3 surprising Orlando Magic starts to start the season
103.6 team defensive rating – 3rd best in the league
Let’s start off on a positive note here. Thursday’s win in Utah shifted some numbers, but this one that has stayed consistent the whole season.
Simply put, the Orlando Magic are playing great defensive basketball. In fact, only two teams are playing better right now, the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Now this should not be that surprising considering the Magic were 18th in the league last year in defensive rating despite their mediocre record. They finished seventh in the league after Dec. 7 and their 5-20 start. This is who the Magic want to be.
But early returns show the team has taken another step forward on this end, living up to coach Jamahl Mosley’s lofty claims they could be a top-5 defensive team this season.
Taking a little bit of deeper look reveals the Magic are playing slower than the league average, 18th in pace to be exact. And this was even slower before the win in Utah.
This could contribute to fewer possessions and lower scores, creating for a better defensive rating, but it is more than just that.
They are allowing the fifth fewest fast break points at just 10.8 per game and the eighth fewest points in the paint. They are in the middle of pack in field goal percentage allowed, but the other team’s misses they are grabbing defensive rebounds at a 73 percent rate. Oh yeah and they are second in the whole league in steals per game at 10.6 and first in the league with 22.0 deflections per game, according to NBA.com’s hustle stats.
So what does all this mean? The Magic are hounding the ball, making things difficult for the other team. And when the ball goes up they are snagging rebounds.
The Magic are also controlling the pace on the other end, leading to fewer fast break points and allowing their defense to get set up.
A couple of individual players deserve a shout-out here. Jalen Suggs is consistently playing with effort and setting the tone defensively, all the way back to last season. He is second in the league this season averaging 5.2 deflections per game, signaling how disruptive he can be.
Paolo Banchero learned he could be a rim protector with Team USA this summer and has carried that over to the season. And Wendell Carter (can’t believe the injury news) has been playing like the rim protector we always knew he could be, giving up 13-for-33 shooting (39.4 percent) at the rim according to data from Second Spectrum.