Unsurprisingly, the Orlando Magic will be trying to develop the young players they have on their roster next season. This should mean more responsibility and more minutes for the likes of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless.The team has to try and win games as well, though, and that is why getting the balance right with the veterans brought in over the summer is important as well. With these two goals in mind, who will be the starting five for Orlando come opening night away to the New Orleans Pelicans?
We’ll start with the easy choices, and really there is no competition for the starting center role on this team. That position belongs solely to Nikola Vucevic, as he looks to build on a promising season last year.
Too early to label him an All-Star for sure, but the guy averaged a double-double last season (14.2 points and 11 rebounds) and has a great handle for a big man. This is an important year for him and he’ll start every game he’s healthy.
Getting a little trickier now, the power forward starting spot will probably go to Channing Frye. There is so much to like about the veteran, beginning with how he comes across to the media and his attitude towards the game.
On a talent level though, there are certainly far better power forwards in the league. But he brings some badly needed experience, and can spread the floor nicely for the more athletic players on this team as well.
Frye shot 37 percent from beyond the arc last year, so he will drag defenders out of position as they try to defend his shot.
The small forward position is arguably the most intriguing of all for a variety of reasons. With the potential shown so far, this could one day be Aaron Gordon’s spot on the team.
Adding yet another twist to the selections, however, there are those who feel that Gordon may also make an explosive power forward when he has developed his game considerably, this writer included. No matter what position he plays predominantly on the court though, it won’t be in a starting capacity on opening night.
This leaves both Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless to tussle for the starting job at the 2. Both have their pros and cons as to why they should start.
However, coming at it from the point of view of the team, it might be better to have Harris come off the bench. He has more potential to his game as he matures, although Harkless also has a lot of upside, and so would be an ideal candidate for a role as a sixth man for this team.
Harris is one of the few players left who is truly capable of creating his own shot. Considering how awful this team was on the offensive end last year, having that production off the bench could be big for the Magic.
Let’s go the other way for a moment though and start Harris, leaving the sixth man role to a player we will talk about in a moment. Harkless has the ability to find the flow of a game quickly and allows his game to fall into the natural rhythm set by the starters.
Not everybody has this skill, and so he may be the better option off the bench.
Orlando might as well play its strongest five from the start of games so as to get them familiar with playing with one another. All going well it will be a similar starting five the year after next, with a better bench around them.
So playing them together now makes sense. Harris to get the nod to start on opening night.
The backcourt is the hardest decision of all to make, but in a good way in that three players can realistically feel they should start. This is a nice problem for a coach to have.
Victor Oladipo is the best guard on the team, although the jury is still out on where he should play. A shooting guard by nature. the point guard experiment of last year brought mixed results and a lot of turnovers.
So putting him back into his more familiar role makes sense.
It also allows exciting prospect Elfrid Payton to get some early game time in. One of the surprise packages of Summer League with how polished his game appeared to be, why not throw him in at the deep end in a similar fashion to Oladipo last season.
Yes, he’ll cough the ball up a lot, but it won’t matter if it means he rapidly turns into the floor general the Magic feel he can be in a few years from now.
While that all sounds well and good, what about Evan Fournier? Acquired from the Denver Nuggets earlier in the summer, the Frenchman is a nice pickup.
Although he only averaged 8.4 points last year, he did so in just 19.8 minutes of action a night. Offensively he knows how to get his shots, and as mentioned this team was beyond poor offensively last year.
He’s not much of a defender right now, but the team does need to score. You can’t bench Oladipo though, and Payton is the only true point guard of he three.
Oladipo will probably start the season at the point once more, with Fournier beside him. They would form a nice duo, Oladipo’s athleticism and Fournier’s ability to score to a decent standard, as well as Oladipo’s always improving defense.
For me though, I would like to see Payton get the nod to start, with Oladipo beside him. An above average starting five, and when you have Harkless and Fournier coming off the bench it means a little bit of depth to the team as well.
Something that Orlando hasn’t had in a while now.