Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Don’t look now, but the grumbling and moaning over front office moves have ceased in Orlando, at least temporarily. Even throughout a laughable, disastrous season for the Magic, fans have generally voiced optimism, most aptly regarding the young pieces on the roster.
This is a new look for Orlando, especially considering the recent history of less-than-desirable personnel decisions by previous regimes. The bottom line right now is that the Magic fanbase has no reason whatsoever to distrust general manager Rob Hennigan, which is worth its weight in gold as Orlando enters the first of what will probably be several rebuilding drafts.
There is no question that at least part of the excitement over the budding talent in Orlando is based on the lack of star power to fuel the fire. Because of the quasi-pathetic effect this season has had on Magic fans, a collective voice is trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Maybe that is what makes Orlando a great basketball town.
Or maybe the silver lining — in the form of five very promising players — is truly a testament to Hennigan’s eye for talent. It is difficult to judge these things in small sample sizes, but we’re no longer talking about one strategic move that brought in one value player. Hennigan is responsible for Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn, and Tobias Harris.
Save for J.J. Redick, those are names that have been at the forefront of most Magic-based conversations for a large sum of the year. When J.J. Redick and Dwight Howard’s return to Orlando are the two most exciting events of the season, the standard for riveting storylines and talking points gets lowered considerably. But I digress.
Make no mistake, things could be a lot worse. In retrospect, even the most cynical of fans would have to be honest with themselves and come to the realization that by in large, we’re not manufacturing this story, at least not in the macro sense.
Vucevic is in his second season and has already become one of the top centers in the league. He is absolutely shattering his production from last season on Philadelphia and only seems to be getting better. Maurice Harkless has shown that he is no joke on the defensive end, and is starting to flex his muscle more and more as a slasher on offense. Andrew Nicholson has brought grounded footwork and high IQ post moves, and while his defense and size are lacking, he’s just about as solid of a big man as you could ask for. Kyle O’Quinn is quietly securing a spot for himself as a solid back-up center. And Tobias Harris has helped ease the pain of the loss of the beloved J.J. Redick.
These are not facts that are lost on Magic fans, nor are they indicative of a group of superstar rookie and sophomore players. They are simply evidence, and strong evidence at that, that Rob Hennigan has an eye for talent. It’s hard to get lucky once or twice, and it’s even harder to get lucky five times.
Hennigan understands the building process. He understands development and, at this point, is starting to put together a fairly complicated puzzle. It’s not going to happen overnight, but Magic fans should be thrilled that they have a front office making the right moves.
So instead of speculating about the draft, the Magic fanbase should sit back and trust until given a reason to do otherwise. Maybe the Magic grab that first pick. Maybe they snatch up Nerlens Noel. Maybe they trade down for a couple of first rounders. Who knows what will happen. That being said, it’s hard not to salivate at the possibilities.
We’re in an information age that holds fast to the principles of advanced statistics. Right now, there’s a limited sample size, but after preseason moves and a big trade deadline move, Hennigan is batting nearly 1.000. Not only that, but the value he’s getting out of these players (namely Vucevic) makes him highly efficient. It’s a shame there is no advanced stat for GM moves. Right now Hennigan is killing it.
Think back to your days of wallowing in the depression of bad contracts, no cap space, over-the-hill players, and early playoff exits. Now look forward toward the future. The difference is night and day.