August 24, 2018, 11:58 pm
How’d We Get Here?
The Magic put together a very strange roster two seasons ago and only now are they beginning to emerge with some nuggets for the future after clearing the deck. Frank Vogel is out, Steve Clifford is in and the Magic are still weak in the backcourt with a ton of bodies up front. There’s some very interesting long-term stuff in the makings and it’ll be on the front office and coaching staff to make sure it all develops appropriately.
Arrivals: Jerian Grant, Jarell Martin, Timofey Mozgov
Rookie Arrivals: Mo Bamba (No. 6), Melvin Frazier (No. 35), Justin Jackson (No. 43), Isaiah Briscoe (UDFA)
Departures: Mario Hezonja, Shelvin Mack, Bismack Biyombo, Arron Afflalo, Rodney Purvis
Retained: Aaron Gordon
Depth Chart and Minutes Per Game
PG: D.J. Augustin (23-25) / Jerian Grant (22-26) / Isaiah Briscoe / Troy Caupain
SG: Evan Fournier (30-32) / Wesley Iwundu
SF: Jonathon Simmons (26-29) / Terrence Ross (23-27) / Melvin Frazier
PF: Aaron Gordon (30-32) / Jonathan Isaac (23-26) / Khem Birch / Jarell Martin
C: Nikola Vucevic (27-29) / Mohamed Bamba (18-25) / Timofey Mozgov
Point Guard: The Magic had Elfrid Payton as their point guard of the future but ultimately decided that he wouldn’t cut it after a few years of promising moments that were undercut by play that was generally unbecoming of a franchise pillar. Orlando will proceed with D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant as their top two point guard options this year, with Isaiah Briscoe and Troy Caupain as Nos. 3 and 4 if it comes to that.
We’ll guess that Augustin draws the starts given his work with the organization over the last two years but Grant isn’t that far behind. We could be looking at a very even timeshare at the point guard spot, which is an area that the Magic have to address in the near term to complement their budding frontcourt talent.
Shooting Guard: Evan Fournier offers Orlando some certainty coming off a career season. Any of Fournier, Jonathon Simmons or Terrence Ross could be called a shooting guard and two of those three will start at the wings any way you slice it. Wesley Iwundu soaked up some minutes down the stretch last year and figures to be the fourth man in the group, with rookie Melvin Frazier rounding things out as emergency depth.
Small Forward: Ross wasn’t overly impressive as the starter last season, though an injury prevented him from rebounding after a tough start to the year. Simmons stepped in and performed admirably, giving Orlando some two-way play while picking up a lot of extra scoring opportunity. He figures to open the year as the starter but Ross could easily overtake him if coach Clifford wants to add some floor spacing.
It’s possible that Jonathan Isaac gets some time here in Orlando’s biggest groups, as he can capably defend three positions and could use the development after a rookie year that was dominated by injuries. Iwundu and Frazier will again be working in support.
Power Forward: Aaron Gordon inked a four-year, $80 million contract and is the team’s starting four going forward. He couldn’t quite put it all together until last season, when the team finally stopped trotting him out at the three and put him in the spot that makes the most sense given his physical frame and skillset.
Jonathan Isaac will be the primary backup but will see time at both forward spots and center. Behind him is newcomer Jarell Martin, who had some nice moments for the Grizzlies in the midst of their tank last season. He was also miscast as a small forward for much of it, so hopefully the Magic don’t make the same call. Rookie Justin Jackson can also get into the mix but it might be hard to find the minutes here.
Center: This is where things get very crowded. Nikola Vucevic put together a fine campaign last year and deserves the lion’s share of minutes, but prize rookie Mo Bamba is going to push for playing time as Orlando looks to the future. Jonathan Isaac should also play some center and Khem Birch played well enough down the stretch last year to warrant at least a little playing time.
It’s a very tight squeeze to get everyone involved here, and while Vucevic is presently the best of the options you can make easy arguments that he’s the third or fourth-most important player at this spot in terms of the team’s long-term success. Timofey Mozgov is also here.
The Magic are still built out of the frontcourt in a time where everyone else is trying to stockpile talent in the backcourt and on the wing, but at least the young pieces they’ve put together can eventually morph into a terrifying, versatile defensive outfit.
Orlando would be wise to spend the year exploring how Gordon, Isaac and Bamba work together and what types of players will best complement that core. Trading Vucevic for futures would also be advisable, but we’re not going to forecast any transactions.
