3 reasons the Orlando Magic are on the rise, 2 reasons to remain concerned
On The Rise: Defensive Identity
The Orlando Magic are ultimately optimistic about this season because they could see their young players putting the pieces together. They watched this season as the team established an identity of who it will be and how that could branch out and stabilize the rest of the team.
The Magic as the season wore on started adding new wrinkles to adjust and affirm this identity and they experienced fairly consistent success — being a .500 team in this case, which is an important step for a young team.
If Orlando is going to make the postseason this year, it will be on the back of its defense. If the team is going to improve its offense, it will be on the back of its defense. If one thing could derail this team, it will be the offense not supporting the defense with turnovers and the like.
After Dec. 7, the Magic finished sixth in the league in defensive rating in giving up 113.1 points per 100 possessions. That was good for 11th for the entire season.
Orlando still has a lot of things to improve upon defensively — especially defending the 3-point line and securing rebounds more consistently — but there is a clear-cut identity to what the team is trying to do.
The Magic’s main goal last season was to defend the paint. After Dec. 7, Orlando was second in the league giving up 46.3 points in the paint per game.
Opponents shot 26.9 field goal attempts per game in the restricted area (16th in the league) and 17.1 attempts in the paint outside of the restricted area (15th in the league). Teams were not lacking for shots inside the paint, but opponents made 67.1 percent of their shots in the restricted area (17th in the league) and 42.2 percent in the paint outside of the restricted area (fourth in the league).
Orlando did some good things in terms of a raw overall number, which the team’s relatively slow pace helped. But there are obviously still some things to clean up. The Magic gave up a ton of 3-point attempts and often got burned because of the overall focus on the paint.
Still, the numbers do not lie here either. The Magic’s defense was effective enough that it should give a better offense a chance to succeed. And if Orlando can use the team’s defensive pressure to create some more turnovers, that will boost the team’s offensive numbers too.
The Magic are going to lean on their defense throughout the season. And for now, it looks like it has some legs to stand on and support the team moving forward into this season.