When a team is losing a lot of games and is guaranteed to be a reasonably big player in this summer’s NBA draft, it can be hard to look at the bigger picture. This is understandable of course, we live in a world where short term fixes and results are the most sought after conclusions to most problems. Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers have by and large exist on quick fixes for more than 40 years now, this season being one of the few in that span where a dip into the draft is a certainty. It is not wanted by the team, they have far too much glamour and a name to uphold as one that attracts premier free agents. But it is so badly needed for a team that will need to use it’s financial flexibility wisely going forward like never before. The Orlando Magic are another team living in the here and the now, and rightly so. But somebody up at head office needs to step away from the battle plans being drawn up for this summer, and take in the surroundings of what this team needs long term to succeed in the NBA.
In this order, what the Magic need is the right pick(s) from the upcoming draft that fit in with what this organization is trying to build. After that, the focus must shift to a free agent or two (we’ll come back to who these players may be at a later date) who can come in and make an impact right away. Then probably in Orlando’s case get into training camp/the laboratory and discover the secret formula for winning away games. Building team chemistry might even be after that. But somewhere in there, thought needs to be given to the bench this team will have. At this moment it is a hodgepodge mix of assorted characters at best. With the greatest of respect to the players who do come off the bench and really give their all, every single one of them are expendable. If a better option for the bench should come up over the summer, the Magic must take it. Yes the price must be right too, but no team who was ever serious about winning championships or even making the playoffs has ever gotten by on a starting five alone. Orlando must not lose sight of this fact. Seeing teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, who drafted well in recent years only to crumble when their starting five went to the pine, must serve as a massive warning. It takes many pieces to get the ship moving in the right direction, and going back to the Bobcats once more as an example, it was the acquisition of Al Jefferson and the solidifying of a bench that has them in the playoff hunt now.
A couple of holdovers such as Kyle O’Quinn and E’Twaun Moore playing some minutes next year wouldn’t be terrible either. They know the system, know their roles already and actually have a bit of talent as well. This season, the Magic’s bench has given the team 28.8 points a game. There are worse benches out there for sure, (we’re looking at you Portland with your 24.4) but you have to remember that this Orlando team really has no offensive focal point whatsoever. That title was bestowed upon Arron Afflalo and it is not his game. So the bench needs to up their productivity in that area and only new faces can really solve this problem. The bench is the 19th-most productive in the league with an efficiency rating of 32.7. Again not terrible, but when there is no real star power in the starting lineup either, the bench players need to step up. There is also no identity within the bench either, so you never really know what you are going to get with this group on a night to night basis. Are they players who come in and get it going offensively? Maybe their the kind who strive to lock down and wear out the opposing team with their defense? The bottom line is the bench next year needs an identity, otherwise games will once more slip away from this team.
Right now, the bench the Orlando Magic have to begin next season is not important, and this is all right. But it will become important far quicker than a lot of people realize, and this is why it needs to be brought up now. We’re not looking for Sixth Man of the Year candidates to come on board, just players who know their roles and can execute accordingly. If all goes to plan, next year Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and either a free agent/draft pick will be the starting five for this team. Depending on the growth of the younger players mentioned, that could be a talented starting unit. It would be a shame for it all to collapse once these players head to the bench to rest during the game. It wouldn’t be Philadelphia 76ers-bad if the bench didn’t get a major overhaul, but it wouldn’t be a million miles away from that. Hopefully some bright spark up at HQ knows this, and is working on getting suitable players in already.