Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic
Time: 6 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: ORL -1
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic dealt away former No. 10 overall pick Elfrid Payton today to the Phoenix Suns at the low cost of a mere second-round draft pick. Orlando now hosts the Hawks in the first game post-Payton, as 1-point favorites in a season that could not be much more disastrous for a team whose rebuild has gone so far from what was once envisioned.
The Magic have won two-straight games and split its last 10 overall, but to rally much from that would be to decry the fact Orlando, like its opponent tonight, is in the midst of a full-on tanking effort now.
Payton had largely disappointed, albeit with some bright flashes, in his tenure with Orlando, but one must wonder how the Suns were able to finagle a still-promising young guard for a second-round pick. In his stead, the Magic will start D.J. Augustin, as it searches for some continuity in the second half of yet another poor season. This will mark the sixth-straight season of playoff-less basketball for Orlando, and beyond Payton’s departure, Magic fans also have to stomach the fact another player from the rebuild (Victor Oladipo) is now an All-Star for the Indiana Pacers.
Tobias Harris was recently dealt again after Orlando swapped him to Detroit, but he was used in obtaining NBA All-Star Blake Griffin. And so, from Orlando’s talented trio of Payton, Oladipo, and Harris, the returns in total have equated to a half-season rental of Serge Ibaka, a second-round pick, and two players which were cut from the roster (Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings). The Magic, meanwhile, have only that second round pick and Terrence Ross to show from a starting lineup that had posted a 19-13 record before a disastrous January which led to the Harris deal.
Gone also from that team is its head coach Scott Skiles, who led Orlando to 35-wins that season only to ultimately just retire mid-contract and the end of the season. From this, current head coach Frank Vogel leads a rather mosh-mashed amalgam of a talentless roster that should have no problem descending to the cellar of the East, especially since Orlando only is a half-game ahead of the woeful Hawks for that dubious distinction as of today. Orlando is Pure Tragic, and ineptitude from both former GM Rob Hennigan and what looks to be worse mistakes still from John Hammond, are entirely to blame. The instability of the Magic organization is something that could maybe have been sensed from the ugly circumstances surrounding the “Dwightmare,” but few thought his exit would lead to over a half-decade of NBA purgatory.
The 2018 NBA Draft should hold some promise for Orlando, but little on its current roster offers that same token. Perhaps 2017 No. 6 overall pick Jonathan Isaac will pan out, but he has spent the majority of this season injured after a strong showing in the Orlando summer league. Jonathon Simmons has panned out nicely, and Mario Hezonja is recently showing some signs, but Hezonja is a free agent at season’s end, and many feel he is unlikely to return.
Doing the math, it is possible that Isaac is the only lottery pick outside of star forward Aaron Gordon who is with the team next season. Gordon is probably the only player on Orlando’s roster with actual trade value, but that makes him even less likely to be dealt. Meanwhile, Orlando will simply try to get the highest return as it holds a fire sale on the veterans it has. Nikola Vucevic or Evan Fournier could be the next moved, but neither likely offers the return in trade value that fans would like to assume they do. In short, the Magic are really still at ground zero post-Dwight, despite six long years of trying to improve that status.
The Atlanta Hawks have won two-straight with wins over other poor teams: The New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies. Reading little into those triumphs, tonight could be a display of some really poor basketball as the Hawks clash with fellow cellar dweller Orlando. The Hawks do have one thing going for it: The strong play of point guard Dennis Schroeder. The German has had a strong season with 19.4 points, 6.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game in 51 starts, but outside of his play, the Hawks are mostly a collection of discarded role players serving hardly a role on a Hawks team without much direction or promise.
Atlanta is one of many teams that could be very active as this trade deadline approaches, and it will hope that it can get some return on the capable veterans that simply are toiling away on a roster awaiting some real star power. Taurean Prince and John Collins could both be very good pros in due time, but for the remaining days, the Hawks are relying on talents which have absolutely reached their ceiling, the likes of Kent Bazemore, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Even starting center Dewayne Dedmon is likely near his ceiling as an NBA player. That aforementioned quartet could serve as fine rotation players on a contending team, though, and if Atlanta is savvy it could build some real assets heading into the offseason.
No matter the takeaways about these two teams, neither has much of a real incentive to win tonight’s game, and it could be a really ugly display of the game of basketball…
Atlanta is a one-point underdog, but given the fact Orlando is now without the starting 1 it employed most of the season, we like the Hawks to snipe a slight upset in this on Orlando’s home court.