Whenever the Orlando Magic are the topic of conversation this season, the word inconsistent always seems to come up. Sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference, with a 16-23 record, the Magic have struggled to find stability on both ends of the floor. Whilst Orlando has recorded good wins against teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Atlanta Hawks, the Magic have also been beaten by 10 points or more in 14 of their 23 defeats, including five losses by 20 or more. Although the Magic still only sit 3.5 games outside the playoffs, Orlando will need to find some ways to be consistent in order to put a run together and contend for the highly coveted eighth seed.
Orlando Magic: Consistency is Key
One of the crucial elements to the Magic’s consistency is 6’9″ forward Aaron Gordon. Gordon is currently having his best season in the league, averaging 11 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. However, much like the Magic, the 21-year-old is very inconsistent in his play. In Magic wins this year, Gordon is averaging 12.4 PPG and shooting a respectable 47.8 percent from the field, including 39.6 percent from three-point range. However, in Magic losses, Gordon is a completely different player. Averaging only 10 PPG in losses, Gordon is shooting just 39.8 percent from the field, including a dismal 26.3 percent from downtown. There is no doubt that Gordon will someday be a superstar for the Magic, and all the signs are pointing towards a successful career. However, for the Magic to really start making a playoff challenge, Gordon will need to balance good defense with reliable shooting.
Winning at Home
Despite holding an impressive 9-10 record on the road this season, the Magic have failed to pick up wins at home. The Magic are currently 7-13 when playing at the Amway Center. They’ve struggled at times, with their five biggest defeats all coming at home. In order for the Magic to become a consistent team and make a push for the playoffs, they will have to improve their home record. With every Eastern Conference team above the Magic holding a winning home record, the Magic will have to make home court advantage count, if they have any postseason aspirations.
Finding a Leader
One of the areas in which the Magic really lack is having an on-court leader. In clutch moments, Orlando lacks a ‘go-to guy’ who can make important plays. The player who immediately springs to mind as a potential leader for the Magic is Serge Ibaka. Despite a shaky start to life in Orlando, Ibaka is having a career year in scoring, averaging 15.6 PPG. However, the seven-year veteran can often drift out of games when the Magic are trailing. For the Magic to become consistent, they will have to hope that players like Ibaka can become more impactful in key moments.
The Magic were meant to be a defense-first team. With a defensive-minded coach in Frank Vogel, Orlando looked to play a physical brand of basketball. For a period, this seemed like it was becoming a reality. In early December, the Magic were ranked as highly as third in the league in defensive efficiency and fifth in defensive rating. However, the Magic have lacked defensive quality recently, and now find themselves one of the worst ranked defenses in the league. Currently giving up 103.7 PPG and allowing their opponents to shoot 45.8 percent from the field, the Magic will need to re-discover their defensive identity if they are to start making a run for the playoffs.
With teams such as the Knicks, Wizards, Bucks, and Pistons all fighting for the last few playoff spots, the Magic will need to develop some consistency at this crucial stage of the season. Whether that involves dipping into the trade market or changing the starting lineup, the Magic need to start doing something in order to win games on a regular basis.
NEW YORK, USA – APRIL 15: Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic during an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on April 15, 2015. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)