Total Value: 134/149 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 165/175 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 75
2017-18 Review: Augustin got the starting nod when Elfrid Payton was traded and performed well in the role, hitting a career-high 45.2 percent of his shots while hitting 41.9 percent of his threes. He saw notable jumps when he was starting, averaging 27.5 mpg (up from 19.7) and dropping 11.7 points and 5.0 assists a night. It was a definite step forward from his first year in Orlando and he ended up posting top-110/130 value from February onward.
This Year: That solid finish puts Augustin on the inside track to start this season, though it’s looking like Jerian Grant will give him a run for his money. Both are NBA-caliber guards, with Grant skewing more towards playmaking and defense with DJA profiling as more of a scoring option. Even if they end up in some sort of timeshare Augustin proved last year that he can crank out low-end numbers.
Injury History: Augustin missed seven games in November with a hamstring injury but that’s the only blemish on his record. The year before that he missed time with an ankle injury but has been relatively healthy otherwise, as lots of his absences can be explained by his role as a fringe rotation guy for most of his career.
Outlook: If Augustin can stick around 25 mpg, he’ll be a fringe fantasy option in 12-team leagues. If he gets more than that then he’ll be a fine low-end guard with enough points, threes and assists to be worth your time. The lack of clarity in Orlando’s backcourt plus Augustin’s quality play last season should give him a floor befitting ownership in 16-team leagues at the very least.
Total Value: 125/120 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 70/62 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 57
2017-18 Review: While Fournier missed the final 17 games of the season with a knee sprain, he was putting together a career-best season before that. He’d finish with career-highs in scoring (17.8), rebounds (3.2), 3-pointers (2.2) and free throw percentage (.868) with a jump up in field goal efficiency to .459 on career-high volume. That was the key, as his numbers were generally similar to 2016-17’s but he was only a top-100/120 player while shooting .439 from the field. Even with a decline in steals and assists, he moved up the rankings substantially.
This Year: Fournier’s contract means he’s going to be a team centerpiece and as things stand he’s really their only sure thing outside of the frontcourt. That said, it’s tough to imagine him really altering his statline going forward unless Steve Clifford substantially changes the way the team gets its buckets. He’s a nice complementary guy but as long as he’s tasked with a big scoring load on the perimeter Fournier could struggle with swings in efficiency.
Injury History: Fournier missed all 25 of his games with two injuries this season: eight games with a sprained right ankle and the final 17 because of a sprained left MCL. The previous year he missed 14 games with heel and foot problems. Back in 2014-15, his first year with the Magic, a groin strain forced him to the sidelines for 21 games. He’s a moderate injury risk with only one season above 68 games in his last four.
Outlook: Fournier will be able to return value anywhere in the late-middle rounds, but if he can keep this efficiency up then top-85 production is looking very attainable. We’d expect his minutes to come down somewhat if Terrence Ross stays healthy, and the Magic should be trying to limit his workload for the sake of his own health anyway, but he’s a quality scorer with enough ancillary stats to make for a fine pick in round seven or eight.
Total Value: 156/183 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 158/207 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 69
2017-18 Review: Simmons parlayed a big playoff run with the Spurs into a three-year, $20 million deal with the Magic. San Antonio tends to make players look better than they really are, and that was no different here although Simmons got enough volume to pump up his numbers and he did post career-highs in all the relevant shooting categories. It still wasn’t much for fantasy owners, but it was a nice year in general.
This Year: Simmons is slated to start on the wing and even if he comes off the bench he’ll be looking at mid-twenties minutes at the least. The Magic are pretty short on two-way perimeter players and it’d be great to see Simmons make strides as a playmaker to become more than a 2-point scorer.
Injury History: Despite shattering his previous career-highs in minutes, Simmons was pretty healthy until he missed the final 12 games of the season with a right wrist contusion. At first it looked like a tank-related injury but he ended up undergoing offseason surgery.
Considering his one other absence came from back spasms and he only missed four games the year prior (three with a wrist sprain and one with an illness), we’ll treat him as a low-level injury risk. He should be ready for camp.
Outlook: Simmons can grind out enough points and rebounds to float around the edges in 12-team leagues (8-cat only) but he’s pretty weak in the cash counters. He’s fine enough as a low-upside pick in the final round if you think he’ll expand his stat set, otherwise he’s best left for the 14-16-team range.
Total Value: 114/118 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 65/64 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 58
2017-18 Review: Gordon came roaring out of the gates this season, but the injuries that kept him out of the second and third games of the year were an omen of things to come. He dropped 41 & 14 in his first game back but it would end up being a season of stops and starts.
