By: Nick Divago
Last season, the Magic had a lot of interesting, young players, but they did not seem to fit well together. In the offseason, seeing the error of their ways, the Magic got older.
Last season, the Magic struggled with a back court that couldn’t shoot and big men who couldn’t defend. Ibaka probably helps both of those, Biyombo helps the defense, Augustin should add some shooting, and Green makes no sense. Unless they come cheap, I would avoid most of the players on the Magic.
Let’s start with the new guys. I would not draft either Green or Augustin, and I don’t think I have to defend that. Ibaka and Biyombo deserve some words, however. Ibaka has been a good fantasy player for years, but he has not returned value the last couple seasons. His points, rebounds and blocks have declined in each of the last two years (from 15.1/8.8/2.7 in 2013-14 to 12.6/6.8/1.9 last year), without a drop in minutes. He is a risk this year, with a crowded front court and no Westbrook and Durant to create for him. Fortunately, his draft position now reflects some of this risk. He is still only 27, and he has been scoring and shooting threes in the preseason, so if you are looking for upside, Ibaka might fall enough to be worth taking. Biyombo also has upside, but not without an injury or trade. If the Magic move Vucevic during the season, Biyombo could make an impact, but that’s a tough bet.
Turning to the holdovers, I really like Aaron Gordon, but the Magic will start Ibaka and Nicola Vucevic, meaning Gordon will play SF. Gordon should be playing PF full time, so he can use his athleticism against slower, less-skilled players. I don’t think he has the range or handle to score effectively against SFs, especially not with Vucevic planted in the paint. If the Magic play a lot of minutes with Ibaka at the five and Gordon at the four, I think Gordon will look very good – and signing Green might make more sense. But signing Biyombo doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that the Magic will play small, and neither does the Magic’s track record of using Gordon.
I also like Evan Fournier, and he will probably be the Magic’s starting SG. However, he was more effective last year when he played SF, which I think fits his skill-set better. Again, Gordon and Green will be getting the SF minutes. The Magic might also want to get Mario Hezonja some minutes after investing the fifth overall pick on him in 2015. All that said, SG is pretty shallow this year, and Fournier has upside.
Another player with upside is Elfrid Payton, and you can likely take a flyer on him late after his performance last season for, uh, some owners who drafted him somewhat high. Believe me, they will remember him. Payton should be helped by the departure of Oladipo. The two of them never worked well together, and Payton played better when Oladipo was injured. Augustin is a concern, but he was bad with the Thunder last year, and he might actually play some next to Payton. It’s a risk, but Payton can definitely pass and get steals. If the rest of his game improves, he could get valuable quickly. Just remember to cut him if Augustin starts taking his minutes.
Finally, there is Vucevic. He has been a productive, somewhat injury-prone player for a few years now. Draft him near his ADP; he will probably get you about the same 18 and 10 with a block and good percentages he has the last two seasons. If he gets traded during the season to the perfect team, or even better, back into the NBA of the early ’90s, you suddenly have value.
 Except for the part where they let Tobias Harris walk rather than pay him just $2 million more than they are now paying Green. Harris is younger and better than Green, and he can also play both forward positions.