4 Playoff X-Factors for the Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are in the final countdown of the regular season as they aim to clinch their spot in the Playoffs. With the postseason on the horizon, there are several players who could determine their postseason fate.

Orlando Magic v Toronto Raptors
Orlando Magic v Toronto Raptors / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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4 Playoff X-Factors for the Orlando Magic

Jonathan Isaac

Jonathan Isaac is the ultiamte X-factor for the Orlando Magic in their Playoff run this year. His defense is so dominant and game-changing that it is hard to get him off the floor. Only his injury concerns and stamina could keep him from playing starter-level minutes.

To be sure, everyone will know when Isaac is on the floor if he continues his regular season levels of play.

So far this season, he is averaging only 15.1 minutes per game. But he may be hitting his stride at the right time and be healthier than ever for the Magic's playoff run. He is an elite defender who will be able to space the floor, get stops and provide length for the Magic.

We have seen in recent years successful playoff teams that have a defensive difference maker who can start or come off the bench. We have seen this with Robert Williams during the Boston Celtics' NBA Finals run, with Bruce Brown from last year's championship-winning Denver Nuggets and with Torrey Craig from the Phoenix Suns' 2021 Finals run.

These players all disrupted the others teams offense when they were in the game and gave other teams stars fits.

None of them were as potentailly disruptive and game-changing as Isaac has been this season. Orlando has a 104.5 defensive rating and gets 1.2 blocks per game this season. He even has shown he can still hang with the league's best even after all his injuries.

This season he has held Giannis Antetokounmpo to 4-for-12 shooting, he held DeMar DeRozan and Victor Wembanyama to 3-for-8 shooting and Jaren Jackson to 1-for-5 shooting. Having someone who is a disrupter at Isaac's size and length will be crucial for the Magic in defensive battles throughout the playoffs.

His versatility is the biggest part of his defense. He is elite out on the perimeter and can lock down the paint on the ball and in help. With the likely first round matchups the Magic will have as mentioned before, he will be a key piece off the bench against the teams with length and physicality.

If the Orlando Magic draw the New York Knicks he will be a great body to throw at OG Anunoby and Julius Randle. If they draw the Cleveland Cavaliers, then he will be a perfect player to deal with the twin towers of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. And if they get the Indiana Pacers, then he will be a great help with Myles Turner and Pascal Siakim.

His defense will be the key piece of his contribution, but he can also make an impact on offense.

He can space the floor and his length allows him to be successful around the rim. On the season he is averaging 7.0 points per game on 52.3-percent shooting. That may not seem like anything to go home about, but if he can get into a rhythm come playoffs then his numbers will likely rise.

He shoots the three at 38.5 percent, which is above average, and he is shooting 71.4 percent from around the rim. These numbers are good and he is only getting better as the season progresses. In March he is averaging 10.7 points per game on 67.9 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three.

He even showed his progression in the Orlando Magic's loss to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. He had a season-high 25 points, seven rebounds and two blocks on 10-for-13 shooting and 3 for 4 from three in just 23 minutes.

This was his first 20-point performance of the season and his highest total since November when he scored 18 against the Chicago Bulls. He will probably not have many 25-point games (this was just the second in his career). But if he can improve and stay consistent, he will be a scary sight in the playoffs.


4 Playoff X-Factors for the Orlando Magic

Cole Anthony

Aside from getting stops and half-court offense, the next most important aspect of the Playoffs is depth and bench help.

When you sit your starters, will you have offense off the bench? If not, you are either going to experience a huge dip in production with the bench unit, or you will have to play your starters almost the whole game and tire them out quickly.

Many championship-level teams had one bench player who could carry the second unit -- whether it was the Golden State Warriors with Jordan Poole, the Boston Celtics with Malcolm Brogdon or Fred VanVleet with the Toronto Raptors.

Every team needs a flamethrower.

This should be no problem for 6th Man of the Year candidate Cole Anthony.

Anthony has had some difficulties off the bench this year, averaging a career-low 11.7 points per game in his fewest minutes. But Anthony is still vital because he can bring energy and score from all three levels off the bench.

The Magic will be in a great position to give their starters a break without worrying about a depleted offense. Anthony is very capable of big scoring outbursts and keeping pressure on the defense.

His numbers may not be the highest they have ever been, but he has carved out a role and he is contributing the most he ever has.

He has eight games of 20-plus points this year including a season high of 30. He also has put up three double-doubles this year.

Anthony has been a world-class athlete since high school. But he refined his touch, his moves and his counters this year when getting to the basket. He is shooting career-highs around the basket and from within 10 feet. He has gotten much stronger when going to the rim and has near perfected his short turnaround fade.

Unlike his drives, it is his three-point shooting that has been a little inconsistent this season. Nonetheless, he has still shown flashes of elite shooting and if he can get hot by playoffs then he will be an impossible guard.

He has 23 games with hitting multiple three-pointers, and in three of the six months of the season so far, he has shot better than 35 percent from three. So he has shown he can get his shot going for weeks at a time.

Besides scoring Anthony is also a slightly above-average defender, one of the best rebounding point guards in the league, and an elite playmaker when he wants to be.

His role this year has been mainly to be the source of offense off the bench, but he is capable of impacting the game in multiple ways.

Although his role in the playoffs will most likely be the same, he might have one of the most important roles on the whole team. Whether or not he can run the second unit and be a consistent source of offense off the bench in the playoffs will determine how far the Magic can go.