Orlando Magic Power Rankings Roundup: Searching and trying

Frank Vogel, Orlando Magic

Nov 27, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel talks with a referee in the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic had a horrendous week last week for the holidays. Four more losses, three at home, are a bad prelude to a tough road trip this week.

The Orlando Magic’s roller coaster ride continued last week.

With a chance to build up some wins at home over the holiday break with a relatively manageable schedule, the Magic laid an egg. The team went winless against the Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks (twice). All three of these game seemed pretty winnable, especially for a team as strong defensively as the Magic and with the Playoff aspirations.

If there was a week that sent out some alarm bells for the Magic and their Playoff hopes, this was it.

Orlando had three struggling teams in its building and failed to win any of them. All this with a big road trip coming up with the schedule stiffening up seriously. The Magic’s 6-11 record has seemed like an illusion, thanks to a big negative net rating, they will figure out if they can really compete at a high level.

The December road trip is always a proving ground for the Magic. This is when the team comes together or falls apart every year. The Magic have to come away with at least a .500 record and a clearer positive trajectory heading home if they want to keep their Playoff dreams alive.

No one can make the Playoffs in December, as the Magic learned last year, but they can certainly lose it.

Orlando’s season feels like it is on a bit of an edge. The team could quickly fall into a long losing streak and fall further behind the pace to make the Playoffs. Whether it seems ridiculous or not, that remains the goal.

For now, the Magic are falling behind. The struggles this week do not bode well. And the Magic fell once again in the weekly power rankings. It appears their time is coming to put up or shut up.

Frank Vogel, Orlando Magic

Nov 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Stein, ESPN.com

1

Cleveland Cavaliers

(13-2)

Last week: 3-0 record
Last rank: 1st

After becoming the first team ever to sink at least 20 3-pointers in consecutive games in wins over Portland and Dallas, Cleveland predictably did only as much as it had to in Philly to pad what already must feel like an insurmountable lead to the rest of the East. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron James combined for a mere 90 points against the Sixers — with memories of Love’s 34-point quarter against the Blazers still fresh. The Cavs are just toying with teams.
25

Washington Wizards

(5-10)

Last week: 2-1 record
Last rank: 27th

A big week looms for John Wall, who on Monday hosts ex-Kentucky colleague DeMarcus Cousins and then will try to improve on a 1-8 lifetime mark against Russell Westbrook two nights later. Yet you can make the case that the Wiz take the first tangible dose of momentum into the Sacramento game after their first two-win week of the season (beating Phoenix at home and winning in Orlando) and with Ian Mahinmi finally back to give the much-maligned bench a boost.
26

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-4 record
Last rank: 23rd

Frank Vogel is trying. He made three changes to the starting lineup to jolt some life into Orlando’s bottom-three offense, but the moves — D.J. Augustin in for Elfrid Payton, Bismack Biyombo in for Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon in for Jeff Green — couldn’t prevent a home loss to the Bucks to go with an L in Milwaukee to start the week. Seven of nine on the road await the Magic now, with Gordon coming off an 0-for-12 shooting showing and sporting a PER of just 10.48.
27

Philadelphia 76ers

(4-13)

Last week: 1-3 record
Last rank: 29th

Sunday was setting up to be a special afternoon for the Sixers, when Cleveland missed its first 14 shots and the home team took its upset bid all the way to the end before succumbing to the inevitable frustrating narrow defeat. Credit Philly, though, for continuing to faithfully obey the minutes restrictions placed on Joel Embiid. We know we write about him too much here but, well, how can you blame us when there’s only one other rookie in the whole league with an above-average PER?

No one is blaming Frank Vogel for any of the Orlando Magic’s problems right now.

Vogel has somehow crafted a top-10 defense out of the Magic so far this season. It has become part of the team’s identity. And it has kept them in games.

But something is still clearly off about the Magic. They still have a lot of work to do. And Vogel is pulling a lot of levers to try to make things work. The latest one is that starting lineup change. But players the Magic needed to step up into expanded roles — like Aaron Gordon — simply have not done so.

Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic, Tyler Ulis, Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns

Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) attempts to control the ball between Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley (3) and guard Tyler Ulis (8) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated

1

Golden State Warriors

(15-2)

Last week: 4-0 record
Last rank: 3rd

It’s been a little hard to gauge exactly how well the Warriors have been performing, because entering the season, their perceived ceiling was fantastically abstract. Nobody knew quite what the Golden State demolition crew would look like, even after we saw it so many times over a two-year period, because Kevin Durant’s presence shook up the expectations so much. The first month of the Warriors’ season has been less about chasing 73 wins and more about just how sexy they could look while doing that. Well, this week, we basically found out.
22

New Orleans Pelicans

(6-12)

Last week: 2-2 record
Last rank: 26th

New Orleans is 4–2 with Jrue Holiday back from leave, including wins over Portland, Charlotte and Atlanta. Maybe we cried wolf a little early, or maybe Anthony Davis is just this ridiculous.
23

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-4 record
Last rank: 20th

This has been one of the league’s most unpredictable teams so far, with three losing streaks of three or more games, one three-game win streak, and little to show for it.
24

Minnesota Timberwolves

(5-11)

Last week: 1-3 record
Last rank: 21st

Well, they’re good at dunking.

