The case for Orlando Magic going over their 2021 win total

Jonathan Isaac has all-defensive team potential but his place as a cornerstone for the Orlando Magic is still a mystery. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Isaac has all-defensive team potential but his place as a cornerstone for the Orlando Magic is still a mystery. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Even though it is officially the slow part of the NBA news cycle, Vegas sportsbooks recently released the over/under win totals for the 2022 season. According to WynBet, the Magic have the worst chances to win the Eastern Conference.

Due to how they are mathematically constructed, these totals are an impartial way of seeing expectations for the upcoming season.

The Brooklyn Nets had the highest number of wins at 55.5, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks at 54.5, and the Los Angeles Lakers rounding out the top three with 52.5. The Magic came in with the second-lowest win total in the league, with 23.5 wins, ahead of only the Oklahoma City Thunder with 22.5 wins.

Even though it can be fun placing a bet, the sportsbooks set and adjust their numbers so they are guaranteed to make money, meaning the bettor pool is guaranteed to lose money. They want to create action on both sides of the ledger.

Looking at the Magic’s roster, it is easy to see why Vegas — and NBA predictors in general — are so low on the team. They are extremely young having reset the roster last year at the trade deadline. Nobody seems to think this is the wrong thing to happen for the franchise.

This is exactly why the Magic are in good shape to beat the odds and go over their projected 23.5 wins this season.

The Orlando magic are projected to finish near the bottom of the league if not the very bottom. But expecting them to exceed these low expectations is a good bet.

It may not be a banner season for Orlando, but it is one where the team’s young talent will have a chance to shine. And the Magic should hope their young players can impress, even if they are still near the bottom of the standings.

Even before considering this, it is easy to see how the Magic could improve on last year’s record.

At last year’s trade deadline, the Magic hit the reset button by dealing Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier in three separate deals. After those trades, the Magic went 6-22 to finish the season 21-51.

Doing some quick math, the Magic won 21-percent of their games after the trade deadline. In the course of a full length NBA season, winning 21-percent of the time would result in an overall record of 18-64.

The Magic are going to be a very different team than last year. The NBA draft brought in significant talent, the team hired a new head coach, and two important starters are returning to the team (although they will almost certainly be brought back slowly).

Even though the Magic will be different from last year’s team, the closest thing to this year’s team is in fact last year’s team, post-deadline. But remember too, the Magic shut down several key players late in the season, leading to the team losing its final seven games.

The Magic may again hold out players with even minor injuries late in the season if they are far removed from the playoff race. But they will start the season at full strength (relatively).

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

With that being said, 18 wins could be considered the Orlando Magic’s absolute floor. The team was on pace to win that amount while being ravaged by injuries, with not much to play for and no chemistry to speak of.

When it comes to future bets, immediate details matter less than storylines. Bettors can look at a given over/under wager as a loose probability of whether or not a storyline will occur down the line.

For example, let’s say you believe Jonathan Isaac will win the league’s Most Improved Player or that Stephen Curry will win MVP, the over on the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic win total fits that story. If you believe Josh Giddey will have an outstanding rookie campaign and Shai Gileous-Alexander will play the entire season, the Oklahoma City over would be in harmony with that belief.

Coming back to the Magic, if we have a theoretical baseline established at 18-64, how many wins are Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac worth? That, alongside the emergence of rookie Jalen Suggs, is what will determine whether the Magic beat the Vegas over/under.

Before his ACL injury last year, Fultz was an undeniable leader of the team, averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game as the Magic got off to a 5-2 start.

Before his ACL injury in the bubble, Isaac was considered the most significant asset to the team. It was not long ago where he was considered to be a defensive player of the year (DPOY) candidate. Even though both of these players will be brought back slowly, their talent will be helpful.

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Another story to consider are the ones involving our promising rookies from last year in R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke. They all showed significant potential for growth entering their second season.

It is a good bet that one, if not several of them, will be much improved in their sophomore season.

Okeke will probably be the team’s starting small forward this year, since he now has NBA experience and is two years removed from his ACL injury. Many players who suffer from an ACL tear report there is an additional adjustment after they come back to play, and it takes a year of rehab, plus an additional year to fully bounce back.

With that being said, it is especially impressive Okeke had such an exciting rookie season. He is poised to go up a level.

Thanks to Fultz and Suggs in the backcourt, Anthony and Hampton might move back in the rotation. Instead of relying on them during their rookie growing pains, the Magic can now use them as more of a luxury, while they continue to develop.

Even though Steve Clifford is a highly respected coach in this league with a reputation for getting the most out of his players, there is a reason he left. Since Clifford and the team mutually decided to part ways this offseason, it would be reasonable to conclude Clifford was not the right fit during the regular season.

Management believes in Jamahl Mosley. And even though it is unlikely Mosley will be a better overall coach than the veteran Clifford in his first year, there is a chance he is able to lead this particular roster better than Clifford did.

Even though rookies rarely contribute to significant winning, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner are both very talented. And as far as rookies go, both are NBA-ready and could contribute immediately.

Speaking of Suggs, he has the third-best odds to win Rookie of the Year. The Magic have been searching for a player like Suggs, a proven leader and foundational piece to build around. As he already showcased in summer league, he has incredible talent and intangibles, which will certainly help the Magic win more games.

A 24-58 record is usually nothing to celebrate, yet that is all the Magic need to hit. And it seems completely possible the Magic exceed expectations and hit it.

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There are interesting arguments for taking the under as well. But at 23.5 wins, and given the amount of upside on the roster, there are more “stories” working in favor of the over.