Depth is a Strength for the Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic have many question marks for this upcoming season. However, their improved depth appears to be a clear positive going forward.

The Orlando Magic offseason has been heavily debated. Despite all the criticism, one thing seems to be pretty clear to anyone analyzing: The Magic have improved their depth.

With a projected starting lineup of Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic, the Magic should still have many capable players coming off the bench for them. That list includes new acquisitions like D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green and Jodie Meeks. Plus returning players like C.J. Watson and Mario Hezonja.

One constant seems to ring true that makes this group better than last year’s reserve unit. Their bench can bring more consistent scoring.

Augustin, Meeks and Hezonja should be solid or better shooters, and can help the offense flow freely against other teams’ bench units. Augustin, Hezonja and Green have also shown the potential to create their own shots.

Having reliable scorers off the bench will allow the Magic to avoid huge dry spells with a serious lack of scoring. And they will be more consistent throughout the game on the offensive side.

The Magic had some solid work off the bench in the beginning of the season, with Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon as reserves.

But injuries to key players, regression from players like Channing Frye and the trade of Tobias Harris gave way to the Magic losing their edge in depth and often losing the bench battle in games.

The bench ended the 2016 season 12th in points, ninth in rebounds, 15th in field goal percentage and 14th in 3-point percentage. The unit was 18th in points against, 19th in rebounds against, 19th in field goal percentage against, and 26th in 3-point percentage against.

The bench was pretty mediocre on both sides of the ball. And teams were specifically able to score at will against the Magic reserves.

They could win the bench battle this year with the combination of strong scoring from the perimeter players and elite rim protection from Biyombo.

Another positive the abundance of depth gives is lineup versatility.

Frank Vogel said he is very impressed with the versatile roster the team has. And the depth is part of the reason why. With capable players coming off the bench, he will be able to pick different lineups and exploit potential matchup advantages if they come up.

But the biggest advantage of having a strong bench is the preservation of the best players.

The starters will be able to take rests whenever they need them, and play fewer minutes in back-to-back games. The team will be able to live with that because the level of play will not decrease too much when the rotation guys are on the court.

That aspect is huge if the Magic hope to avoid hitting the wall most teams hit late in the season with health. Or even to withstand injuries during the course of the season. There are starter-capable players waiting in the wings.

They faced a disastrous situation last season when Elfrid Payton began dealing with ankle problems. The Magic were depleted with Watson out and had no solid options to fill that role consistently.

Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic

Mar 23, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) walks toward guard Mario Hezonja (23) during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 118-102. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Payton missed four straight games in the beginning of January. And when the team clearly struggled with Shabazz Napier as the primary point guard, the Magic rushed Payton back.

Payton struggled on the court while still recovering. He never seemed to return to his healthy form.

In turn, the Magic lost 15 of 17 games after beginning the season 19-13. They lost any hope of making the postseason they may have had.

Having a surplus of capable players ready to fill in for injured guys will allow them to preserve their players for a full season. As the saying goes: the season is a marathon, not a sprint.

Having strong depth should allow the Magic to play with more consistent energy as the season goes on. That could help them take some games in the second half they failed to last season.

Their increased energy and consistency may add a few wins, which could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

Depth became a bit of a problem for the Magic as the 2016 season went along. It seems it is set up to be a huge strength for the Magic in 2017.

There are a lot of question marks about this Magic team. But depth does not appear to be one of them.

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