Orlando Next, with the first of three first round picks, is the Orlando Magic.  Orlando received this pick from the Golden State Warriors in the Penny Hardaway/Chirs Webber trade. Their Net GM is Tom McGuigan who is back on the Usenet job after a one year hiatus.  Orlando selects:

Chris Mihm, C, 7'0", Texas

Orlando Magic 1999-2000 Season: Rebuilding Begins With Unparalleled

Turnover Personnel losses: B. J. Armstrong, Nick Anderson, Ike Austin, Horace Grant, Penny Hardaway, Jonathan Kerner, Danny Schayes, Miles Simon, Dominique Wilkins, Gerald Wilkins

Personnel gains: John Amaechi, Chucky Atkins, Chauncy Billups, Pat Garrity, Anthony Johnson, Corey Maggette, Ron Mercer, Johnny Taylor, Ben Wallace, Monty Williams

Record: 41-41, 4th Place in the Atlantic Division, 9th Place in the Eastern Conference

I. Season Overview:

Despite finishing last season tied with Miami atop the Atlantic Division, a quick playoff exit at the hands of Philadelphia brought Orlando into the summer of 1999 in grave disarray.  In an end-of-the season interview, Penny Hardaway lashed out at his teammates, then-coach Chuck Daly, and the Magic front office.  A rare public response by team-owner Dick DeVos (the last player about whom DeVos was moved to comment publicly was Dennis Scott) was a clear signal that major changes could be expected in central Florida. 

What was unexpected was the avalanche of moves completed by John Gabriel. When Hardaway made it clear that he would not be satisfied with anything other than a sign-and-trade, rebuilding plans began.  "Rebuilding" planning became "full-scale renovation" planning after Horace Grant and Nick Anderson indicated that they would rather be traded than be a part of the rebuilding. Even "full-scale renovation" began to pale as a description as trade after trade was announced over the summer.  After the dust cleared following the trade deadline the final tally came up -  Gabriel completed an astonishing 37 trades involving 38 players in the past year.  In the process, he left the team in a position to be as much as $18M under the cap going into the summer of 2000.  Gone were starters Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant and Ike Austin.  In were Ben Wallace, John Amaechi, Ron Mercer, Chucky Atkins, and draft-pick Corey Maggette

Rebuilding was clearly underway and the faithful in central Florida, and most of the basketball pundits settled in for a replay of the 1989-1990 season.  With no stars, with Pat Garrity penciled in as the teamıs go-to outside threat, and with a back-up point guard who was ranked the 12th best PG when he came out in 1996, few expected Orlando to win as many as 20 games, and a fight with Chicago to see who would finish last in the Eastern Conference was about the only drama on the horizon.  Fortunately, someone forgot to tell Doc Rivers and Darrell Armstrong

Heart and Hustle was the theme for the season.  Rivers played his entire bench most nights, and many times it was the bench, not the starters who led the team to victory.  With virtually every member of the team playing with Armstrong-like intensity, the Magic managed to win 41 games, and were alive in the play-off race until the 81st game of the season ended their dreams. For the first time in team history, lockers were not emptied at the end of the season; at the end-of-the-season team meeting the players made it clear - everyone wanted to return. 

II. Draft History 

1989:    Nick Anderson (11), Michael Ansley (37) 

1990:    Dennis Scott (4) 

1991:    Bison Dele (10), Stanley Roberts (23), Chris Corchiani (36) 

1992:    Shaquille O'Neal (1), Litterial Green (39) 

1993:    Penny Hardaway (3) (acquired from Golden State), Geert Hammink (26) 

1994:    Brooks Thompson (27), Rodney Dent (31) 

1995:    David Vaughn (25) 

1996:    Brian Evans (27), Amal McCaskill (49) 

1997:    Johnny Taylor (17), Jason Lawson (42) 

1998:    Michael Doleac (12), Matt Harping (15), Miles Simon (42) 

1999:    Corey Maggette (13) (acquired from Seattle), Louis Bullock (42) (acquired from Minnesota) 

John Gabriel first took the lead in Orlandoıs draft decisions in 1993, orchestrating the Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway trade.   With an owner and a president who back his judgment,  Orlandoıs draft choices since then have been a reflection of his judgment and philosophy (with the possible exception of Johnny Taylor, who might have been a Chuck Daly choice). 

