5 teams the Orlando Magic will be fighting for a playoff spot
Last Year: 45-37, 6th East
Key Additions: Lonnie Walker IV, Dariq Whitehead, Dennis Smith Jr.
Key Losses: Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Yuta Watanabe
The Brooklyn Nets did their heavy lifting at the trade deadline when they acquired Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson from the Phoenix Suns for Kevin Durant. That officially broke up their big three and helped them jumpstart their rebuild — Johnson signed a fresh four-year deal this offseason and Brooklyn has rebuffed efforts to get Bridges free from them.
That is their team for now. But it is a team that still needs some work.
Brooklyn finished sixth in the Eastern Conference but struggled mightily after the trade.
The Nets were just 13-15 after the trade with a net rating of -1.1 net rating (113.1/114.2 offensive/defensive rating). That was virtually the same as the Magic during that same time period (12-15). That of course included the Magic sitting players out their final three games including a matchup in Brooklyn.
It feels like the Nets are a team that is poised for a reset. Even with some interesting young players with Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson joined by Nicholas Claxton and Spencer Dinwiddie as solid players on the team.
When healthy, the Nets are still very capable of making a postseason run. But this could be a team that gets knocked off-kilter.
If there is a “safe” bet for a team that is about to lose its playoff position, it is the Nets. They took a step back last season after their trade deadline moves and they will be seeking to re-establish their identity.
Magic fans may roll their eyes at this notion, but Jacque Vaughn has proven himself capable of getting his teams to play better than their talent or circumstance might suggest (that decidedly did not happen during those early rebuild years in Orlando). So the Nets are not completely out of the picture.
But it is hard to see them standing tough. Their late-season loss in Orlando is a good example of why.
Bridges had 44 points in that game and looked brilliant individually. But the Magic still won the game confidently 119-106 in a game that was never really competitive even with Bridges playing well.
That might be part of Brooklyn’s story this season. And a reason why the team is probably heading down the standings from their perch at sixth.