Gordon’s hot start was also buttressed by some obviously unsustainable 3-point shooting but he did end up with career-highs across the board with 17.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers. The only stat issues were in the efficiency department, as Gordon shot .434 on 14.9 attempts from the field and was just .698 from the line. Still, whenever he was on the court the Magic had to be pleased with everything that Gordon produced.
This Year: Gordon’s injuries probably cost him some coin as he was “only” able to reel in four years and $84 million despite being one of the top RFAs available. The Magic finally put him in the right spot and shouldn’t be messing with him going forward, as the deal is enough to keep him locked in to a big role as a high-priority player. His jumper and free throw shooting could use some work, so if we’re looking for any further improvement it’ll come in those two areas.
Injury History: It was another year of injury issues for the promising 23-year-old, who missed two games with a sore left ankle, two with a concussion, five with a strained right calf, nine with a strained left hip flexor, five with a second concussion and one game with a sore right calf.
In 2016-17 Gordon missed two games with a sprained right foot. In 2015-16 he was sidelined by another concussion and in 2014-15 he sprained an ankle, broke his jaw and fractured a metatarsal in his right foot. He’s a definite injury risk, especially as the concussion history mounts.
Outlook: While Gordon probably won’t ever be the top-30 stud he was to start the year (left ankle absence aside), we saw his upside on full display. The poor percentages and impending 3-point regression might be enough to keep him in middle-round territory but there’s easy top-50 upside if he continues to improve. The risk/reward equation is complicated by the injuries but we might not let him slip past the sixth round or so.
Total Value: 60/57 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 33/28 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 57
2017-18 Review: Vucevic continued to cruise along as one of fantasy’s better plays despite a lack of excitement surrounding his game. For all of the people who talk about adding 3-pointers over the summer, Vooch delivered – he hit 1.1 per game and 64 total, which more than doubled his previous career total of 30 through six seasons.
Even better, his field goal percentage actually went up from .468 to .475. Better still, Vucevic saw his free throws climb from .669 to .819, though he’s never really been a high volume guy at the stripe. He brought his scoring back up and while his rebounding suffered from playing further away from the cup he managed to average 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks, putting him in that elusive triple-one club.
This Year: A pending free agent, the Magic could take things a number of ways with their starting center. Considering Mo Bamba is now waiting in the wings they could conceivably trade Vucevic for a nice package of picks and prospects, or they could let him continue to start and rack up big numbers if they feel like they can make the playoffs.
There are still some questions about how Vucevic’s defense and lack of speed will hold up in the current league landscape but he’s a gifted offensive player and seems intent on adding to his game in order to keep up.
Injury History: Vucevic missed 23 games after fracturing his left hand but was healthy otherwise, missing one game with a back injury and another for rest purposes. In 2013-14 he dealt with an ankle/Achilles injury and he had bouts of both ankle and back soreness in 2014-15.
In 2015-16 he missed 13 games with a groin strain and then a handful more with a knee problem. In 2016-17 Vooch only missed seven contests with some Achilles soreness. He’s at least a moderate risk having hit 75 games just twice in his career.
Outlook: We remain skeptical that Vucevic can keep his percentages up as his 3-point volume increases, and Bamba and Jon Isaac are definitely going to be taking runs at his playing time. A trade to a contender would hurt too. All that said, Vucevic has a pretty nice stat set and as long as his defensive numbers don’t slip too far (which they shouldn’t), he’ll have no problems returning top-50 value again.
Mo Bamba (R)
2017-18 Review: Bamba’s college career started off with some drama as his estranged brother made headlines claiming Bamba violated NCAA rules but not much came of that. His one-and-done year for the Texas Longhorns saw him make the All-Big 12 Second Team, averaging 12.9 points, 10.5 boards, 0.8 steals, 3.7 blocks per game (and 0.5 treys to boot).
This Year: Bamba was selected No. 6 overall by the Magic, who have struggled as an organization for a very long time. He’ll target the backup center job that Bismack Biyombo used to have. If he holds his own, the Magic will play big and if he’s not quite ready, they have some small lineups that will be desperately needed to feed their other young asset, Jonathan Isaac.
Injury History: Bamba missed three games due to a left big toe injury in late February and that’s all we’ve seen on the injury docket. He enters the NBA with no major injury concerns.
Outlook: As long as Bamba doesn’t have major deficiencies on the defensive end he’s going to get significant minutes and because of that boards, blocks and maybe even steals and threes will follow. It could be a bumpy road to start if he gets low minutes and isn’t enjoying the type of productivity he’s typically accustomed to, but a late round selection is in play and we’ll have to see the ADP.
