From Shaquille O’Neal’s selection prior to the start of its fourth ever season to the departure of Dwight Howard in 2012, the Magic seemingly has always boasted one of the most intriguing talents in the league.
The loss of Howard sent Orlando plummeting in the standings, as the team finished with just 20 wins, the fewest in the league and the lowest amount since its debut season in 1989-90.
The consultation prize was landing the second pick in the 2013 NBA Draft lottery and the Magic opted for Indiana guard Victor Oladipo to reverse the franchises fortunes.
The 6-foot-5 guard realizes the challenge in front of him, not only as a foundation of Orlando’s rebuilding efforts, but now competing with elite players in each match-up.
“Every night you are playing the best of the best. It’s the NBA, these are the best players in the world,” Oladipo said. “I’m just anxious, I’m ready to play. This is a once in a lifetime experience.”
While the Magic training camp started on Tuesday, Oladipo didn’t wait that long to start competing against the best players in the league.
Two months after being selected by Orlando, Oladipo traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the Goodman League, a summer pro-am tournament featuring some of the best players in the country.
One afternoon, Oklahoma City foward Kevin Durant served as the main competition, but Oladipo refused to back down.
Throughout the contest, Oladipo was able to showcase his long range shooting, one of his greatest assets in college, as he shot 44.1 percent from beyond the arc as a junior with Indiana, and played admirably against a three-time scoring champion.
The Magic shot 32.9 percent from 3-point range last season, only Minnesota connected on a lower percentage, so his range is a welcome addition.
Shooting gaurd Arron Afflalo and point gaurd Jameer Nelson, the starting guards for Orlando last season, are both on the trading block and the team anticipates Oladipo being able to fill in at either positoin.
The uncertainty of the veteran duo’s future, along with his versatility, has many believing Oladipo will join O’Neal as the second player in franchise history to win Rookie of the Year honors.
“I think our past has shown that we put guys on the floor. That’s the greatest way for them to learn this game at this level,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He’ll have his chances to be on the floor, but he’ll earn those minutes at the same time.”
The Cavaliers won the draft lottery for the second time in three years and even though the team is in position to snap a three-year playoff drought, Oladipo had no desire to play in Cleveland.
The 21-year-old is more than happy to make a home in central Florida.
“It’s hard not to be in a good mood when you wake up and the sun is always shining,” Oladipo said. “My mother was here a few days ago and she loved it. When your mother loves it, that means it’s really good.”
During Orlando’s initial scrimmage, Oladipo played point guard, a position not best suited for his skill set.
During his final season with the Hoosiers, he committed more turnovers (83) than assists (74) and finished with the third most assists on the team.
The presence of Nelson, a former All-Star at point guard, enables Orlando to bring Oladipo along slowly and let him transition into the nuances of the new position.
Any impact he can make will be a welcome addition to a team that closed out the season with just three victories in its final 20 contests.
The Magic will give its rookie an opportunity to prove himself and he already knows the formula to a successful debut season.
“I’m looking forward to going out there with my teammates and going to war every night,” Oladipo said. “Winning solves everything.”