The Magic are currently sitting at 12-31 just past the halfway point of the season.
When you ask most opposing coaches about the Magic they say they like the young talent on the team and the way they are building. They usually comment on the fact the team plays hard and they are not a team to look past in any sense. It still takes a focused effort to defeat the Magic, despite any apparent talent or ability gap.
This is no surprise.
So how are the Magic actually doing?
Ben Golliver of The Point Forward gave the Magic a C-minus for their 12-31 effort. The team still looks like it has a bright future, but several players have struggled to show the kind of progress people expected. And, at least early on, the Magic are not showing improvemento n the win-loss side of things:
Projected as one of the league’s worst teams, Orlando has certainly lived up (down, really) to that billing in Year 2 of the post-Dwight Howard era. I thought this rebuilding Magic group would be a little bit friskier. On paper, an established backcourt and a handful of young pieces, many with considerable athletic gifts, looks like a good formula for springing upsets. Instead, the Magic have beaten only four teams currently above .500, they’re winless against the Western Conference since Nov. 6. and they’re doing their best to sneak wins here and there from the East’s dregs.
Golliver concedes injuries have played a big part in the Magic's struggles. Tobias Harris missed the first month of the season and only now seems to be rounding back into full game health and the way he played last season. Nikola Vucevic has missed the last two weeks with a concussion.
The Magic are not going to win too many games without those players.
Overall though, there is something to the young players not showing enough progress. Vucevic has improved on defense and with his jumper, but his numbers are not nearly as good as they were last season. Numerous young Magic players have faced that sophomore slump.
A C-minus grade seems a bit unfair though since the Magic were expected not to have a great record. Also, like last year, the young players likely will get more playing time after the trade deadline. The Magic's real progress this season will come later, it seems.
It does seem fair though in some ways because the Magic's young players have regressed statistically. The team is not playing as well as they did in the first half of last season.
If I had to give the Magic a grade compared to their expectations, it would probably be in the C-plus or B-minus range. The real time to judge the young players this year is later on in the season or at the end when we can take a step back and look at the full body of work.
Obviously, this season is not necessarily about this season as the Magic continue their rebuild.