By John Denton
Sept. 22, 2017
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic had an extremely busy offseason, restructuring their front office, dramatically altering the look of the roster with the addition of several proven veteran players and drafting an elite prospect high in last June’s NBA Draft.
Now, with training camp set to open in a week, it’s time to delve deeper into the roster and evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Orlando’s first order of business in the offseason was changing its decision makers in the front office. In President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond, the Magic have more than five decades of professional basketball experience on board and two men who have long histories of success.
The Magic then stacked their roster with more experience and talent by signing forward Jonathon Simmons, big man Marreese Speights, wing Aaron Afflalo and point guard Shelvin Mack in free agency. Those veterans will be charged with mentoring promising rookie forward Jonathan Isaac, the No. 6 pick in the draft, and second-round addition Wesley Iwundu this season.
That new group, combined with head coach Frank Vogel and the returning core of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Bismack Biyombo, Terrence Ross, D.J. Augustin and Mario Hezonja, gives the Magic the belief that they could be a playoff team this season following a five-year absence from the postseason.
Training camp opens Monday (at the Amway Center), the first preseason game (in Memphis) is Oct. 2 and the regular-season opener (vs. Miami at home) is Oct. 18.
Today, we look at the Magic’s strengths and weaknesses at the shooting guard position. Ross is the incumbent at the position, but there should be competition pushing him for minutes there if he doesn’t defend and shoot better than he did last season. That challenge could even come from Fournier, who might be moved back to shooting guard if Simmons – a hard-nosed defender – works his way into the starting lineup for a Magic squad in search of gritty defenders.
Afflalo, a standout with the Magic from 2012-14, has played for six teams in the last six seasons and he is exceptionally excited about returning to Orlando – the place of his greatest happiness in the NBA, he said. His weight is down from 215 to 195, he still cares deeply about winning and he is hoping that a return to the Magic will rejuvenate his career as a meaningful scorer and a mentor for younger players.
Without further ado, let’s break down how the Magic look at the small forward position:
POSITION: Shooting guard
PLAYERS: Terrence Ross (6-7, 206, 5 NBA seasons); Arron Afflalo (6-5, 215, 10 NBA seasons); Evan Fournier (6-7, 205, 5 NBA seasons); D.J. Augustin (6-0, 183, 9 NBA seasons).
PROJECTED STARTER: Ross (2016-17 stats in 24 games with Magic: 12.5 ppg., 2.8 rpg., 1.8 apg., 1.4 spg., 43.1 FG percent, 34.1 3FG percent, 85.2 FT percent).
PROJECTED DEPTH: Afflalo (2016-17 stats: 8.4 ppg., 2 rpg., 1.3 apg., 0.3 spg., 44 FG percent, 41.1 3FG percent, 89.2 FT percent); Fournier (2016-17 stats: 17.2 ppg., 3.1 rpg., 3 apg., 1 spg., 43.9 FG percent, 35.6 3FG percent, 80.5 FT percent); Augustin (2016-17 stats: 7.9 ppg., 1.5 rpg., 2.7 apg., 0.4 spg., 37.7 FG percent, 34.7 3FG percent, 81.4 FT percent).
STRENGTHS: Ross, Fournier and Afflalo give the Magic great length, shooting and athleticism at the two-guard position, but Orlando needs all of them to be more consistent and keep a defensive mindset about them. Ross has shown himself to be an elite shooter at times, while Fournier can take over games at times with his ability to score from all over the floor with his great movement. Afflalo isn’t nearly the player that he was when he thrived in Orlando from 2012-14, but the team will be better for the competitiveness, smarts and toughness he will bring. This position has the potential to be the Magic’s most reliable and productive spot on the floor if Ross is more consistent and Afflalo enjoys a revitalization in Orlando.
WEAKNESSES: Ross can get downright torrid from the outside at times, but he tends to rely too heavily on his 3-point shot and he’s often streaky from night to night. Fournier can play either small forward or shooting guard, but it is an absolute must for the Magic that he shoot the ball better this season. Afflalo is coming off a season in which he made 41.1 percent of his 3-point shots, but has seen his role diminish in recent years because of his inefficiency as a shooter. Also, Ross, Fournier and Afflalo need to make others around them better by drawing the defense and dishing the ball to the open man.
ANALYSIS: Orlando hopes that Ross will be much more comfortable and confident now with 24 games in Orlando last season under his belt. Ross has spent most of his summer in Orlando, working hard on his conditioning and his outside shot. The Magic also need him to be an athletic and opportunistic defender who works harder at staying in front of his man.
Fournier can certainly play some shooting guard – a position that he manned much of last season before shifting back to small forward when Ross arrived in a trade from Toronto. Fournier could very well find himself back at the shooting guard position if Simmons – a free-agent signee from the San Antonio Spurs – pushes his way into the starting lineup with his gritty defense and toughness.
Afflalo brings a high level of competitiveness and toughness to the Magic, while Augustin can fill in at shooting guard if Payton and Mack take up all of the point guard minutes. If Afflalo can make 41.1 percent of his threes – as he did last season in Sacramento – he should be in the rotation because of Orlando’s lack of outside shooting.
Solid but never spectacular in his career, Augustin’s play was a disappointment in his first season in Orlando. The Magic signed Mack to push Payton at point guard, meaning Augustin might be forced to look for minutes as an off guard in small-ball lineups.
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.