Gabriel deserves good grades for his choices in the early-to-mid first round (Hardaway, Doleac, Harpring, Keon Clark (later traded to Denver) and Corey Maggette).  Conversely, his choices in the latter part of the first round have been universally weak.  From Geert Hammink through Brian Evans, the string of misses has been unbroken (I omit Johnny Taylor, because I donıt know whether to blame him on Gabriel or Daly).  Gabe hasnıt found any second round gems, but his picks have generally provided at least one seasonıs worth of practice fodder. Fortunately, with three lottery picks this year the prospects for a successful draft are very good. 

III. Management and Coaching 

Forced into rebuilding, John Gabriel engineered thirty seven trades (dispelling forever the notion that he is overly cautious about making deals), produced a team that under new coach Doc Rivers came within one game of making the playoffs, and transformed a set of bloated multi-year contracts that would have kept the Magic paying luxury tax for years into a set of contracts that will enable the Magic to clear as much as $18M under the cap to pursue free agents this summer.  Always regarded by his peers as an innovator in managing the salary cap, Gabriel outdid himself last summer, and was recognized by his peers as Executive of the Year.  If he can sign a top name free agent this summer and retain Orlandoıs cap flexibility heıll repeat. 

In last yearıs mock draft team analysis we wrote "We like the selection of Doc Rivers as head coach.  No one questions his work ethic, his knowledge of the game, or his ability to motivate players."  Rivers more than proved us right.  While John Gabriel provided a set of players with potential, it took Rivers' talents to motivate them and mold them into a team.  Night in and night out Rivers convinced his team to play their hearts out.  Night in and night out he convinced them not to play selfishly (what else would you do playing in the final year of your contract on a team going nowhere anyway). Going into the season, his was the only voice they heard that told them they could compete; he convinced them to ignore overwhelming negativism and have faith in themselves.  While Phil Jackson did a great job of inspiring the Lakers to achieve, everyone expected them to do so.  Jackson only had to convince the Lakers to ignore their own self-destructive tendencies. Doc Rivers not only convinced 12 players to ignore their own selfish tendencies, he also convinced them to ignore a everyone elseıs negative expectations. 

IV. Players (Regular season statistics courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel)

1.  John Amaechi, C-F, 2nd season 6'10", 240 lbs.  Free Agent  80 games, 21.1 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 6.1 apg 

Amaechi proved to be a very nice surprise.  When Michael Doleac suffered a severe case of sophomore slump, Amaechi was given the starting center role. He has both a nice outside touch and reasonable post moves, making him an offensive threat that has to be respected.  While those skills alone will assure him of a continued future in the NBA he really doesn't have the defensive skills expected in the starting center of a championship contender.  Orlando would like to retain Amaechi, but he may not be back. The Magic may need release him to clear cap space to sign a second major free agent.  In addition, the team is limited in what it can offer Amaechi in his second season.  With the dearth of quality young centers in the league, and with the weak center class in this year's draft, I expect him to receive a number of better offers.  Amaechi was voted onto the first team NBA All-Interview team. 

2. Darrell Armstrong, PG, 6th season, 6'1", 180 lbs, 3 years remaining on current contract  82 games, 31.6 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 6.1 apg 

With the departure of Penny Hardaway, the Magic became Darrell Armstrongıs team.  How important is Armstrong to the Magic?  In Doc Rivers' words: "He plays so hard, every day, and if your best player is also your hardest worker and wants to practice hard, everyone else falls in line." Armstrong's defense is his hallmark, and remains as strong as ever.  He has learned how to pace himself better but his ballhandling remains problematical (his assist-to-turnover ratio was only 2-1, weak for a starter), on a team where ballhandling is a problem (the Magic were 28th in the league in turnovers).  While I expect Armstrong to remain the team's leader next season, Orlando must come out of this summer with either a strong point forward or a young PG with strong ballhandling skills whom they can groom to take over from Armstrong

3. Chucky Atkins, PG, Rookie season     5'11", 160 lbs     Free Agent     82 games, 19.8 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 1,5 rpg, 3.7 apg 

Another surprise rookie find.  Atkins was supposed provide practice fodder during the preseason.  Instead, through hustle and by relying on a swarming defense, he outworked everyone they through at him.  He not only earned a roster spot, he also earned Rivers' trust to the tune of 20 minutes per game.  The Magic managed to uncover Darrell Armstrong II (if only he didnıt have the same weaknesses as Armstrong.  His fg% and assist-to-turnover ratios are almost identical to Darrell's).  Orlando would love to bring him back, but he is even more likely than Amaechi to receive an offer that the Magic can't match. 

