The Orlando Magic have played their last game of 2016. It was a 19-point loss at home to the Charlotte Hornets that brought the team's season record to 15-19. With a -4.2 point differential, Orlando ranks 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
After a very busy offseason
, this was not the start Magic fans and management imagined for the team. Much of the team's struggles stem from its inability to find a proper rotation and use for all its big men. Arguably five of the Magic's top eight players play or should play power forward or center. Some are being forced into other spots to accommodate the depth.
Aaron Gordon is a power forward. He is a bouncy athlete capable of playing defense from the rim to the three-point line. However, he can't shoot and is not a small forward on the offensive end. Yet that is where new head coach
Frank Vogel has been playing him out of necessity. Sometimes it works
; other times it most certainly does not. Orlando needs more offense and floor spacing to clear out the paint for the real post-up scorers on this roster. It is hard enough for it to create space when point guard Elfrid Payton can't shoot either. Adding Gordon in at a wing spot crowds up the interior even more.
Payton is another point of contention for the team in 2016. Is he the point guard of the future when he seems to have capped out his talents? He is below average from the foul line and a non-factor from three. Defenders lay off him when he has the ball on the outside like he's Rajon Rondo 2.0, yet he doesn't have the vision or play-making that young Rondo had. He is only 22 years old, so it's not right to give up on him
. But in a league where having an elite offensive distributor is the starting point for competing, Orlando can't fall behind its peers.
Both Gordon and Payton have shot the ball better in recent weeks, perhaps implying a shift is coming. It will help to have Evan Fournier back from injury. Fournier has missed three straight games with a bruised heel but hopes to return for the team's January 1st game. As the lineup gets back to full strength and gels, the rumor mill swirls.
Orlando has been involved in all kinds of trade rumors
because of the logjam in the frontcourt. It also has a real need for a scoring punch. Nikola Vucevic is the main name that always comes up
since the moves this offseason made him replaceable if not redundant. Payton and Mario Hezonja are also players the team may be looking to jettison if a better piece comes back. Despite a real need for what Hezonja's strengths should be, the youngster is playing just 9.3 minutes per game off the bench; hardly what Orlando expected from the 2015 fifth overall pick.