5 questions for the third quarter of the Orlando Magic’s 2021 season

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Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls
Cole Anthony was energetic as he led the Orlando Magic offense and helped them to a win. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

What does this team look like healthy?

Since Dec. 31, the Orlando Magic have dealt with some serious injury to someone in their starting lineup. Actually, it started during the preseason before Evan Fournier had his first flare-up with back spasms when James Ennis was struggling with a shin issue.

Every team deals with injuries at every point in the season. But Orlando has seen every single one of its starters go down to some injury for some extended period of time except for Nikola Vucevic.

The cascading injuries started with Evan Fournier’s back injury against the Philadelphia 76ers. It continued with Markelle Fultz’s torn ACL that knocked him out in the eighth game.

Then, just as the Magic seemed to be finding some footing, Aaron Gordon severely sprained his ankle. He has been out since Jan. 31 — a now-15-game absence. And then Cole Anthony suffered a rib injury on Feb. 9 that has kept him out for 11 games.

Al-Farouq Aminu made his return from a 14-month absence. And he is just getting his legs under him as more upheaval continues in the lineup and rotation.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

It has been one thing after the other.

The Magic rightly blame their tumble to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings solely on their injuries. They were in very good shape when Fultz went out. And they have not had much chance to gain any rhythm or consistency with how quickly their lineups and rotations have had to change.

How many games have the Magic played with just eight or nine available players this year?

Orlando is likely hoping that the team can make up the 3.5-game gap to the final play-in spot based solely on the return of players like Gordon and Anthony. Just having some more rotation-level players and high-level players would help a lot.

Gordon alone would give the team another guy who can potentially create some shots for himself and others (at least theoretically) and give the Magic another solid defender. More than anything, the Magic need more depth.

They have leaned very heavily on the production of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross especially. Adding even two other guys who can get 10 points every night in Gordon and Anthony would be a huge boost to the offense. And obviously, Gordon and Anthony can do a lot more — Gordon is averaging 13.8 points per game and Anthony is averaging 11.0 points per game.

It is unclear when either Anthony or Gordon will be back. It might still be piecemeal and it might not be immediate. But their return will make the Magic better by default.

The question then is whether they return in time for the team to get itself together and make a run with the schedule the Magic have.

If they can do that, maybe Orlando can make a late push for the playoffs. Or at least, the Magic will have a better sense of what this team looks like at full strength heading into 2021 with the returns of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz.