Like Orlando Magic, Lakeland Magic were picking up steam too

Josh Magette has been the MVP for the Lakeland Magic, leading them to playoff position as the season get suspended. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Josh Magette has been the MVP for the Lakeland Magic, leading them to playoff position as the season get suspended. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Lakeland Magic were starting to resemble the Orlando Magic as they were picking up steam for their own playoff chase in the G-League.

The Lakeland Magic were happy to be back home after a six-game road trip last week. They were riding high on a 5-1 road trip and were picking up steam once again.

The Eastern Conference finalists have had a bit of an uneven season. Their parent club had shuttled players back and forth and cut a bit into their roster. And other competitions drew from their talent base.

But with the playoff race focusing in both the NBA and G-League, the roster had some stability. Lakeland had all its stars once again.

And they were coalescing to help the team win again.

That was most evident in the team’s final game. Familiar faces to Orlando Magic fans were making major contributions and lifting the team up, helping them overcome a slow defensive start to defeat the Erie BayHawks 131-120 at the RP Funding Center.

Amile Jefferson, who has not lost a game he has played in Lakeland this year, scored 30 points to go with 11 rebounds. Josh Magette continued his mastery over the G-League with 25 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds. Melvin Frazier Jr., who has spent most of his sophomore year playing in the G-League, scored 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting (3 for 10 from deep).

Those three have proven critical for Lakeland during this recent stretch — a six-game win streak. It brought Lakeland up to 25-17 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Lakeland was well on its way to clinching its third straight trip to the playoffs. The team had climbed into first place in the Southeast Division once again too.

And they were getting better. Stability can do that for a minor league team in the middle of a farm system.

Stan Heath and his staff deserve a lot of credit for keeping the team afloat and confident through it all.

It helps to have one of the best point guars in the entire league.

Lakeland undoubtedly struggled for the 10-plus days Magette was with the Orlando Magic, and then when he left to play for the U.S. AmeriCup team. When he returned, everything changed for them once again.

Magette is averaging 21.1 points per game and 10.6 assists per game, shooting a 54.1-percent effective field goal percentage. Since returning to Lakeland full-time (his last 15 games), he is averaging 23.2 points per game and 11.2 assists per game on a 58.2-percent effective field goal percentage.

Magette did not get much time to showcase his skills at the NBA level with the Magic. Orlando seemed to give him a 10-day contract as a bit of a favor and to open up a two-way spot before the deadline in mid-January.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But it has always been clear he can play and run the team at the G-League level. That is never in doubt. And that has continued as he is in line to be an All-G-League player again.

Adding Amile Jefferson back to the roster after his stint with the Orlando Magic came to an end was also critical. He has averaged 25.9 points per game and 12.6 rebounds per game in seven games since his return.

The biggest surprise and quiet improvement is from Melvin Frazier.

Frazier has not played very much with the Orlando Magic, despite being under contract there. But the Magic have used the G-League effectively to further his development. It is not clear what he can contribute to the team at the NBA level quite yet. But he has made some nice strides in the G-League.

Frazier is averaging 18.1 points per game on 50.5-percent shooting. He is still hitting only 33.3 percent from deep. But Frazier has found a home as one of the best prospects in the G-League and a vital player for the Lakeland Magic.

There have been a few surprises for sure.

Andrew Rowsey is averaging 19.3 points per game and shooting 47.0-percent from beyond the arc. The former Marquette point guard is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10. But he plays really well off the ball and pairs well with Magette as a secondary scoring option.

If there is a Summer League, Rowsey probably would get a serious look from the Magic this year. He certainly should get a look in training camp. Although he does not fit the team’s overall philosophy, he has played well within the Magic’s system.

The Lakeland Magic were really coming into their own. And they were doing this without Vic Law, who was spending most of his time with the Orlando Magic on his two-way contract. And they were doing this without Chuma Okeke, who is still rehabbing from his torn ACL.

It is easy to imagine how much better the Lakeland Magic could have been. They very well could have made another deep playoff run and given themselves a chance to win the G-League title after coming up just short last year.

Of course, now the G-League season is also suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. It seems very likely the season will be canceled and the G-League will go without a champion this year.

That is disappointing for sure. Just because these players have put in the work and they have earned a chance to decide their champion. It is hard playing in the G-League, so close to the NBA, and not come out with some reward on the other end.

Especially with the season that the Lakeland Magic were having.

Like the Orlando Magic, they have had their struggles with players in and out of the lineup. But they were beginning to coalesce and make their push for the playoffs.

Next. Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag: Nothing else really. dark

The good news is Lakeland remains one of the better programs in the G-League. And the consistency they are beginning to build is certainly a positive for the entire Magic organization.