How will health play a factor?
Undoubtedly this upcoming season is going to be a weird one. Every team is going to have to account for some injuries and some load management at some point. More than ever before, every player on the roster should have some part to play at some point in the season. How teams manage these downtimes could make or break their seasons.
The Magic are already dealing with a few injuries entering camp. Coach Steve Clifford said both Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) and Mohamed Bamba (after-effects of COVID-19) will not be full participants when the team starts camp. That does not mean they are not available for the start of the season, but with so little time to prepare, they both will be behind the 8-ball.
And, of course, Jonathan Isaac is out for the season with a torn ACL.
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Both Cole Anthony (torn meniscus, he returned from it in February) and Chuma Okeke (torn ACL) are all clear to play when the team formally opens up training camp this weekend. Both figure to be major players for the team at some point this season.
While there is plenty of talent and the team might well be deeper than it was last year. The Magic are probably still a bit uncertain about what that depth can do — they are still incredibly young.
Last year’s season was derailed in some way by injuries from the very beginning of the season. Aaron Gordon’s season especially faced injuries from the start and he was never truly healthy again until February.
Orlando lost a lot of time to injury last year. Nikola Vucevic missed 11 games with a sprained ankle, Aaron Gordon missed 11 games total (including the time at the bubble), D.J. Augustin missed 16 games, Michael Carter-Williams missed 28 games. And, of course, Al-Farouq Aminu missed 55 games and Isaac missed 39 games.
In total, the Magic’s preferred starting lineup of Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic played only 240 minutes in 19 games together. The preferred starting lineup in 2019 played 852 minutes in 66 games together.
The Magic’s starting lineup played together for only one-quarter of the season last year. It is hard to imagine surviving another year like that.
And the reality is that there is a good chance every team will miss a player for some time due to the coronavirus. It feels inevitable that some games will be postponed at some point.