The Orlando Magic have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league without doubt. They have not been able to establish a consistent winning streak yet. They have dropped some close games.

Last week, though, was a disappointing one. One where the Magic did not take care of their business and win the games they needed to win.

That part does not bode well for the upcoming road trip. The Magic have followed bad weeks with good weeks. That task will be much tougher.

Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic, Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) shoots the ball past Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Strotman, CSN Chicago

1

Golden State Warriors

(15-2)

Last week: 4-0 record
Last rank: 3rd

Albeit against a soft schedule, the Warriors have now won 11 in a row, and that Opening Night clunker against the Spurs seems like forever ago. They won all four contests this week by a combined 117 points, or 29.5 points per game. They lead the league by a wide margin in offensive efficiency, true shooting percentage and assist percentage. And the defense is catching up, too; Golden State is now 7th in the NBA in efficiency there.
23

New Orleans Pelicans

(6-12)

Last week: 2-2 record
Last rank: 25th

From 0-8 to just 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West in a matter of three weeks. That’s the story for Alvin Gentry’s group, which has now won six of 10 since that putrid start. They didn’t end the week on all that high of a note, suffering road losses to Portland (fine) and Dallas (not fine). But all things considered, they’re getting healthy, play six of nine at home, and they have Anthony Davis. That last part is and will always be important.
24

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-4 record
Last rank: 22nd

In what can only be considered unfathomable by today’s NBA standards, the Magic have gone seven games without topping 100 points. They’re the league’s most inefficient offense, and Frank Vogel shook up his lineup Sunday (sending Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic to the bench) to hopefully see more results. Instead, the Magic scored 96 points in a home loss to the Bucks. And guess what won’t help their offensive woes? A road matchup against Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs on Tuesday.
25

Miami Heat

(5-11)

Last week: 1-3 record
Last rank: 21st

Goran Dragic should finally get back in the lineup Monday against the Celtics, though the way Miami is playing one has to wonder if it will make a difference. Justise Winslow is also dealing with a wrist injury. Their first eight losses this year came against teams with a better-than-.500 record. But losses this week to Philadelphia and Detroit show just how poorly things have gone for Eric Spoelstra’s group this year.

Surprisingly 96 points was a high-water mark for the Orlando Magic offense for the last two weeks.

The Magic have been able to win games or at least keep them close thanks to a stifling defense. But there really is no excuse for the team’s tremendous offensive woes. They do not have the most inefficient offense in the league, but they have the worst field goal percentage.

They have not clear 100 points in consecutive games since early November and that represents half of their games reaching that plateau.

Orlando does not have to score that much every game with their defense. But they have to score more.

Oct 18, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) fouls Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja he (8) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 18, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) fouls Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja (8) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jefferson, FanSided

1

Golden State Warriors

(16-2)

Last week: 4-0 record
Last rank: 2nd

16-2. Twelve straight wins. Things are starting to kick into high gear in the Bay Area and it’s not looking pretty for the rest of the league outside the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs. As the Warriors held off the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, Draymond Green showed his true value to this club. He has his sights firmly set on taking home the Defensive Player of the Year trophy this season and his last three defensive possessions in the game last night showed his full spectrum as a defender. First, he stuffed a driving Dennis Schroder layup and had it carom off him out of bounds. Next, he blocked Kent Bazemore’s runner and knocked the ball out of Bazemore’s hands and off his foot after Bazemore had regained possession of the ball. Finally, he closed out to the corner on an open Paul Milsap and forced the forward to put the ball on the floor and toss up a desperation 3-pointer that clanked off the rim and out-of-bounds. For all the greatness Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson bring offensively it’s Green that makes thing run smoothly. He leads Golden State in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals this season. That’s not your run of the mill stat and Green isn’t your run of the mill type of player.
21

New Orleans Pelicans

(6-12)

Last week: 2-2 record
Last rank: 25th

Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans have slowly but surely turned things around since getting Jrue Holiday back. However, their horrendous start to the year is most likely going to be a hole too big for them to dig out of. Even with the team finally resembling an NBA franchise, they are still six games below .500 and to make it into the postseason in the Western Conference playoffs is going to take at least 41 wins. The Pelicans have made progress, but they’re going have to take another leap if they hope to reach their preseason goals. Davis is looking more and more like he’s ready to reclaim one of the top players in the league spots that he seemed destined for a few seasons ago. He’s still a mismatch for any big man and he’s gotten better at scoring both closer and further from the rim as his game has developed. If the Pelicans could find a way to add even a smidgen more of talent around him they could be a team to watch in the coming years.
22

