In an NBA era where many teams still choose not to develop talent and just land the best, big name free agents they possibly can, the Orlando Magic are opting to go their own way. The Golden State Warriors did that and it got them an NBA title, so with a little hard work, perhaps it can work for Orlando, too.
The Magic took another step towards improving this week by keeping on with a guy they already knew, when they signed forward Tobias Harris to a new four-year, $64 million contract. Harris entered free agency as a restricted free agency and was thought by many to be on his way out of town. Part of that reasoning was Harris not necessarily being a good fit with new head coach Scott Skiles, who previously worked with him with the Milwaukee Bucks. Skiles was still with the Bucks when the team traded him to the Magic in 2012.
That rift has been or will have to be mended, as Harris is now a big piece of what the Magic are going to try to build as they move forward. A solid (albeit inconsistent) offense and porous defense keeps a versatile forward that can play out on the wing or bang down low on either side of the court. Harris is an underrated piece to the puzzle, and while his return clouds the future of second-year big man Aaron Gordon, his presence undoubtedly helps the Magic stay the course.
The question, of course, is where do the Magic go from here?
Well, it sounds as if the Skiles vs. Harris narrative was a tad over-played, as Harris admitted his relationship with his former and current head coach is actually “great”. That obviously bodes extremely well for all parties involved, as the Magic now have an extremely young (but also extremely talented) core of players. Harris should slide right back into the starting lineup, likely at the three spot, with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye and Nikola Vucevic rounding out the starting five.
While Orlando has been an inconsistent bunch in the past, Harris provides solid scoring (17 points per game a year ago), can stretch the floor as a shooter and rebounds and passes well. Harris hasn’t really been the problem, though. The team as a whole lacks a killer instinct on offense at times and defensively has zero discipline. That’s where defensive mastermind Skiles comes in, and with Harris back in town he has one more capable body to work with.
None of this means the Magic are the new Warriors and a title is probably still years down the road. However, with one of their top scorers back and the rest of their young team learning under a coach that won’t tolerate laziness on either end, this Magic squad could finally threaten for a playoff spot again.