Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Volume 34: The one where the Orlando Magic make the playoffs

The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder are playing very similarly to start the season. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder are playing very similarly to start the season. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Orlando Magic, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Steve Clifford
CLEVELAND, OHIO – MARCH 03: Aaron Gordon #00 Evan Fournier #10 Nikola Vucevic #9 and Terrence Ross #31 all listen to head coach Steve Clifford of the Orlando Magic during the final minutes of the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on March 03, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Magic 107-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

From Michael Martin via Comments

"Are you surprised with how good defensively the Magic are in just 2 yrs of the front office drafts and first year under Steve Clifford? Do you think it’s the main reason Orlando has at the moment a 15 game improvement from last season’s win total?"

When the Orlando Magic hired Steve Clifford, I think we all assumed there would be a significant uptick in the team’s defense.

In his time with the Charlotte Hornets, he established them as a tough defensive team and one of the best in the league for most of his tenure. Last year was really the only outlier and injuries probably deflated numbers in previous years.

If there is one thing we knew, Clifford would change the team’s defense.

But how much could he change a team that had never done much defensively in the last six years with much of the same roster? Orlando did not exactly have a defensive-minded roster. The questions surrounding Nikola Vucevic were always about his defense.

Clifford and his staff deserve a lot of credit for devising a scheme that made this group one of the best defensive teams in the league.

Even with a small margin for error, the Magic finished eighth in the league with a 107.5 defensive rating. It was impressive — and even more impressive after the All-Star Break when the team finished fifth with a 107.0 defensive rating.

This defensive turnaround is the whole thing for the Magic this year. This is the foundation for their team and their success this year.

Related Story. Orlando Magic shocked the world in Game 1, what's next for Game 2?. light

If you look back at Game 1, the reason the Magic were able to win that game was because of their defense more than their offense. The offense was horrible in the second half of that game, but the defense kept the Magic in the game.

This is the biggest realization the Magic have made this season. The biggest turnaround and the thing that needs to become part of their core.

Nikola Vucevic deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround. He has been much more precise with his coverages and how he defends pick and rolls — even if he still hangs back a bit too much and falls back into some of his old habits. But so too does Evan Fournier. Fournier has become a much more trusted defender.

But Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac have also emerged as potentially elite defenders in the league and have plenty of room to grow. The Magic have turned defense into their calling card. And the results they have gotten have only added to the commitment.

It has been an impressive turnaround.

Next. D.J. Augustin, Orlando Magic erase all doubt with Game 1 win. dark

Thanks everyone for the questions. I appreciate all the interactions. We will be sure to do another mailbag soon. Until then, you can always stay in touch with the site on Twitter @omagicdaily or drop us a line by e-mail at omagicdaily@gmail.com.