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-3 record
Last rank: 21st

Every week I write how the Orlando Magic don’t know what they’re doing and every week I am shocked to find that their record isn’t worse than what it is. That’s a testament to the powers of Frank Vogel’s coaching ability in my opinion–Larry Bird WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?????? Still, even at 6-11 this is not what the Magic had envisioned for this year’s team. Word was that a playoffs or bust mentality led to the organization’s high spending spree this summer. After 17 games, it’s looking more likely that they will be a bust. Aaron “We’re going to make him Paul George” Gordon is averaging all of 9.3 PPG, 1.9 APG, 4.8 RPG and shooting 37.6 percent from the field. For comparison, aside from his six-game stint in his return from breaking his leg, George hasn’t had numbers that low since his rookie season. The Magic would be better off taking a page from Phoenix and seeing just what they have in their young players (notably: Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Mario Hezonja) so that they can build a better team for the future. Hezonja was one of my favorite young prospects in the NBA and the Magic have almost ruined all of the European J.R. Smith goodness that he possess.
23

Sacramento Kings

(7-11)

Last week: 2-2 record
Last rank: 24th

SOUND THE ALARM, BOOGIE COUSINS IS SHOOTING 41 PERCENT ON 3-POINTERS! I REPEAT, BOOGIE COUSINS IS SHOOTING 41 PERCENT ON 3-POINTERS! If I was running the Sacramento Kings I would be on the phone with every one of the other 29 NBA teams seeing who’s willing to give up the most to acquire DeMarcus Cousins. However, Vivek Ranadive and myself have differing opinions on how to best run an NBA franchise. Cousins is a star and a once-in-a-generation talent that isn’t likely to fall into the Kings’ lap ever again. With that said, it just isn’t working for either party. With teams like the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, and Los Angeles Clippers separating themselves from the rest of the pack it would be enticing for a middling team (read: Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics) to put a flyer out and see what kind of offer the Kings are looking for to take Cousins away from California’s state capital. The Cousins and Kings partnership should’ve never happened–the Philadelphia 76ers, (then) New Jersey Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves all should’ve drafted Boogie before he fell to Sacramento–but it’s time for it to end before it gets ugly for all parties involved.

The Orlando Magic’s plans for this season have not come through. It really is a testament to Frank Vogel that he has been able to wring a lot out of this team with so many players underperforming.

The Magic have to figure out a way to get more from their players. And fans are clamoring for Mario Hezonja to get a chance.

That may not happen, but the Magic have to find a spark somewhere. And Hezonja could still do that — although he did not in his short stint against Washington.

D.J. Augustin, Orlando magic, Isaiah Canaan, Chicago Bulls

Nov 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan (0) reacts as Orlando Magic guard D.J. Augustin (14) drives to the basket during the second half of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

John Schumann, NBA.com

1

Golden State Warriors

(15-2)

Last week: 4-0 record
Last rank: 3rd

The Warriors have won 11 straight games and are playing their best defense of the season. Draymond Green’s absence in Saturday’s win over Minnesota may have affected their ball movement more than the defense. Their 10-game streak of 30-plus assists came to an end, while Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were assisted on only nine of their 23 buckets. Of course, that didn’t affect their efficiency, as the pair (who currently rank first and third in true shooting percentage among players who have taken at least 100 shots) needed only 36 shots to get their 62 points. The defense faces one of its biggest tests of the season when the Rockets come to Oakland on Thursday.
27

Phoenix Suns

(5-13)

Last week: 1-3 record
Last rank: 29th

After a six-game trip, the Suns failed to show that they were happy to be home for the holidays. They scored 83 points per 100 possessions against a below-average defense (Minnesota) on Friday and allowed 114 to a below-average offense (Denver) on Sunday. They got 65 combined points from Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker against the Nuggets, but only six of the pair’s 21 buckets were assisted. Saturday’s game in Oakland will match the teams with the highest and lowest assist percentages (AST/FGM) of the last 13 seasons.
28

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-4 record
Last rank: 20th

It was almost exactly a year ago (Nov. 25, 2015) when Scott Skiles moved Victor Oladipo to the bench and sparked a five-game winning streak for the Magic. Moving Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic to the bench and playing just eight guys didn’t work out so well for Frank Vogel on Sunday. His new starting lineup was a plus-1 in 11 minutes, but the Magic were otherwise outscored by nine points in their fourth straight loss. When you go 0-3 on a homestand against the Suns, Wizards and Bucks, it might actually be a good time to hit the road for a five-game trip.
29

Brooklyn Nets

(4-12)

Last week: 0-3 record
Last rank: 26th

After a somewhat surprising 4-5 start, the Nets have lost seven straight games by an average of 19.3 points, allowing a brutal 118 points per 100 possessions. Sunday’s loss to the Kings was the eighth time the Nets have lost the third quarter by double-digits and the only game in which they’ve won the third was the one they played against the similarly awful-in-the-third Timberwolves. The pace they’re playing at has been much better for their opponents, who have averaged 16.7 fast break points over the losing streak.