Total Value: 337/336 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 196/199 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 24
2017-18 Review: Ross couldn’t recapture the form he showed in the second half of 2016-17, as he entered the year hobbled and struggled to find a rhythm before sustaining a serious injury. His scoring and efficiency were way down but it’s hard to hold too much of the down year against Ross, and he did manage to make it back on the court through diligent rehab when it was thought he’d just be done for the season.
This Year: Expect the Magic to give Ross every chance at winning a starting job on the wing. Orlando doesn’t have a ton of tough-shot-makers, and while Ross can fall prey to tunnel vision from time to time he provides a level of spacing and scoring that the Magic don’t really have elsewhere on the roster. He should be entering the year fully healthy and will likely improve upon the 25.0 mpg he got last season.
Injury History: Ross came into the season nursing a hamstring injury and would suffer a sprained right MCL and non-displaced fracture in his right leg, putting him on the shelf for 56 games. He had been pretty healthy his entire career before that, and considering he was able to work his way back and play in the season’s final few games we’re not treating him as a major injury risk despite last year’s ugliness.
Outlook: While Ross will never be a boon to your efficiency, a career .421 shooter should be in line for some regression after clicking at .398 from the field. Even with the percentage lull he managed to knock down 1.3 triples per game, and if his scoring can get into the 12-13 range then we’ll be working with a player who also grabbed 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per contest. There’s top-120 upside here so T-Ross is very much on the board as a late-round flier.
Total Value: 325/313 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 193/178 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 27
2017-18 Review: If you’re looking for the type of versatile defender that teams can build around in 2018, Isaac is pretty high up on the list. He’s long and quick enough to defend at least three positions already but we didn’t get to see much of it because of constant ankle problems. When he was on the court, Isaac averaged 5.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.1 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers in 19.9 mpg.
This Year: Your eyes should be bugging out at those defensive numbers in those minutes. Even though he shot just .379 from the field he can absolutely be carried to late-round value by those steals and blocks as his workload increases.
The Orlando frontcourt is the most crowded part of the roster but Isaac’s development is huge for the franchise — and he’d force his way into a big role even if it weren’t. He’ll be adding strength and working on his shot for the foreseeable future, but there’s already a lot to like even with his present warts.
Injury History: Isaac missed most of his rookie season thanks to a balky right ankle. He first sprained it back on November 11, missing 17 games. He returned to action for two games before reaggravating the injury and sitting out for two more games.
After returning from that absence for one game, Isaac re-injured the ankle again on December 26 and spent the next 26 games on the sidelines. He would also miss three games with a strained left foot late in the year. He’s at least a moderate injury risk, though he looked good in Summer League.
Outlook: Isaac is one of our favorite late-round targets. Check back for final rankings to see where exactly we’ve got him, but he’s going to be someone you’ll want to make sure you get.
Total Value: 183/179 (8/9-cat)
Per-Game Value: 224/227 (8/9-cat)
Games Played: 74
2017-18 Review: Grant began the year as a starter but quickly faded to the background once Kris Dunn got healthy. By the end of the year he was behind Cam Payne on the depth chart and despite a moderately productive tenure in Chicago it was clear that the team would be moving on without him.
This Year: Move on they did, shipping Grant to the Magic. It might be good for him since he’s now the clear-cut No. 2 behind D.J. Augustin, but we’re not holding out hope for a lot more improvement in his game. It’s certainly possible that he wins the starting job but we’re not counting on it.
Injury History: Grant has avoided the injury report so far in his career.
Outlook: As the backup in Orlando, Grant has a shot at becoming a deep league assists specialist and occasional streaming play but is unlikely to do much more than that. If he were to beat out Augustin for the starting job in camp, he’d have a shot at top-150 numbers but he’s got a low ceiling even in big minutes.
Total Value: 204/209 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 242/254 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 73
2017-18 Review: Martin made some ripples with his performance over the two months, averaging 11.3 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting with 0.8 triples, 6.0 rebounds and 0.6 blocks. He took advantage of the swaths of available playing time but was forced into a small forward role that he’s just not quick enough to handle. Martin made the best of a tough situation and had a few nice moments, even if they only really registered in deep leagues.
This Year: Martin was traded to the Magic, where he’ll probably only be asked to play power forward. He’ll be “third” on the PF depth chart with most of Orlando’s top players and prospects working at the four and five.
