For the first time in ages, the Magic had placed on continuity the start of the new season: same coach (a feat for the Floridians) and same framework with the renewal of the contracts of Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross and Michael Carter-Williams. This stability, which should allow them to attack the exercise with their feet on the floor, ultimately worked against them. At All Star Break, Orlando had 24 wins for 31 losses. Disappointing compared to fixed expectations after a qualification in postseason. But, if we look more closely at the figures, we can realize that the Magic had a particularly hardcore calendar on this part of the season with oppositions against the cadors of the West and road trips among the tenors from the east. The record of 22 wins for 8 defeats against the negative teams proves that the Floridians did the job on the matches at their doorstep. To make matters worse, the workforce was particularly affected by injuries: 7 matches for Aaron Gordon, 11 for Nikola Vucevic, 16 for DJ Augustin, not to mention the packages for the year of Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac.
A calendar and absences that do not justify the pitiful attack proposed by the Magic over the first months of competition: 95.8 points in October, 102.6 points in November, 105.1 points in December. Before the All-Star Game, the Magic flirted with the League donkey cap in this area (29th Offensive Rating with 103.9 points registered on 100 possessions), but fortunately compensated with a lite defense (1st Defensive Rating with 105.4 points collected on 100 possessions). The post-All Star Game mutation is all the more incomprehensible. After the break in February, Steve Clifford completely reversed these figures: best attack in the League (119.8 points) and 26th defense (118.2 points). A transformation that can be explained by a much faster tempo – from the 28th to the 12th Pace in the NBA – and a finally decent address: the Magic went from 43.4% to shots (28th) 48.7% of success ( 4th). A tactical change that has borne fruit in the results with a positive balance since the All Star Break and reference victories on the Rockets or Grizzlies floors. Like last year, Orlando seemed in a position to produce a run for the playoffs. Will Floridians be able to keep the same dynamic in the bubble? This is the whole question!
July 31 : vs Nets (20h30)
02 Aot : vs Kings (0h00)
04 Aot : vs Pacers (0h00)
05 Aot : vs Raptors (2h00)
07 Aot : vs Sixers (0h30)
9 Aot : vs Celtics (23h00)
11 Aot : vs Nets (19h00)
13 Aot : vs Pelicans (Schedule to be determined)
A calendar that remains affordable for Steve Clifford’s men and which above all has the merit of offering two direct confrontations with its main competitor, the Nets. Neck and neck with Brooklyn in the standings – the Magic has only one more defeat on the clock – the Floridians will be somewhat in control of their destiny. In 2019, the last regular matches had served as a springboard for the Magic (11 victories out of 13 games), see if in this particular context, the Magic repeats this feat. The mixture between title contenders (Celtics, Raptors, Sixers) and post-season contenders (Pelicans and Kings) will allow the team to gauge, before preparing (logically) for the first round of the playoffs.
Difficult : 2 paintings
- SIGNATURES OF THE RECOVERY
No signature noted ct Magic. The two main absent, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac, both unavailable due to injury, the franchise was not authorized to replace them digitally in the bubble. The President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, said that Aminu would not go to the Disney campus to complete his education in the best possible conditions. As for Isaac, he will be very present with the group in the bubble, but should not participate in the meetings. Weltman reports that his young foal will gain more from training with his teammates, despite physical restrictions, in an effort to maintain a collective chemistry for next year.
PG : Markelle Fultz
SG : Evan Fournier
SF : James Ennis
PF : Aaron Gordon
C : Nikola Vucevic
Since the injury of the undisputed wing holder, Jonathan Isaac, Steve Clifford has alternated between Wesley Iwundu and James Ennis to replace him in his five. Arrived there trade deadline, the former Sixer seemed to be holding the rope before the season’s suspension. His signature corresponds with the change in tactical identity of the Magic without its impact in the stats being significant: 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 23 minutes. It is on the defensive front that Ennis will have its importance in the bubble. The rest of 5 major should be no surprise. Markelle Fultz has inherited reins of Magic after 6 regular season matches. Delivered from the pressure he had on Philadelphia’s shoulders, the ex First Pick 2017 finally showed the beginnings of his talent. Holder of the attacking tempo, Fultz is much more incisive on transition than the other Magic leader, DJ Augustin, can be. At its side, Evan Fournier A good level will also be expected after a sprained elbow which disrupted its performance in March. Go-to-guy of the team, Vavane has found excellent shooting percentages this season, following a difficult 2019 exercise: 47% on shots against 43.8% last year and especially 40.6% behind the arch instead of 34%.
On the frontcourt, we find the doublet Aaron Gordon – Nikola Vucevic. The first surprised a lot of observers by changing its game during the year. Main Magic Playmaker after the All Star Game, AG has never been so complete on the floor: 15.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists. As a symbol, he offered his first triple double in career in February in a victory against the Timberwolves: 17 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists! As for Vooch, like most of his teammates, he started to rise in temperature. The pivot revived its All Star stats after the February break – 21.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists – thanks to an efficiency finally found: 52.0% success against 45.8% at the start of the season.
In search of redemption with his new colors, Markelle Fultz quickly reassured Florida fans. With his problems shoulder to shoulder, the old Sixer bought confidence in shots: 12.1 points 47.3% success in shots and 72.3% in free throws. With only 64 games in the paws, this is still only the tip of the iceberg. Fultz’s real ceiling is still unknown. Could it not be him, the X factor, which allows Orlando to pass this famous course of borderline playoffs contender serious team. The proof, when Markelle scores more than 15 points this season, the Magic posts a balance of 9 victories for 3 losses. Or his triple double – 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists – largely contributed the significant victory on the floor of the Lakers. In Steve Clifford’s fairly conventional offensive schemas, Fultz is one of the few free electrons (with Terrence Ross) be able to improvise his score. In March, the leader started to build up pressure with 15.4 points, 6.4 assists for only 1.6 turnover. If the progression curve continues, we could see Fultz his top for the postseason.
The advantage of the terrain will of course only be an illusion for the Magic. Even when flying in their city, the players will be logged the same as the other teams in the bubble. In this very particular context, Orlando has a good card to play to shake up the hierarchy. With the Wizards and Nets, its two main competitors, completely decimated, the Floridians will have the seventh spot in the crosshairs. A place that would allow them to avoid the Wisconsin ogre in the first round. After a first surprise participation in the playoffs last year, the Magic must establish its position in the East. But, above all, Steve Clifford’s men must hang the big cylinders of the Conference. Regular against weaker teams, Orlando has a record of 3 wins for 15 defeats against the top 6 in the East. If the team wants to play Disney scratch, it will necessarily multiply the exploits.