The Orlando Magic have seemingly been searching for the right lineup for two years now. Their amalgamation of talent has never crystallized into a true team.

The Magic do have a bit more of an identity this year. The Magic’s new lineup had moments of success Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but still need to gain some defensive chemistry.

But Orlando is searching. And it is not easy to find anything with the group the Magic have.

Mar 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; (Left to right) Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) forward Marcus Morris (13) head coach Stan Van Gundy forward Tobias Harris (34) and guard Reggie Jackson (1) stand during a timeout during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 92-91. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; (Left to right) Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) forward Marcus Morris (13) head coach Stan Van Gundy forward Tobias Harris (34) and guard Reggie Jackson (1) stand during a timeout during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 92-91. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald Bourget, Hoops Habit

1

Golden State Warriors

(15-2)

Last week: 4-0 record
Last rank: 3rd

It took a bit longer than anticipated, but the Golden State Warriors have finally claimed the No. 1 spot in our 2016-17 NBA Power Rankings. With an ongoing 11-game win streak, not to mention four wins this week coming by 37, 43, 24 and 13 points, the Dubs are hard to argue against for the top spot. Posting the league’s best Net Rating (+13.5), Point Differential (+13.2) and record (15-2) doesn’t hurt either.
24

Miami Heat

(5-11)

Last week: 1-3 record
Last rank: 23rd

Splitting the season series between Erik Spoelstra and his former assistant David Fizdale was about as good a result as could be expected considering how well Memphis is playing right now, but the Miami Heat were still left on the wrong side of a 1-3 week, including a loss to the Sixers and a 23-point slaughter at the hands of the Pistons.
25

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-4 record
Last rank: 21st

Good thing the Orlando Magic traded away Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo without getting any draft picks in return, eh? Good thing they went all in on adding veterans like Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green only to leave their brand new coach throwing crap at the wall to try and see what sticks with his lineups in November, right?
26

Washington Wizards

(5-10)

Last week: 2-1 record
Last rank: 29th

The Washington Wizards posted their first winning week of the season at 2-1, and Bradley Beal, who is averaging 26.6 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game since returning from that hamstring injury, set a new career-high with 42 points.

There is something of a trade regret for the Orlando Magic. They pushed their chips all in this season to go for the Playoffs and abandoning their rebuild. So far, they do not have a lot to show for it.

Victor Oladipo has stayed stagnant, and the Magic seem pretty happy with how Serge Ibaka has played lately. Orlando got what it wanted out of that deal.

But Tobias Harris’ breakout with the Detroit Pistons certainly gives pause. Especially since the Magic are desperate to get some kind of scoring punch at the 3.

Jeff Green, Orlando Magic

Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Jeff Green (34) looks to pass the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Moore, CBS Sports

1

Cleveland Cavaliers

(13-2)

Last week: 3-0 record
Last rank: 2nd

The Cavaliers are just a 48-minute tempest this year. They form over the court and it’s just pounding rain, winds, and lightning until the final buzzer sounds. Kevin Love went from being considered expendable to putting up 34 points in the first quarter against Portland. The “fit” is incredible with every guy on this team this year.
25

New Orleans Pelicans

(6-12)

Last week: 2-2 record
Last rank: 25th

The Pelicans are much better with Jrue Holiday back, but the loss to the Mavericks Sunday set back their momentum. The schedule turns hard now; they have to play their best basketball, immediately, or the hole may get too big to dig out of, even with five months of play left.
26

Orlando Magic

(6-11)

Last week: 0-4 record
Last rank: 24th

The Magic are a net-negative team anyway, but when Jeff Green is on the floor, they are outscored by 11.9 points more per 100 possessions than when he’s on the bench. So not a great spending of $15 million, one might say, so far.
27

Phoenix Suns

(5-13)

Last week: 1-3 record
Last rank: 29th

The Suns have so much talent and are still so incredibly forgettable.

Jeff Green has become every Orlando Magic fan’s favorite punching bag. That is just his lot in life throughout his career.

Salary aside (it is a one-year deal and the Magic needed a veteran small forward as Aaron Gordon insurance), the Magic are not getting what they need from Green. Or maybe they are and the team is worse for it.

Undoubtedly, Orlando plays worse with Green on the floor. It is hard to point to anything positive that he is himself responsible for. He will probably still start on this road trip.

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