When Rob Hennigan was hired as General Manager of the Orlando Magic, it was expected that he would look to rebuild the team in the same manner as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Hennigan was an assistant GM with OKC for two years before the Magic came calling.
Admittedly, the OKC model makes a lot of sense for Orlando. Both are small market teams which makes drawing big name stars nearly impossible.
Smaller markets also find it more difficult generating revenue to pay for all of those lofty salaries that big name players desire so building through the draft is usually the best option.
With that reasoning in mind, the Hennigan hire was really a great move for the Magic.
Hennigan has worked the front office in both San Antonio and Oklahoma City; two small markets that built championship contenders through the draft and strong player development.
And despite a lackluster draft, Henningan may have already drafted his first superstar player.
Although he is a little raw, no one can deny the athleticism and tenacity that Victor Olapido plays with. He’s a relentless slasher who plays very hard on the other side of the ball also.
In fact he kind of reminds you a little of the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.
Of course Olapido is not a point guard even though the Magic did try him out at that position during summer league. Just like when Westbrook was drafted though, people have had a hard time trying to figure out just how Olapido’s game will translate to the pros.
As a matter of fact, people were still questioning Westbrook’s game up until he suffered a knee injury in last year’s playoffs. Many people considered his game to be selfish and even erratic until the team wilted without him in the lineup.
Olapido has the potential to be just as productive of a player as Westbrook, especially in this day and age when there seems to be a shortage of good big men.
Nowadays, having a good slasher on your team can be just as important as having a good post player. Guys like Westbrook, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose and James Harden are tough to stay in front of because of their quickness.
When these guys get in the paint, they suck in the defense creating wide-open shots for teammates. Kevin Durant found out how hard it was to find open shots when his “little” big man went missing from the lineup.
Hennigan has also brought in other young talents that can either be developed or packaged down the line in order to bring in a marquee player. This will be especially important if the Magic aren’t lucky enough to draft a franchise cornerstone the way San Antonio and OKC did.
Even Henningan’s coaching hire was right in line with the OKC method. Just like Scott Brooks, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn was a career backup point guard who gets his first shot as a head coach coaching a rebuilding project.
Seriously though, Vaughn was able to play for and worked as an assistant coach behind Spurs’ Head Coach Gregg Popovich so the hope is he was able to pick up a few things from the league’s longest tenured coach.
One last thing that Hennigan has implemented into the rebuilding process is making smart financial decisions concerning player salaries. Hedo Turkoglu’s contract is the only bad contract left on the books after the team cut Al Harrington and his albatross of a contract this summer.
So even though Orlando once again looks to be a lottery-bound team this season, Magic fans can take solace in the fact that their team is taking noticeable strides toward becoming a contender again.
If fact, they’re right on schedule.