5 measures of success for the 2024 Orlando Magic (besides winning)
Offensive improvement out of the bottom 10
Of course, defense is its own thing. And despite the Orlando Magic having one of the top defenses in the league for much of the season, the team still had a negative offensive rating.
If there is a big question about the Magic’s potential to grow this year, they center on the team’s questions offensively. This was not a good offensive team last year. In fact, this has been a bottom-10 offensive team every year since the Dwight Howard trade in 2012.
It has been a long time since the Magic have looked good offensively.
Last year, the numbers were not solid.
Orlando ranked 26th in the league at 111.3 points per 100 possessions for the season. The teams ranked below them all should expect to get better offensively too — the Houston Rockets added Fred VanVleet, the Detroit Pistons will get Cade Cunningham back, the Charlotte Hornets will get LaMelo Ball back and the San Antonio Spurs drafted Victor Wembanyama.
The Magic have no such external shock. They added a defensive-minded guard in Anthony Black in the draft and added some shooting in veteran Joe Ingles and rookie Jett Howard. Neither is expected to make a major impact statistically.
Orlando is going to bet on internal improvement to make some gains. They are going to bet on Paolo Banchero becoming more efficient after an expected inefficient rookie season. They are going to hope a healthy offseason helps Jalen Suggs become more effective. The same goes for Markelle Fultz as he puts his injury recovery behind him.
Everyone is expected to take a step up and improve individually.
There are maybe some signs they can. From Dec. 7-April 4 (again, the most competitive parts of the Magic’s season), the Magic ranked 24th in the league with a 113.4 offensive rating. That was not particularly good, but it was good enough for a positive net rating during that significant stretch of the season.
Former Magic coach Steve Clifford used to say that his team’s goal was to be top-10 in defense and top-half of the league in offense. If the team did that, they would be in the playoffs. It feels like those are the modest goals for this Magic team.
Really, for the baseline of making the playoffs, this is the team’s goal. The Magic are not going to evolve suddenly into an offensive juggernaut — barring true star leaps from Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner — but playing better offensively to make the defensive gains sink in will be critical.
For now, the measure of success for the Magic is having an offensive rating that is better than the team’s defensive rating so they can have a positive net rating by the end of the season.