Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other you’ll read before the 2016-17 season tips off. The premise is simple. We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
It’s the night of the 2016 NBA Draft. The Orlando Magic have pick No. 11 pick and are dangerously close to being in basketball purgatory – the squad has not made the postseason since the 2011-12 season, and while the team showed progress last year, it’s hard to imagine that anyone that it picked at No. 11 was going to get them over the top and into a spot to compete in the Eastern Conference.
So the team’s brain trust, including GM Rob Hennigan and newly-minted head coach Frank Vogel, probably got together and realized two things about the league:
- Seven of the eight teams that made it to the conference semifinals last year were in the top-15 of defensive efficiency.
- Every team is trying to become smaller and faster, sometimes at the expense of having size.
This led to said braintrust putting together a plan to win a championship, one that looked to lock things down defensively (which makes sense when you consider the fact that Vogel is a defensively-inclined head coach) and get bigger.
So the Magic took the No. 11 pick, along with Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova, and turned them into Serge Ibaka. They spent money to bring in Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Green. They let defensive liabilities like Brandon Jennings, Jason Smith, and Andrew Nicholson go elsewhere in free agency. Orlando sent a message to the other 29 teams in the NBA: you can try to score on us, but you’re not going to.
The challenge for the Magic, though, is to have some dudes who can score line up next to all of this defensive talent. The starting five is possibly going to feature Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Biyombo, and no one has ever confused any of them for being dudes who can score in bunches.