The Orlando Magic have no ambitions of contention in 2014-2015, but this is still supposed to be a season of major progress. In year three of its post- Dwight Howard existence, Jacque Vaughn’s team needs to take steps forward to ensure its heading the right direction. The month-long absence of Orlando’s best guard isn’t a good start. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Rookie of the Year runner-up Victor Oladipo will miss the first four weeks of the regular season after enduring surgery to repair a fracture in his face.
After undergoing surgery to repair a facial fracture, Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo is expected to miss a month of the season, a league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Oladipo, the 2014 runner-up for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, sustained an elbow to his head in practice on Thursday. He had the surgical procedure on Saturday.
Again, the Magic have no delusions of sustained win-loss success this season. They’re clearly still in the early stages of re-building from Howard’s exodus. But Orlando showed little growth in 2013-2014, and a sizable contingent of league media has begun to wonder if Vaughn is the right man to lead this organization going forward. Playing without Oladipo certainly won’t make it any easier for him to prove it, especially in wake of an offseason that moved the needle backwards if any direction at all.
Orlando traded All-Star level wing Arron Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Evan Fournier and a late second-round pick before the draft, then surprised by leaving the lottery with raw, talented, defensive-oriented youngsters Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. The Magic also let longtime franchise heartbeat Jameer Nelson walk to greener pastures in July. GM Rob Hennigan did sign veterans Channing Frye and Ben Gordon, the former of which stands to make legitimate, two-way impact. In terms of immediate contribution, though, it’s hard to argue Orlando got better this summer.
Oladipo will be fine. He and the newly-extended Nikola Vucevic are definite keepers for the Magic, and a month of missed games won’t inhibit his development too much in the long run. But this forces Payton into a larger role much earlier than anticipated. If the small-school rookie is overwhelmed and Orlando gets off to a rocky start while Oladipo is recovering, what does that mean for Vaughn? There’s also the prospect of Payton’s confidence getting shaken, too.
This might end up not being a big deal at all, of course. Hennigan and company have expressed great confidence in Vaughn since handing him franchise reins, and perhaps on-court ideology of the Gregg Popovich will become more apparent now that the Magic’s roster is taking shape.
But wrinkles like Oladipo’s injury can also derail a re-building process should ownership fail to see the forest through when arguably a team’s top player is sitting on the bench. And if that proves the case, it could eventually mean much more than whispers about Vaughn’s job security.
What do you think?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.