4. Chauncy Billups, G, 3rd season     6'3", 202 lbs     Free Agent     13 games, 13.5 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.0 apg 

Chauncy Billups never played for Orlando, suffering a season-ending injury before coming to the Magic as cap filler in the Ron Mercer trade.  He has said that he wants remain with the Magic, but he also has expressed interest in re-signing with Denver.  And Denver seems interested in re-signing him. We don't expect him to return. 

5. Michael Doleac, C, 2nd season     6'11", 262 lbs     2 years remaining on current contract     81 games, 16.5 mpg, 7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.8 apg 

The worst case of sophomore slump we've ever seen.  After a promising rookie season (named to the second team All-Rookie team) and an apparently dominating preseason, Doleac disappeared almost completely.  No one seems to know why, but he lost confidence in his offense game and was so distracted by that worry, that he was largely ineffective on defense.  Doleac is a hard worker, and very coachable, so the prognosis for a full recovery to his rookie year form is good, if he can get his confidence back.  Last year we projected a long future in Orlando for Doleac.  This year, with the success of John Amaechi, the Magic might be willing to include Doleac as filler in a sign-and-trade deal to land one of the prime free agents.  Our best guess - he will be playing in Orlando next year. 

6. Pat Garrity, F, 2nd season     6'9", 238 lbs     2 years remaining on current contract     82 games, 18.0 mpg, 8.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.7 apg 

When he came over from Phoenix, the book on Garrity was "nice outside shot, but very limited on defense."  True to form Garrity led the team in 3 point fg%, a skill that will keep him on somebodyıs roster next season.  But also true to form, at least until near the end of the season, he was no force on defense.  It took all season, but in March he finally reached the point of not requiring double team help every time his man got the ball.  We can only hope that a summer spent sparring with a  healthy Matt Harpring with further his defensive development. 

7. Matt Harpring, SF, 2nd season     6'7", 231 lbs     2 years remaining on current contract     4 games, 15.8 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg 

Injured in the preseason, Harpring played through pain for four games before admitting defeat and having season ending surgery.  This time he injured his ankle; the injury was completely unrelated to the bone spur problems that hampered him during senior season at Georgia Tech.  His work ethic and competitiveness equal Armstrong's, and he is one of the best one-on-one defenders on the team, making him a player Orlando would prefer to retain. However, Orlando is well stocked with SFs, and could be even more well stocked after the draft.  So if he were needed to make a sign-and-trade work ... 

8. Anthony Johnson, PG, 3rd season     6'3", 190 lbs     Free Agent     53 games, 11.5 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 1.3 apg 

Anthony Johnson was brought in as insurance, he barely played while in Orlando.  He will not be re-signed. 

9. Corey Maggette, G-F, Rookie season     6'6", 218 lbs     3 years remaining on current contract     77 games, 17.8 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.8 apg 

No one doubts Maggette's athletic ability, but his lack of development was glaring exposed during the course of this season.  He appeared during the season to be a hard worker and very coachable, and there were no signs they he thought his frequent benching's were undeserved, so all signs point to continued improvement. 

10. Ron Mercer, SG, 3rd season     6'7", 210 lbs     Free Agent     68 games, 35.0 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg 

Mercer was brought in at midseason to provide offensive punch.  He did - some of the time.  But he barely shot 40%, made no three pointers, and never was reliable enough to become the go to guy at the end of games.  He was hoping to use his stint in Orlando to showcase himself in preparation for free-agency, trying to make a case for a maximum dollars contract.  He won't get it.  Mercer did help himself during his stay in one way.  He came to Orlando with a reputation for being selfish and for a lack of effort, especially on  on defense.  He left.  He bought into Doc's philosophy and improved significantly in both areas.  The Magic might re-sign Mercer, but only if they donıt sign a premier free agent guard, and certainly not for maximum dollars. 

11. Bo Outlaw, F, 7th season     6'8", 210 lbs     Free Agent     82 games, 28.5 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.0 apg 

Still plays as hard as ever, still is a defensive tiger, still has almost no offensive game.  As a 6th man he would be a tremendous asset, especially because he can play SF, PF, and even some C.  As a starter, he was lacking any offensive credibility.  He could have gotten more signing with another team last summer, but stayed with Orlando.  He'll be rewarded this summer, after the free agent frenzy dissipates. 

