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ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando knew that its first season of reconstruction following its very turbulent divorce from the Dwight Howard era of Magic basketball would be rough.
Few were prepared for an injury-stunted season that culminated in a league-worst 20-62 record.
But with an eager draft pick and a roster full of high-potential young players to develop, the Magic remain encouraged about a rebuilding process that doesn't seem as massive.
It's also why second-year coach Jacque Vaughn is fine with not having any specific predictions about what his team can produce on the floor this season.
"I think for us, we won't say and I won't say 'it's going to take this many games' or 'this is our approach'" Vaughn said. "What we will do is each and every day get better. We'll be a better team that last year and we'll work extremely hard, and where that leaves us we'll see."
For anyone trying to project where the Magic could be three seasons from now, clearly the player to watch this season will be No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Oladipo out of Indiana.
Oladipo is the kind of player general manager Rob Hennigan said this summer that can be part of the Magic's long term plans.
Primarily a scorer in college, on the court the Magic have been grooming him to be their point guard of the future with veteran Jameer Nelson now in his 30s.
Off the court he's also shown himself to be the kind of charismatic presence in the locker room that can only assist his professional transition.
After a preseason game last week, Oladipo playfully serenaded his teammates in the locker room as he showed off his singing ability, belting out a few bars of the spiritual "Wade in the Water."
It was apropos for a player that also keeps a bible in his locker as well.
Oladipo said the approach this season will be to never be satisfied with a few cheers or pats on the back. He's obviously on a different stage now in the NBA, but he said he still can draw upon his high school and college experiences for inspiration.
"I have higher expectations of myself, even higher than some people have of me," Oladipo said. "At Indiana there was a big expectation of changing the program around. It was pretty much at the lowest of lows. Being at the high school I was at, at DeMatha, the expectation was always to be good. So I've seen both ends of the spectrum.
"I'm just going to play basketball at the end of the day. And I want to win just like everybody else."
Here are five things to watch for from the Magic this season:
THE TRANSITION: Oladipo has taken his lumps in the preseason at point guard, so don't expect this to be a fast transition for him. Nelson will start the season at the point guard, but it's possible he could be traded by season's end. He's embraced his mentor role for Oladipo, though, and says he will contribute in any way he can.
BIG NIK: Center Nik Vucevic was a double-double machine for the Magic last season and has become a surprise asset from the Howard trade. He's added some muscle in the offseason which should make him an even better rebounder. His challenge is improving his offensive skill-set.
NO BIG BABY EARLY: Big man Glen Davis is still working his way back from a broken bone in his left foot and hasn't done much basketball activity since a second surgery on it in July. His injury all but ensured a lackluster finish for the Magic last year, but the team says they won't rush him back.
OTHERS TO DEVELOP: Along with Oladipo and Vucevic, the Magic are very excited about seeing what Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris can do in their second year. Harkless will likely start at small forward and Harris at power forward with Davis sidelined.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT AFFLALO: Arron Afflalo averaged a career-high 16.5 points last year and will again be called upon to be a primary scorer. Like Nelson, he's a veteran on a team steadily getting younger, but he's still a good fit in Vaughn's offense.
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