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Monday, 16 October 2017 13:46

Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

2016-17 Round-up: The Magic haven’t sniffed a winning record since the lockout year and Dwight Howard trade. Last year was no different, as they took a step back to 29 wins in Frank Vogel’s first year at the helm.

Evan Fournier led Orlando with 17.2 points per game, but played in only 68 of them. Nikola Vucevic averaged a double-double for the fourth time in five years, but the Magic couldn’t make he and Serge Ibaka work.

Ibaka, who was traded for before the season (for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the pick that became Domantas Sabonis), was dealt midseason to Toronto in exchange for Terrance Ross, who played 24 games for the team and averaged 12.5 points, while shooting 34.1 percent from three.

Young point guard Elfrid Payton has shown incremental improvement in each of his three seasons, but hasn’t quite popped yet.

Offseason Grades: The Magic started their offseason in April by firing general manager Rob Hennigan who struggled through five years at the helm as the youngest GM in the league. He was hired as a 30-year-old in 2012.

After a month, Orlando landed on John Hammond as their new GM, bringing in a former Executive of the Year (2010) with a lot more experience running a pro team. Hammond was a longtime GM of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Late in the game and not dealing from a position of strength, Hammond didn’t accomplish a great deal over his first summer. The Magic grabbed three draft picks, including No. 6 overall Jonathan Isaac. Isaac is a 6-11 project out of Florida State. He looked strong defensively in preseason, but shot 11-of-33 from the field, 2-of-11 from three and 5-of-9 from the free-throw line.

The Magic also signed veterans Arron Afflalo and Marreese Speights to cheap one-year deals and backup point guard Shelvin Mack to help out Payton and D.J. Augustin.

Training Camp Questions: The Magic have been stockpiling young talent for a handful of years now, and have some intriguing names. However, the established talent just isn’t there yet.

What Isaac looks like is a key, and it wasn’t an overly promising debut. However, 2015 No. 5 overall pick Mario Hezonja looked good in some preseason action and 2014 No. 4 overall pick Aaron Gordon has improved each season and looks like he may just become a 20-point a night guy as soon as this season.

Next Move They Make: The Bismack Biyombo contract is still an utter disaster and if he doesn’t show signs of improvement as a 25-year-old it likely won’t ever happen. He’ll make $17 million each of the next three seasons (2019-20 player option) tied with Fournier for tops on the team.

The Magic don’t have much of anything in terms of expiring contracts, but Vucevic is an intriguing option that could really produce in limited minutes for a contender that needs a stylistic change of pace. The soon-to-be 27-year-old is under a decent contract the next two seasons and really can produce. If he is serious about adding a three-point threat to his game like he has in preseason play, that is a legitimate target if Hammond goes full rebuild.

How they Beat the Boston Celtics: The Celtics swept Orlando last season in three games and there is little reason to not think it’ll mirror that this year.

Gordon is a true matchup threat for any team, and showed why in a 117-116 loss in Boston late last year when he went off for 32 points and 16 rebounds. But, unless he becomes that consistently and Payton really improves in running this offense and giving the Magic an identity, the Celtics have way too much established talent to be taken down by a team with a mish-mash of young projects.

Boston and Orlando will meet on Sunday, Nov. 5 down in Florida and the on Black Friday Nov. 24 back in Boston. The Magic return to TD Garden on Sunday, Jan. 21 and the season series ends on Friday, March 16 down at the Amway Center.

Trending: I like a lot of the names. Gordon is still promising, Hezonja is still intriguing and preseason jitters aside, Isaac is still one of the higher upside picks of the 2017 draft. This team right now is identity-less and doesn’t inspire a whole lot of anything. However, there has to be at least some chance that Hennigan winds up looking okay in hindsight a la Sam Hinkie and Hammond reaps the benefits as Bryan Colangelo is now.

Final Record/Standings Prediction: 35-42, 11th in Eastern Conference


Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is the CLNS Media Network's Boston Celtics Content and Newsfeed Manager.

Mike is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in sports communications. He spent three years as a NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, where he was the site's top Boston Celtics writer.

Mike is a full-time sports writer with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. He can be reached by email to MikeW@CLNSMedia.com or via Twitter @CLNS_Walsh.

Personal Website: www.WalshWrites.com