12.    Derek Strong, PF, 9th season     6'9", 240 lbs     3 years remaining on current contract     20 games, 7.4 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.2 apg 

Three season ago Derek Strong was a capable, hardworking back-up.  Over the past two season, he has averaged less than 2 points per game and less than 3 rebounds per game.  His minutes have diminished to almost nothing.  Doc Rivers has told him that he has to show effort  in practice to earn playing time.  Strong's response:  play me and I'll play hard, but I wonıt show effort in practices.  John Gabriel  wants to trade him, but it will take sweetening to close the deal. 

13. Johnny Taylor, SF, 3rd season     6'9", 220 lbs     Free Agent     6 games, 5.7 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.2 apg 

Despite tremendous athletic skills, he never has made an impact.  We had to take him to make the Mercer trade work.  He'll be released on July 1. 

14.    Ben Wallace, PF-C, 4th season     6'9", 240 lbs     Free Agent     81 games, 24.1 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 0.8 apg 

Plays as hard as Bo Outlaw.  Is as much of a defensive tiger as Bo Outlaw. Has the same offensive game as Bo Outlaw.  Shoots FTs like Bo Outlaw. Itıs eerie when you think about it, how could two different players have such similar games ...  cloning is the only answer.  Somehow Wallace and Outlaw managed to be successful as a starting tandem, but the offensive liability was all too obvious.  Orlando will do everything they can to re-sign Wallace (and Outlaw), but they also will be doing everything they can to add offensive punch up front. 

15.    Monty Williams, SF, 5th season     6ı8ıı, 225 lbs     Free Agent     75 games, 20.0 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.4 apg 

Williams is a veteran role player who hopes he has found a home in Orlando. The team wouldnıt mind re-signing him, for the minimum, and if they extend an offer, he'll accept.  He wonıt be offered more than minimum anywhere else, and he does like the area and the team.  But the offer will depend on what happens during the draft.  And the free agent derby.  And with Bo Outlaw and Matt Harpring.  Such is the life of an NBA journeyman. 

V. Team Needs and Possible Offseason Moves 

With three lottery picks and up to $18M under the cap, Orlando has almost unlimited options this summer.  The highest priority is to sign at least one, and two if possible, of the top four free agents (Duncan, Hill, Jones, and McGrady).  The Magic need to sign at least one of the top 4 for this to be considered a successful summer.  Although it would be wonderful to see either Tim Duncan or Grant Hill in Magic pinstripes next season, I think it is much more likely that both will be back with their current teams. However, I also think it is as likely that both Eddie Jones and Tracy McGrady will leave as it is that both Hill and Duncan stay.  Both Jones and McGrady have ties to Florida and I think that  one will end up in Orlando. One person who won't be spending next year in Orlando, in my opinion, is Derek Strong.  Gabriel will do everything he can to move Strong.  It will probably take some sweetening to make it happen - Matt Harpring might be the one who gets the short stick. 

VI. My Selection 

With the 5th pick in the 2000 Usenet Mock NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select: Chris Mihm, 7'0", C, University of Texas.  Mihm is rated as one of the top four picks by almost every one of the recognized draft gurus, and was rated by many as one of the top two until the rumors about his workout in Chicago started.  Mihm has excellent offensive skills, including a better jump shot than John Amaechi.  He also knows how to play defense and has the physical gifts to succeed defensively at the NBA level.  The knock on Mihm is his occasional lack of intensity.  But in Orlando he will have Rivers, Armstrong, Wallace, Outlaw, Harpring, ... to motivate him. 

VII. Other Players Considered 

Our short list, after the first three picks had been made included Darius Miles, Chris Mihm, and Mike Miller.  When asked about Miles in a recent interview, John Gabriel indicated that he thought Miles was a diamond in the rough.  He used the same language about Cory Maggette last year.  We love his potential, and, based on his 7' wingspan, can only imagine how intimidating he will be on defense with a little development. Unfortunately, Chicago took him before we had a chance. The other player we were considering was Mike Miller.  Miller also brings a strong offensive game to the table.  In addition he is a very capable ballhandler, and, as we noted above, the Magic are in dire need of ballhandlers.  However, overall, he just isn't in the same class as Miles or Mihm

VIII. Likely Magic Selection 

If Orlando keeps the fifth pick, and unless Fizer slips (we assume that there is no way Martin or Swift slips this far), I think the choice will be between Darius Miles, Chris Mihm, and Mike Miller, with the nod going to Miles.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner
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