Entering the 2024 NBA season, the Orlando Magic knew they were going to take a step in the right direction.
But the team has surpassed even the highest expectations through the season's first 20 games. As it currently stands the Magic hold a record of 14-6, lead the Southeast Division, are second in the Eastern Conference standings and tied the franchise record for consecutive wins with nine in a row.
From the players' perspective, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have continued their upward march into the NBA's best duos. Jalen Suggs' defensive prowess is ever apparent as he is averaging just less than two steals per game. And Cole Anthony has taken the sixth-man role in stride with 15.2 points per contest.
And it should be noted that all of the early-season success has come without Wendell Carter and Markelle Fultz being in the lineup consistently as both players have only played in five games this year.
Keeping their return in mind, coupled with the fast start Orlando has experienced, it is time to re-assess the expectations and goals for the season. But before diving into the newfound goals for the Magic, it is wise to ballpark the aspirations that were held in the preseason.
Thinking back to the 2023 Magic campaign, a slow start plagued their postseason hopes.
A 5-20 start turned out to be too much to overcome, even with a December winning streak that rivals that of this season. Orlando still finished 29-28 in the final 57 games and were the last team eliminated from postseason contention. But the Magic never got closer than three games of that final spot that went to the Chicago Bulls.
So realistically, nobody in Orlando's corner had mentioned the possibility of playoffs – or even play-in – for a long time.
But the dialogue began to change in this past summer during the FIBA World Championship, which was headlined, in part, by Wagner and Banchero. With Germany winning gold and Banchero playing center, rumblings of "underrated" began to float into the conversation around the organization.
And despite no major changes in the offseason – sorry, Joe Ingles – the feeling around the team was higher than most squads coming off of a 34-48 season. So entering this season, the expectation was a play-in spot at the very least.
With a play-in spot being the expectation for the season, the player expectations were also mild, and a bit vague.
Banchero was expected to take the second-year jump that franchise players tend to do, maybe that could mean All-Star buzz. Wagner earned a lot of respect during the summer due to his play on the German national team, so unless you have been living under a rock, All-Star potential was plausible as well if the team success came along with it.
Other player expectations were muddled and revolved around health and improved play within their role on the team. But now it looks like there is potential for even more if the Magic can keep this pace.
So with the preseason expectations defined, and recognizing that it is still early in the season, three separate goals have been redefined for the Orlando Magic.