The Magic were one of the NBA’s best teams during the last two months of the 2018/19 regular season, finishing the year on a 23-9 run and earning the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, that second-half success hasn’t carried over to the 2019/20 season so far.
Through eight games, the Magic are just 2-6, with their only two wins coming at home against Eastern lottery teams Cleveland and New York.
The defense that keyed the Magic’s late-season run in the spring is still the team’s strength. Orlando’s 101.0 defensive rating ranks fifth in the NBA, and Jonathan Isaac is emerging as one of the league’s most impactful players on that side of the ball — in the early going, he’s averaging 1.6 steals per game to go along with a league-high 3.0 blocks per game.
However, the Magic’s offense has been dismal this season, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Orlando’s 96.6 offensive rating is easily the worst in the NBA, well behind the 100.1 mark posted by the 29th-ranked Knicks.
While Lowe acknowledges that the team’s 27% conversion rate on three-point shots figures to improve, he points to several other red flags, such as a lack of corner threes and free throw attempts. As Lowe notes, the Magic have too many power forwards and not enough shooters or play-makers, especially with D.J. Augustin regressing after a career year and Markelle Fultz still not a reliable shot-maker.
The Magic could experiment with some different lineups and hope that their excellent defense helps create a few more fast-break opportunities and easy baskets. But barring a trade, there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix for their offense. And if that’s the case, the club’s ceiling will be limited.
Still, being dominant on one side of the ball could be enough to earn a playoff spot in the East, where average teams like the Hornets (4-4) and Pistons (4-5) currently rank in the top eight. The Magic and the 3-4 Nets are among last year’s playoff teams looking to make their way back into that postseason mix.
What do you think? Will the Magic make the postseason again in 2019/20, or will they be unable to repeat even last year’s modest success?
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