As summer comes to an end, the 2019 NBA free agency frenzy will go down in the history books. Teams are racing to win the Larry O’Brien trophy now that the Golden State Warriors are no longer the favorite. However, the Orlando Magic stayed their course to continue building a foundation around young talent, and could make the jump during the 2019 season.
Orlando Magic 2019 Season Preview
Recap of Last Season
At the beginning of the 2018-19 season, there was hope that the rebuilding phase finally paid off. Help from Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Terrence Ross off of the bench propelled the team to a playoff birth. A promising milestone reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The culture of defense along with developing young talent has proven to be fruitful. This foundation is due in large part to the President of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman.
Not only does Weltman have the coach he wants in Steve Clifford, but also a rekindled spirited fan base. The 2018-19 season will not be remembered as one of the best in franchise history. Even so, the fan base is excited to watch the team grow together. Finishing with a record of 22-9 to end the season catapulted the Magic to the playoffs. Although a first-round exit from the playoffs the Magic has made many improvements.
A key feature was the All-Star player, Vucevic. Putting years of struggling in distant memory, becoming a clear go-to option. This is something the team struggled with unlike the defensive success in 2018-19. Contrary to the durability concerns playing in 57 games during the 2017-2018 season, Vucevic silenced the doubters. Starting in 80 games in the 2018-19 season averaging 20.8 points and 12 rebounds.
In addition to Vucevic, the growth of Gordon played a vital role in the team’s success. Finishing as the second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder for the Magic in 2018-19. Along with this, becoming one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Also, increasing his per-game assist rate by 1.5. Also important to note that his defensive rating was 11th among NBA forwards.
Final Record: 42-40, 7th in the Eastern Conference
Although bigger moves were made elsewhere this summer, the Magic built around their young core shrewdly. With young assets Jonathon Isaac, Mohamed Bamba, and Aaron Gordon intact the Magic stayed put. However, the front office made it clear, “Bringing Vooch back is a priority“. On June 30th, the deal finally came to fruition. A well-deserved four-year contract worth $100 million.
Throughout free-agency, Vucevic stayed in close contact with a fellow teammate looking for a new contract. Together they both Terrence Ross signed a four-year deal worth $54 million. Earning the nickname, “the human torch” because of his prolific three-point shooting. Last season Ross set a record for most three-point shots made (217) without starting a single game. Both Ross and Vucevic wanted to return to Orlando because they felt they had “unfinished business”.
In pursuit of adding more versatile defenders, the Magic made one splash in particular in free-agency. Reaching an agreement with power forward Al-Farouq Aminu on a three-year, $29 million contract. Aminu spent four seasons with the Portland Trailblazers averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. The 28-year-old ranked 13th among power forwards in the real plus-minus category. His impact on defense and versatility on offense make him a reliable veteran role player heading into his 10th season in the NBA.
Along with bringing back Khem Birch who is a defensive force in the paint, also re-signing point guard Michael Carter-Williams. It is clear there is no limit on the number of forwards filling the roster for 2019-2020. In the 2019 NBA Draft, Chuma Okeke was taken by the Magic with the 16th pick. Although tearing his ACL in the 2019 NCAA tournament, Okeke is expected to make his debut in February 2020.
With the enigma that Markelle Fultz has become, expect the point guard position to be a concern this season. Fultz will be coming back from a thoracic outlet syndrome. Despite being vulnerable at the point guard position, early season predictions have the Magic making another a playoff run.
After winning the Southeast Division last season, a repeat of this performance will be a greater challenge this season. Although the Charlotte Hornets finished second to the Magic last year, the main challenger will be the Miami Heat. As of July 22nd, NBA.com has the Magic finishing 8th in the eastern conference mid-summer power rankings.
A roster filled with an abundance of unproven young talent, this season will be about the continued growth of the young core. While this may be a disadvantage, the roster’s depth will become of value in the playoffs.
Orlando Magic 2019 Season Prediction
The Magic 2019-20 season is riding on a number of uncertainties. Nonetheless, there is a lot to be excited about. If Fultz can stay healthy and prove his worth, the team’s potential is through the roof.
There are not many teams in the Eastern Conference who have an advantage in matchups over the Magic this season. The Heat acquired Jimmy Butler making them an immediate threat in the Southeastern Division. Even so, this is an area where the Magic may have the upper hand.
Look to the forwards that are talented defenders and can guard multiple positions to create an advantage for the Magic. Without a doubt, the Eastern Conference is more open than years in the past. A breakout season makes the Magic a dark horse in the east. Banking on a young core to excel the franchise into the future, this season will unquestionably be exciting to watch.
Final Record Prediction: 45-37
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