By: Scott Brock-Wilson and Justin Lynch
Numbers 22 and 21 are revealed!
Click on the previous sets of rankings to view them:
#30 and #29
#28 and #27
#26 and #25
#24 and #23
22. Orlando Magic
Last Season: 25-57, Missed Playoffs (13th in East)
Key Offseason Acquisitions: Mario Hezonja, C.J. Watson
Key Offseason Losses: Mo Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn, Willie Green
Projected Starting 5:
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Vucevic
Key Role Players:
1. Mario Hezonja
2. Channing Frye
3. Andrew Nicholson, Evan Fournier
SBW Season Outlook:
Orlando is a team that returns all of its influential players from the year prior. These players are all young and have one more year of NBA experience under their belt. The backcourt is the both the present and future of this team. Payton and Oladipo are lockdown defenders, which is a necessity in a league that contains many offensively gifted guards.
Payton averaged close to 10 points, over six assists and four rebounds a game in his rookie season. As mentioned before he is a great defender, but he cannot shoot threes if his life depended on it. He shot 11 of 42 (26.2%) from three last season. Expect teams to play the Rondo or Tony Allen defense on Payton moving forward. He will have to adjust if he wants to see improvement in his sophomore year.
His lack of shooting is not compensated Oladipo though. Oladipo shot just below 34% from three but managed to find himself almost 18 points per game elsewhere. Oladipo has an offensive game that well surpasses Payton, but considering he is a two guard, he must improve, so defenses would at least have to fear one of them from behind the arc. Alright, you get it: the starting guards do not provide much shooting, however, that is where Hezonja comes into play. He is a born shooter and certainly has a shooter’s mentality. Hezonja is a deadeye shooter that can only help the Magic.
Harris is the ‘star’ player on the Magic right now (being paid 64 million/4yrs), however, he, along with the others, will need to continue to grow and develop. He had over 17 points and six boards per game last season but failed to be the leader that the Magic needed and were looking for. Harris has struggled defensively throughout his career which has been revealed even more by Vucevic’s inabilities to protect the rim as a center.
Vucevic averaged a double-double this past season with 19 points and nearly 11 rebounds and posted an impressive 21.5 PER, however, he, like Harris had a negative DPBM. Orlando’s last starter is Gordon, and his 6’9 frame isn’t exactly that of a rim protector. There is no rim protection coming from the bench either (no offense Channing Frye). The two glaring weaknesses for the Magic are shooting and protection.
But, the thing is, the Magic are young, and they are bringing everyone back. This is how teams improve. Look at the Warriors, they kept the core together and it turned out perfectly. I'm not saying they’ll win the ‘ship in a couple year, but give the core a chance.
JL Best-case scenario:
The backcourt combo of Payton and Oladipo continue to grow into one of the most dominant NBA defensive backcourts. Spacing issues are figured out as Oladipo’s three point shot leaps above 40% and Hezonja is just as deadly as he thinks he is. Tobias Harris becomes a legitimate number one option, averaging 20+ points. Aaron Gordon shows an ability to hit outside shots, as well, and uses his athleticism to play some small-ball five. With another year together, the Magic blend together and new coach Scott Skiles takes the team to another level. In the feel good story of the season, the Magic claim the seven-seed in the East and draw the Hawks in round one. The Magic upset Atlanta, only to have their season come to an end in round two.
JL Worst-case scenario:
Despite Payton and Oladipo hounding the perimeter, the Magic struggle defensively due to Vucevic’s inability to guard the rim. Tobias matches last year’s offensive production, but fails to become a reliable defender. Hezonja is too slim to handle NBA strength, and has a brutal rookie season. Aaron Gordon’s shot still isn’t there yet, making him a nightmare offensively. The team pieces together some wins, but not enough to make the playoffs. The Magic finish 10th in the East, and draft near the end of the lottery, missing out on a chance to acquire another big-time prospect.
Projected Record: 32-50
21. Detroit Pistons
Last Season: 32-50, Missed Playoffs (12th in East)
Key Offseason Acquisitions: Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova, Stanley Johnson, Aron Baynes
Key Offseason Losses: Greg Monroe
Projected Starting 5:
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Brandon Jennings
SF: Marcus Morris
PF: Ersan Ilyasova
C: Andre Drummond
Key Role Players:
1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
2. Stanley Johnson
3. Aron Baynes
JL Season Outlook:
The Pistons enter the 2015-16 campaign hoping to improve on what was actually a decent team post-Josh Smith. The offseason saw Greg Monroe’s departure, but I don’t think anyone was upset to see the paint opened up for Andre Drummond, who averaged 20 and 13 per 36 minutes when Monroe was off the court last season (stat per Tom Haberstroh). Andre Drummond has been kept in check due to the crowded frontcourt in Detroit his whole career, and finally getting some space around him will allow him to take the next step. Drummond will be a monster this year and don’t be surprised to see him on the All-NBA team come April.
The next two guys that will help make-or-break the Pistons season is their backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson. Jennings posted 15 and seven assists on 40% shooting before his season was cut in half by an achilles tear, one of the toughest injuries to come back from. Jackson is on the other side of things. The team committed major money (5 years/$80 million) to Jackson this offseason after he averaged 18 and nine assists on 44% shooting in his 27 games in Detroit.
Jackson’s numbers seem better, and the teams monetary value of Jackson makes one think that he would be the go-to-guy with Jennings as more of a secondary or tertiary option. However, I believe that the Pistons will play these two in tandem. Both have nearly exact eFG%’s (.471 for Jennings, .469 for Jackson), and Jennings slight edge in three point shooting (36% for Jennings, 33% for Jackson) as well as Jackson’s leg up in distributing, these two should work well together. The real issue is on the defensive end, where both ranked in the 40’s among point guards in DRPM (43, -1.10 for Jackson, 47, -1.41 for Jennings). Jennings will likely have to cover the primary ball-handler for most teams, while Jackson will be stuck chasing around shooters because of his height advantage. These two should be able to complement each other decently, and their synergy is one of the things to watch for this season.
Ersan Ilyasova, coming over from a trade with Milwaukee, will be able to stretch the floor offensively, but that’s about it. His 12.0 rebounding rate placed him tied for 58th among power forwards last year, and his DRPM of -2.45 ranked him 90 out of 95 power forwards last season. Ilyasova can help in certain aspects, but too much reliance on him will cause serious issues, especially if Drummond fails to produce every night.
Rookie Stanley Johnson impressed in summer league and has continued that in preseason. With only Marcus Morris ahead of him, the one-and-done Arizona product should be in the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Johnson will bring added defense and a decent mid range jumper this season, but has the potential to become a force offensively.
The Pistons have the makings of a playoff team, but I think that team is a year or two away.
SBW Best-case scenario:
Drummond is an absolute monster, solidifying himself as the best center in the league. Jennings and Jackson play off of each other well as they become one of the most formidable backcourts in the league. Stanley Johnson is an elite defender right off the bat as he improves his outside shot. KCP is in contention for sixth man of the year by providing the scoring boosts need for the back-up unit. The Pistons make a push for a playoff spot but just aren’t quite good enough.
SBW Worst-case scenario:
Drummond is still Drummond, but the Monroe loss affects them more than expected. Aron Baynes is a huge waste of money (not too surprising). Jennings and Jackson cannot coexist in the same backcourt because they both prove to be too ball dominant. Stanley doesn’t develop, and the Pistons regret taking him over Winslow. KCP still struggles to reach his potential. The Pistons have too much talent to completely tank, so they find themselves in the middle of the lottery.
Projected Record: 33-49