versatility in selecting Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac.
It was a no-brainer pick for a front office that while in Milwaukee, surprised some in selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo at a time when many felt the Greek Freak would take a number of years before making an impact. And in Hammond’s last draft with the Bucks, he selected Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick.
Like previous skinny-as-a-rail picks, Maker showed promise as a rookie that he can, in fact, be an early contributor who can improve with more time and experience which was instrumental in Milwaukee’s steady improvement.
But can they replicate that success in Orlando?
It remains to be seen but one thing is clear: It’ll be difficult for them to sink any lower than where the franchise was when they assumed their current positions.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Arron Afflalo (Sacramento); Mo Speights (Golden State); Jonathan Simmons (San Antonio).
Key losses: Jeff Green (Cleveland); Jodie Meeks (Washington)
Rookies of note: Jonathan Isaac; Wesley Iwundu.
Expectations: 37-45 (Fourth in the Southeast Division, 10th in the East)
The Raptors have re-signed power forward Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65 million deal, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Now that Ibaka has rejoined Toronto, the next step for the Raptors likely will be attempting to bring back guard Kyle Lowry.
Ibaka, Lowry, and the Raptors made it to the second round of the 2017 playoffs before being swept by the Cavaliers.
UPDATE: Kyle Lowry has announced via The Players Tribune he will indeed re-sign with the Raptors. The deal is for three years and $100 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.