Injury History: Martin missed two games with a knee problem, one with a set of left knee and left ankle injuries and then the final four with a bad left ankle sprain. He’s not a big injury risk as his end-of-year ankle sprain should be healed by now.
Outlook: While Martin posted some usable lines in big minutes, he won’t get the same opportunities this season. Leave him on the wire outside of 30-team leagues.
Total Value: 331/319 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 336/313 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 42
2017-18 Review: Birch was a nice late-season story for the Magic. Orlando wisely opted to use him over Bismack Biyombo down the stretch (18.2 mpg to 15.4 over the last 15), and in the end he was able to post averages of 4.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 13.7 minutes a night over 42 games.
This Year: Birch currently looks like the team’s third center, at least in a nominal sense. A trade of Nik Vucevic would clear the path considerably but Jonathan Isaac would probably see additional run at center in that situation anyway.
Injury History: Birch has no injuries of note on record.
Outlook: Birch can offer boards and blocks for owners in extremely deep formats but that’s about it. Don’t forget his name in case Vucevic gets moved and Isaac stays injury-prone, but there are better ways to spend your draft picks in all formats.
Total Value: 323/312 (8/9 cat)
Per-Game Value: 397/385 (8/9 cat)
Games Played: 62
2017-18 Review: Iwundu, the 33rd pick in the 2017 draft, ended up making 12 starts as Orlando’s wing depth was tested amidst a bevy of injuries. His skillset didn’t translate to anything of note in fantasy and he was mostly a minute muncher that has a long way to go to turn his 3-and-D potential into worthwhile fantasy numbers.
This Year: A healthy season from either Fournier or Ross would really dampen Iwundu’s prospects of playing time. He might be fourth on the wing depth chart but the first three figure to play almost all the minutes.
Injury History: Iwundu’s absences came from being shuttled to and from the G-League, not injuries.
Outlook: Iwundu only has appeal if you’re in a 30-team league, and even then there might still be higher upside alternatives.
Total Value: 371/385 (8/9-cat)
Per-Game Value: 367/395 (8/9-cat)
Games Played: 31
2017-18 Review: Mozgov had the starting center job all to himself in Brooklyn and still managed just 31 largely anonymous games. He averaged 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game and only received 11 starts, in which his numbers weren’t very different from his full season averages.
This Year: Mozgov and his allegedly untradeable contract have now been moved three times – from L.A. to Brooklyn last summer and from Brooklyn to Charlotte and Charlotte to Orlando this summer. NBA GMs are creative, you’ve got to give them that. He’s going to sit at the end of the bench and might be included in any potential trades if the parties involved need to balance salary.
Injury History: Mozzy underwent a right knee surgery back in 2015-16 and it’s been rumored that he rushed through rehab to try and cash in during free agency. While his game has dropped off a cliff, the strategy worked for his bank account. His agent requested some “rest” after Mozgov played for the Russian team last summer and the Nets were happy to oblige, DNPing him to oblivion – at least those nights off were good for the knee.
Outlook: Mozgov would need some injuries or trades to even take off his warmups in Orlando.
Melvin Frazer (R)
2017-18 Review: Frazier did a nice job improving as a catch-and-shoot scorer, hitting 38.5 percent of his triples last season after clicking at 27.5 percent in his first two years. His defensive quickness will prop up his NBA floor and his length and athleticism give the Magic hope that he’ll be a long-term 3-and-D fit.
This Year: Between Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons and Jonathan Isaac’s spillover minutes there won’t be much for Frazier to work with. He’s likely to be behind Wesley Iwundu in the pecking order too.
Injury History: Frazier missed a little time in college because of a chest contusion but is not an injury risk entering the NBA.
Outlook: We’d expect Frazier to do most of his work in the G-League so fantasy owners can look elsewhere for production.
Justin Jackson (R)
2017-18 Review: Jackson jumped into the draft despite missing most of the season, likely prompted by the fact that he had just wrapped up his sophomore season and was already 21. He shot 44 percent from deep as a freshman but struggled in his second year, though it’s tough to hold last season against him given his shoulder problems. The Magic took a shot on Jackson’s shooting and versatility late in round two.
This Year: The Magic are treating Jackson as something of a draft-and-stash player as they’ve signed him to a G-League contract. They’ll find out if his wingspan and shooting touch can be complements or the pillars of his game after last season’s injury robbed him of a chance to be a team leader.
Injury History: Jackson only played in 11 games last season because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder. We’ll see if he can get past it this year.
Outlook: Jackson won’t be hitting fantasy radars this year.