It is still very early in the NBA season, but no team has surprised more than the Orlando Magic starting 6-2 after their first eight games. They already have blowout victories against the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic certainly is drinking a potion but how long will that last is the real question.
Even though it is a small sample size the Magic have made massive leaps in areas where they were terrible last season. Offensively they are first in three-point percentage at 44.2% and second in total field goal percentage at 48.9%, after going 32.8% from three and 44.0% from the field last season, both good for 29th in the NBA.
The Magic has three players shooting above 50% from three while attempting at least four a night. Marreese Speights and Evan Fournier can definitely get hot from deep but Aaron Gordon who last season shot less than 30% from deep is leading the team at 57.7%. This hot shooting has opened up the floor for the Magic. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. This shooting is not sustainable, eventually their numbers will drop at some point, I mean it has to right?
The Magic has found that with more space it is easier to move the ball on the offensive end. On their first possession against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Magic moved the ball from side to side with six passes, three screens, and a wide-open look for Fournier, which he drilled. With movement like that, it’s not a surprise that they are second in offensive rating at 109.9.
The Magic has also improved on the defensive end. Last season the Magic were 24th in defensive rating at 108.0 but this year are 9th at 100.2, the major key to this improvement is in their team defense. They lead the league in three-point defense holding opponents to 28.3% a night another improvement off of last season when they were 24th in three-point defense.
Their team defense has been great early on, starting with trusting that their teammates have their back. Against the New Orleans Pelicans Jrue Holiday drove down the lane, Speights left his man to help on the drive and Fournier came over to help the helper, in this case, Speights. He got his hand on the ball and the Magic was able to force a turnover.
Then later in the game Fournier goes to double Anthony Davis in the mid-post and when he went, Terrence Ross slid over to take Fournier’s man. As he did that, Fournier had to drop quickly and took Ross’ man below the rim. Then Aaron Gordon played strong and solid one-on-one defense against Davis and they finished the play with a rebound.
The Magic have at least two candidates for Most Improved Player, even if Aaron Gordon’s three-point percentage drops by 20 points, he would still be shooting 37% nearly a nine-point climb from next season. The other candidate is their free agent acquisition Jonathan Simmons who developed in San Antonio as a 3-and-D player. He’s gone from averaging 6.2 points a game to 15.8, as well as improving his three-point shot from 29.4% to 45.0%. Again it is early but if the Magic is going to maintain this fast start through a long season, these are two players who will have to continue their growth.
This is very early, it’s just been eight games of an 82 game season, these numbers can come crashing down and the Magic could revert to the team most thought they would be. Several teams have started the season fast and faded quickly, the Los Angeles Lakers were 10-10 in their first 20 games, the Nets were 4-4 in their first eight, both finished with two of the three worst records in the league last year. Or this could be the beginning of a turnaround in the Magic Kingdom. The shooting numbers will cool off but may not drop that much, if that is the case they could be competing at the end of April. Only time will tell if the Magic can make this run for a playoff spot or fade like the Lakers and Nets last season. It’ll all depend on how long their potion will last them.