Injuries kept Orlando Magic from having a perfect 2023 season

Feb 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) defends Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (1) during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) defends Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (1) during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Back in August, Markelle Fultz boldly declared on his Twitter feed: “4-seed.”

It became an early-season rallying cry from the fans and a belief in the endless possibility that lay ahead of this young Orlando Magic team. Even the realists thought the play-in was at least possible if everything clicked into place.

The overarching feeling back in October then was optimism and excitement. The No. 1 pick in the Draft will do that. As will the continued growth of several young players and the belief every one could reach their potential.

Things fell apart fairly quickly.

Jonathan Isaac of course remained out with a torn ACL. Markelle Fultz broke his toe just before training camp began and missed the first 20 games. Cole Anthony suffered an oblique injury just five games into the season and missed the next 18 games. Paolo Banchero even sprained an ankle and missed eight games.

The Magic’s season was staggered out of the gate before it could really get started. Orlando found itself in a deep hole early.

The Magic started 5-20 and had to climb their way out. Once they started getting healthy it became clear how good this team could be.

The Orlando Magic can claim a successful season even with something to play for in the final weeks of the season. Unfortunately, injuries early in the year kept the Magic from really achieving something special.

All in all most would say the Magic’s overall season has been a success now at 32-43, a 10-win improvement from last season with still seven games to go. The Orlando Magic find themselves still technically alive in the postseason chase but four games back of the Chicago Bulls.

The injuries from early in the season though are proving to be too deep a hole to climb out of. The Magic are likely going to miss the Play-In Tournament and those lofty dreams.

Injuries largely caused the 5-20 hole, a hole Orlando was not able to climb out of. Right on cue as Orlando started to make ground and finally become healthy, the injury bug bit once again promptly ending Orlando’s hope to make the playoffs.

For context in that 25-game stretch to start the season, the Magic ranked 27th in defensive rating (115.3 points allowed per 100 possessions), 27th in offensive rating (108.7 points per 100 possessions), and 28th in net rating (-6.6 points per 100 possessions).

The Magic were abysmal to start the year to say the least. They lacked the consistency to put in a defensive system and lacked the creators to run an offense that averaged 107.6 points per game which ranked second to last in the NBA.

In total, the Magic have missed 245 games due to injury this year. It was the prevailing storyline to start the season.

It was not just limited to Fultz’s 21-game absence.

Throughout the season, the Magic could not find consistency as players would be in and out of the lineup, especially in the backcourt. Gary Harris missed 30 games, Jalen Suggs missed 27 games, Markelle Fultz missed 21 games and Cole Anthony missed 19 games this season.

Then in the front court, Orlando struggled at the center spot as Wendell Carter missed games due to a hip injury and recently with his foot injury missing 22 games in total. Moe Wagner has also missed time adding to the inconsistency of the frontcourt.

Then to put it all together, Jonathan Isaac’s injury puts the tone on the season.

Isaac finally made a long-awaited return to the lineup and played 11 games. His impact was felt on both ends of the court. He was not able to play many minutes, but the eye test was telling on the defensive end altering shots and being disruptive in passing lanes. Isaac was also making strides offensively shooting 40 percent from three on 1.4 attempts per game.

While there will be arguments that his sample size was small, at the same time the Magic went 8-3 in the 11 games he played in. The flashes that we saw when this team was healthy made the season in hindsight slightly disappointing, but still an overall success considering the improvement from this team combined with the injuries.

While disappointing, those flashes give hope moving forward.

However, the Magic still made something of this season. Since the end of that 5-20 start, the Magic have gone 27-23. They have a defensive rating of 113.3 points allowed per 100 possessions (seventh in the NBA since Dec. 7) and an offensive rating of 113.2 points allowed per 100 possessions (24th in the league). The Magic’s +0.0 net rating is 18th in the league in that time.

The Magic have been a .500 team essentially since turning the corner in early December. And they can rightfully claim they would be in the play-in tournament if they had their full complement.

It seems Fultz’s 4th-seed tweet was not so far off. These flashes will provide the Magic with expectations for the next season.

Orlando Magic aiming for a higher standard. dark. Next

Orlando will have the opportunity to get healthy during the offseason and hit the ground running next season. The Magic did not hit their ceiling this season but there were still improvements made and flashes from individual players as Orlando has already made a 10-win improvement with still seven games to go.