The Orlando Magic have been very opportunistic this year on defense.
That is as defining a characteristic of this team's defense as anything. Orlando has spent time building its defense on long, athletics players who can switch every position and get deflections. The team wants to be hard to guard individually and even harder to break when they get into their rotations and to the second level.
The Magic have been a revelation defensivelythis season. They expect to play great defense night in and night out, no matter if they play away or host.
They rank third in the league in defensive efficiency at 107.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. They have been the talk around the NBA. This built off their strong finish to the season last year.
The reason that their defensive efficiency is so high is because they get into the opponents' shirts, and play tough hard-nosed defense throughout the majority of their games.
The team has been disruptive defensively in many ways averaging 9.2 steals per game, tied for second in the league, and 5.4 blocks per game (12th in the league). The team forces a 16.7 percent turnover rate, the second-best mark in the league. The Magic are third in the league with 16.5 deflections per game according to NBA.com's hustle stats.
Defense has been the big thing for the Magic this season. It has driven them through this season.
The Magic are winning games now because they have several guys on the roster who enjoy competing on the defensive side of the ball. From the leader of the pack in Paolo Banchero, to the Euro-stepping sidekick from Germany in Franz Wagner, to the high-energy type of guard in Jalen Suggs. The organization has surrounded the franchise with players who have defensive mentalities.
Suggs has proven to be a spark for the Magic on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, he leads the team in steals and energy provided on the court. As a matter of fact, Suggs is currently top five in the NBA in steals with 1.9 steals per game, right behind the Cleveland Cavaliers' Donovan Mitchell, Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Memphis Grizzlies' Marcus Smart.
That is pretty impressive to say that you are top five in any NBA category.
His leadership is crucial for a Magic team still looking for respect. He plays a relentless style of basketball that is contagious to the players on the roster, and allows his teammates to believe.
Suggs is 12th in the league in deflections with 3.1 deflections per game. He is extremely disruptive and constantly makes his impact defensively with his ability to be a threat in passing lanes. This is part of the Magic's overall philsophy.
As a matter of fact, five players on the team average at least one steal per game. Those four are Paolo Banchero (1.1), Franz Wagner (1.2), Markelle Fultz (1.2) and Gary Harris (1.0).
Those steals often lead to fast break scoring opportunities for this young team. The team is putting more pressure on their opponents by attacking the rim on the fast break but they have not yet cracked the top 20 in NBA fast break points. They currently rank 21st as 12.9 points per game.
However, during this win streak, the Magic are 10th with 14.5 fastbreak points per game. Orlando is starting to pick up its pace and run more.
So the Magic have made a living playing stout defense because their defenders can defend multiple positions.
Wagner, Banchero and Suggs can guard the opposing team's best player. Switching is not a problem for Orlando. That allows the defense to become balanced on the perimeter and in the paint, especially with Goga Bitadze protecting the rim.
The Magic have proven to be a leader when it comes to steals, and we will see if they can continue among the top once the schedule gets a little tougher.