The Orlando Magic made the seventh seed in the 2019 Playoffs. Now the team must stay healthy and focused on internal growth if they want to host a Playoff series in 2020.
The Orlando Magic are on the come up.
The team ended a seven-year playoff drought with a 42-40 record and a Southeast Division championship. They took Game 1 from the eventual-champion Toronto Raptors and announced their presence.
The offseason was spent retaining the same roster, re-signing Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Khem Birch and Michael Carter-Williams. The team has its entire rotation from last year and the 22-9 run to end the season and make the playoffs intact.
The team is eager to get the season started. And with one of the youngest starting lineups to make the playoffs last year, there is at least some idle thinking this team could be the next team to leap into the Eastern Conference’s group of contenders.
The team took advantage of some extreme health last year to make the playoffs — all six of the team’s top player splayed at least 75 games. And the recovery of two more players have the potential to take the team to the next level.
It is easy to forget that two key players missed the Magic’s entire playoff run. And it is their return that could lift the Magic up.
Mohamed Bamba, the sixth overall pick of the 2018 Draft, missed the entire second half of the season due to a stress fracture in his lower left leg. He was able to play in 47 games last year and give the team good minutes as the second center behind All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.
Although Bamba missed the last 35 games due to this particular injury, he ended the season averaging 6.2 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and a team-best 1.4 blocks per game.
Bamba looked very much like a rookie. He struggled at times to understand where he needed to be defensively. But he was getting better at that recognition right before the injury ended his season.
In his lone Summer League game, it looked like he regained his mobility and showed improved awareness.
The Magic were also without former first overall pick Markelle Fultz, whom the team acquired at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fultz missed 63 games in the 2019 season and did not play a single minute for the Magic after the trade.
Orlando never set a firm timeline for his return from treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome. And it is still unclear if he will be ready to return for training camp.
Before the trade, Fultz averaged 8.2 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game for the 76ers. He only played in 33 games with Philadelphia in two seasons and never reached half of his potential when it comes to scoring the basketball. The thoracic outlet syndrome took away any comfort he had shooting and sapped his game of its potency.
If he can stay healthy for an entire year and improve on his offensive skills he should add another threat from the perimeter.
The Magic need just that. This team could have forced the Raptors to respect the perimeter players more if Fultz had been healthy for last year’s playoff run. And Bamba being healthy would have forced players to rethink coming into the lane for layups and dunks.
Sometimes the player’s presence is all you need.
And the Magic looking to climb up the standings know there is not a wide gap between where they are now and fighting for home-court advantage.
This year the likely four top teams will be the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. No disrespect to Toronto but losing a player who some consider the best player in the world can potentially make you tumble in the standings.
If the Magic plan on cracking the top four they would have to stay healthy and improve as individual players as well — especially Gordona and Isaac. This is key to the Magic living up to their 2020 potential.
Isaac went from averaging 5.4 points per game in 2018 to 9.6 points per game in 2019. His scoring average jumped to 11.8 points per game during the team’s playoff run.
Not a bad jump. It will vital to the Magic’s playoff seeding for him to continue to grow as an offensive player.
Aaron Gordon has been receiving praises ever since he finished second in the dunk contest against Zach Lavine. But that is all he is known for on a national level. He will need to continue to grow as an offensive threat in order for the Magic to secure a top-four seed.
Last year Gordon’s stats took a slight dip across the board. He averaged only 16 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. In the 2018 season, Gordon averaged 17.6 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Getting set to turn 24 years old, Gordon still has a lot of room to grow. He averaged a career-high in assists and played some of the best defense of his career.
His growth internally could be just what the doctor ordered. Especially if Bamba and Fultz can consistently contribute.
Either way, this Magic team should make some noise in 2020, if they can host a Playoff series then maybe they can advance to the second round. Something that hasn’t been done in over seven years.
Published at Thu, 12 Sep 2019 20:39:23 +0000