It will be another season of on-the-job learning for the young Magic as they continue to rebuild. inside and Oladipo (13.8) from everywhere. Orlando was in the lower third of the League last year from behind the arc and this season, begins without four of their top six three-point shooters—five if you count Oladipo, as leaders Afflalo and Nelson, as well as E’Twaun Moore and Doron Lamb also are gone, while Oladipo (74 threes on .327 shooting) is hurt but will be back. That puts the onus on Harkless (59 threes .383) and offseason acquisition Evan Fournier. The 21-year-old 6-7 guard from France, acquired from Denver in the deal for Afflalo, begins his third NBA season with a reputation as a long-range sharpshooter. He earned that rep. last year in Denver, shooting .376 from downtown and averaging north of 10 ppg over the season’s second half, once he recovered from a severe ankle injury. Ideally Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images the threat of Frye, a career .385 shooter from three-point range, stepping out, and Ridnour, a career .350 three-point shooter, will spread the floor, not allowing teams to pack the lane, opening passing lanes for Vucevic and Harris to thrive in the paint and Oladipo to penetrate. Having options will allow for an even more unselfish approach than last season, when Orlando handed out 21 assists per game, and had at least 20 assists in a game 51 times. They were 18-18 when they matched or outassisted opponents. Oladipo is as close to an end-of-game go-to as the Magic have, but options abound and will present opportunities for others to step up. Someone on the Magic needs to step up in his absence. Still, there could be many nights in the season where the Magic’s final score will hover in the 90s. Outlook The rebuilding process continues in Orlando and while the Magic are making the progress and are headed in the right direction, they aren’t necessarily in the right division to be taking baby steps when the rest of the Southeast rivals have taken big leaps. They weren’t handed any favors with the injury to Oladipo just before the season opened. This was a team prepared to suffer the growing pains of being a young team learning how to win while the rest of the division is learning how to win in postseason. The length of Oladipo’s injury could make this season a step back. Postseason will come soon for the Magic, but not this year. What will be there is tremendous effort, the kind that makes division rivals wary of playing Orlando, and, with such an athletic group, plenty of highlightreel plays. Right now, 30 wins would be an acceptable goal. SPOTLIGHT: Victor Oladipo Oladipo is a high-character kid who knows how to overcome adversity. The first time he takes the court in 2014 will prove just how special he is. The preseason was especially cruel for Oladipo, as first he suffered an MCL sprain, then, on Oct. 24, took a wicked—albeit accidental— elbow to the face and suffered “a facial fracture,” forcing him to undergo surgery and start the 2014-15 campaign in his suit. The talented 6-4, 210-pound guard, who missed two games last season, is a quiet, humble kid, whose game makes noise for him. He recorded the Magic’s first triple-double in almost two years, going for 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, in the house of eventual Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams (Oladipo was runner-up) in December. In February, he played 57 minutes in a game, the most ever by a Magic player and the most by an NBA rookie in 50 years. The first-round pick out of Indiana in the 2013 Draft (second overall), two-time Rookie of the Month and representative in the Rising Stars Challenge at All- Star, was among those chosen to practice with USA Basketball over the summer. Determined to be more of a leader, he talked with—and more importantly, listened to—the likes of Kevin Durant and Paul George among others. He took their words to heart. Their most frequent words were “Continue to do what you’re doing”—that is, work tirelessly on improving his game.
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