Could the Orlando Magic be poised for a winning season this year?
Over the past few seasons, few other teams have been as disappointing as the Orlando Magic. In fact, fans are definitely tired of watching the administration squander any chance at having a successful year. For the past two years under Frank Vogel, the team has only secured a total of 54 wins. However, under a new head coach, Steve Clifford, the team looks like they could have a breakout year.
Let’s look at the most exciting new prospect on the Orlando Magic roster, Mohamed Bamba. The Magic used their first-round selection to secure him early as the sixth pick in the 2018 draft. Bamba is a seven foot one tall center who earned five-star rating across the board as a potential draft pick. He broke Rudy Gobert’s wingspan record with a whopping seven foot ten length and was allegedly faster than most NBA players. Looking at his college stats, he averaged 12.9 points, 3.7 blocks, 10.4 rebounds, and a 60.3% field goal percentage per game.
There will be plenty of naysayers who point out that Bamba’s statistics won’t necessarily mean he will be great in the NBA. That’s true, there are plenty of tall guys who can’t cut professionally. However, Mohamed Bamba seems like the real deal and he now has a coach who focuses on defense. Looking at those block and rebound numbers, Clifford has a rookie with a limitless potential to upset rival teams’ offenses. Looking at his preseason performance thus far, he’s averaged 11.5 points, 1.25 blocks, 1.5 assists, 6.3 rebounds, and 61% field goal percentage in the four games he’s played in. Those are pretty solid numbers for a rookie and it seems like he’s been improving with each game.
While Bamba is the biggest name coming out of the 2018 draft, the Orlando Magic have two other young players to get excited about. Another 2018 rookie, Melvin Frazier Jr., and second-year player Jonathan Isaac. Frazier Jr. is a young shooting guard drafted in the second round who’s also showed a lot of promise in the preseason. Excluding his first preseason game where he only played 8 minutes, he’s averaged 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and a 58.9% field goal percentage in three games. While it’s unlikely he’ll get the start, he’ll be a solid backup to either Jonathan Simmons or Evan Fournier.
Jonathan Isaac is also listed second on the depth chart behind Orlando Magic star, Aaron Gordon. He hasn’t played as much as the rookies in this preseason but the game against the Memphis Grizzlies does stand out. He secured 15 points, 2 steals, 1 block, 8 rebounds, and an 80% field goal percentage to help win the game. His potential on the team is strong, and we can see him becoming a sleeper hit this season.
On to some of the benchmark players for the Orlando Magic. The first names that come to mind are Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, and Nikola Vucevic. Let’s face it, Magic fans are hoping to see Gordon just explode offensively. He’s struggled with shot selection a lot, which has dragged down a few of his statistics. However, that’s something he was working on in the offseason so there’s promise he does improve his already impressive numbers. Named one of the captains this season, there’s no doubt Gordon becomes a key leader on the court.
Nikola Vucevic is in an interesting position for the team because trade rumors seem to plague him. Last season he averaged 16.5 points, 1 steal, 1.1 blocks, 3.4 assists, 9.2 rebounds, and a 47.5% field goal percentage per game. He’s been a solid contributor on both offense and defense. So why would the Magic even be thinking about trading him? With Mohamed Bamba on the roster, it seems like the trade rumors have only ramped up. Luckily, Jeff Weltman shot down the rumors when speaking with the Orlando Sentinel.
“We have no designs on trading anyone right now. That’s something that we’ll worry about later. [Vucevic] is a high-quality player and an even higher-quality person. He’s very valuable to our team today, and he’s very valuable to what we want to be about going forward. So, I wouldn’t even entertain those thoughts yet.”
It wouldn’t make sense to get rid of Vucevic until seeing exactly how Bamba will play this season. Not to mention, the veteran player could also show the young rookie the ropes. Hopefully, we don’t see either player leave during this season.
While the offense looks poised to immensely improve, all Orlando Magic fans will be paying attention to the defense. Steve Clifford has always been a coach with a defensive mindset and it seems inevitable that he will continue that coaching style. It’s a smart move for Orlando because there’s a reason why the saying is “the best offense is a good defense”. Getting under an opponent’s skin and disrupting their ability to score is one of the most effective ways to win games. We could see this team becoming one of the top defensive playmakers in the league this season.
What do you think this season holds for the Orlando Magic? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!