The Orlando Magic have been inconsistent during the first month of the regular season. As they move to December, they must continue to improve.
The Orlando Magic have been fairly inconsistent during the first month of the regular season, which has made it nearly impossible for fans to predict what to expect on a game-to-game basis. Despite the struggles, the team has found ways to win basketball games and currently have a record that has them in Playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
When this new Magic team was assembled in the offseason there were a lot of question marks about the franchise’s direction. The one thing that was clear to everyone was the front office and the coaching staff were ready to speed up the rebuilding process and start winning some games now. The ultimate goal for the Magic entering the 2017 season was to play a competitive brand of basketball and to earn a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
During the first month of the season, the Magic have had good stretches where they have looked like a team that has potential and could make the Playoffs. In the other hand, there have been times where the Magic have looked like a team that is destined for yet another lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
The main issue with the Magic early on this season has been consistency.
The Magic have lacked consistency on both ends of the floor from game to game, which has led to mixed results so far. Fourteen games into the regular season, the Magic have a 6-8 record, which is seen by many as a disappointing record considering how easy the schedule has been early on. The team has also lost some winnable games, such as the season opener at home against the Miami Heat.
The biggest issue for the Magic during the first two weeks of the season was that the team was getting blown out in games every other game it seemed. The Magic lost by 26 points in their second game of the season against the Detroit Pistons and lost by 32 to the Chicago Bulls after winning three straight games. The Magic also lost games to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves in which the final score did not truly resemble how poorly the Magic played. Against the Cavaliers, the Magic trailed at one point by as many as 22 points and against the Timberwolves the Magic’s largest deficit was 30 points.
The inconsistency and the team’s poor play to start the season prompted Frank Vogel to make a starting lineup change eight games into the regular season. At the time, the Magic had a 3-5 record and were coming off horrible performances against the Bulls and the Timberwolves.
Magic fans received the lineup change with mixed reactions since Aaron Gordon, one of the few players who was playing well, was sent to the bench in favor of Jeff Green.
The Magic defense has improved significantly since the lineup change and, as a result, the team is finally looking like the defensive team everyone expected to see entering this season.
In the six games since the lineup change, the Magic have only allowed opponents to score 90 points or more twice. During that period of time, the Magic are ranked third in the NBA with an average of 92.3 points per game allowed and the team also leads the NBA with a 94.0 defensive rating.
It is clear the Magic defense is now a factor. It should continue to be the rest of the season.
But the one constant area of concern for the Magic so far has been the offense.
The struggles on offense were expected considering the team does not have a true go-to scorer. But no one expected it to be this bad.
The Magic currently are ranked second to last in the NBA in scoring, averaging only 92.3 points per game. They are also second to last in the NBA in field goal percentage at 40.7 percent.
The inconsistency on offense is the main thing holding the Magic back from winning some games that come down to the wire.
Take Monday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks as an example. The Magic defense played terrific throughout the game, but the offense was nowhere to be found when it mattered most down the stretch.
What should have been a win ended up resulting in a disappointing loss for the Magic.
The defense is expected to carry the Magic throughout the season, but the Magic cannot afford to score in the low 90s each night and expect to win many games. The Magic will need to find a way to spark the offense and most importantly to find some consistency each game.
This may mean that the Magic may need to consider a trade down the road to fix the offense if it continues to hold the team back.
The Magic are 3-3 since the lineup change and 6-8 overall in the season. But one thing is for sure — this team is playing better basketball.
The defense is becoming more of a force each passing game and while the offense continues to struggle, the team has found ways to win some games while they figure out the offensive struggles.
The next month should be an interesting one for the Magic as they continue to try to find a rhythm on the offensive end and continue to develop their defense.
The trade market generally opens up in mid-December. At which point, depending on how the Magic are playing, could determine if this team makes a trade or stay put until the trade deadline.
The important thing is the Magic are playing better. And the defensive effort has improved significantly in the past two weeks. While it has not been pretty at times, the Magic have been able to win games and managed to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference.
After one month of basketball, the Magic are right where they wanted to be: playing for a chance to make the playoffs and playing better basketball each passing game.