Oklahoma City at Orlando
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: OKC -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic were just officially eliminated from playoff contention, but one thing Orlando is still in the chase for is a spot higher in the draft lottery. With no motivation to win this game, the Magic host the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team still fighting for playoff seeding and things that matter.
While Orlando is set at just 5.5 point underdogs according to oddsmakers at 5dimes, this seems to have all the makings of an actual blowout.
Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel has begun to experiment, given Orlando has nothing on the line. He has played the 6’7” Mario Hezonja at power forward at times, gone with three-point guard lineups, and just about everything else in between. Of course, none of it is making muchh of a difference for the Magic, who are 20 games below .500 and a paltry 14-23 on its home court.
Orlando has won four of its past 10, but that is only a better form of mediocre, certainly not good. With Russell Westbrook pursuing history and the Thunder trying to move up in the Western Conference playoff seedings, it is easy to envision OKC coming out tonight on NBA TV and absolutely pounding the hapless Magic. Perhaps it is even inevitable.
So why is OKC just 5.5 point favorites? That is tough to determine, really. The Thunder have won seven of its past 10 contests and trail the No. 5 Clippers by just a single game in the standings. The Thunder have been somewhat poor on the road, however, where it has posted just a 15-21 record this season.
But it is not as though Orlando defends its homecourt, or plays good defense, at that either.
The Magic had prided itself on becoming a defensive powerhouse, but good defensive teams do not surrender 106.6 points per game. That is not even decent defense, and GM Rob Hennigan basically put all his chips in on constructing the team that way after signing offensively-challenged Bismack Biyomobo to a $16 million contract over the offseason.
The Magic then traded its best defensive talent in Serge Ibaka, moving away from the plan that was not working anyway. While Terrence Ross may be a nice return for Ibaka’s services (along with a mid-first round pick), the Magic did originally surrender Victor Oladipo and the rights to 2016 lottery pick Domantas Sabonis, as well as useful journeyman Ersan Ilyasova. Harkening back to that, it is hard to give Orlando any sort of passing grade with the totality of transactions.
Henngian should be on the hot seat, but as poor as the ownership and power structure is in Orlando, he very well may remain in charge of a sinking, pitiful ship.
That said, Orlando will be in play for a top draft pick as the possessors of the league’s fourth-worst record to-date. While “passing” the L.A. Lakers and Brooklyn Nets is unlikely, Phoenix, too, will also likely finish with a worse record than the Magic. That means that Orlando will be slotted with the fourth-best lottery odds in a draft that has been billed to have three marquee talents.
The Magic have already missed a franchise player by a pick before ( selecting after New York took “The Unicorn” Kristaps Porzingis), and Magic fans may see that theme repeat itself.
Moreover, even if Orlando does land a top-3 pick, the best prospects in the 2017 draft all play the 1-spot, where Orlando has laboriously been trying to develop the erratic shooting Elfrid Payton. With no real superstars nor any possessing such potential on its roster (not even Aaron Gordon), Orlando could entirely blow it up this offseason, and if they are smart, they will. But Orlando has not been smart since Dwight Howard left five years ago, and now has set a franchise record for consecutive seasons without making the playoffs.