The Orlando Magic have surprised the league with a hot start to their 2017-18 season. With impressive wins over established teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs, the league is on notice. Additionally, Orlando was able to grind out a win in Memphis. Big games like these Orlando would have simply lost or not finished well in last season. But can they keep it up?
Can the Orlando Magic’s Hot Start Continue?
Even the most optimistic predictions didn’t have the Magic starting their season out so positively. Orlando ranked second in the league in points per game, before their loss to the Chicago Bulls. They also ranked third in offensive rating and second in field goal percentage. This all was without their starting point guard Elfrid Payton.
Orlando’s Offense Looks Good
At the start of any season, any opinion has to be prefaced with “it’s early, but…”. This is especially so for the Orlando Magic, who no one expected to have such a good offense to start the season. However, the steady progression of it’s starting players should surprise no one. Evan Fournier has been a rock for Orlando, averaging nearly 22 points a game. His total shooting percentage is 54%, which is also good. His ability to create space on the floor has been absolutely key. But the other piece to Orlando’s progression has been the modernization of it’s front court.
Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic Expand their Game
Last season, Nikola Vucevic was only attempting one three-point shot per game. Vucevic has jumped up to 4.2 three-point attempts per game. He is hitting 42% of his shots from beyond the arc. This leap in shooting has put defenses on notice. He too is creating space on offense. Nikola Vucevic
Aaron Gordon has also shown major improvement. Beyond his impressive shooting percentages (19.3 points per game and 58% three-point shooting) Gordon finally looks like more than a high-flying athlete. His ball handling and shooting mechanics look incredible. His improved shooting requires defenders to go to him, rather than him go to them. This opens him up to score by either shooting or running through defenders. Gordon is proving to the league that his steady development is for real.
Is Orlando’s Offense Sustainable?
According to Alex West, Orlando’s offense has literally been off the charts. However, the reality of what the league average is dictates that Orlando will have to come back down to Earth. It can’t be expected for Orlando’s best three players to maintain their impressive shooting percentages. Additionally, the Magic’s point guard dilemma poses a threat to carrying their momentum.
An Injured Backcourt Will Hurt Orlando
The point guard position is as important today as it’s ever been. Most of the quality teams in today’s league have a go-to guy they can lean on. However, Orlando is now dealing with two injured point guards. Both Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin have suffered hamstring injuries. Hamstring injuries are particularly frustrating because they’re easy to reaggravate. Their severity is also difficult to assess. Shelvin Mack will have to carry the load for the time being.
Long term momentum is hard to carry when your starting point guard is hurt. Even if Payton isn’t Orlando’s long term option at the position, not having their starting point guard will really hurt them. Case and point, Orlando was beaten badly by a weak Chicago Bulls team in a game where both of their point guards were injured. There’s more to the poor performance than that, but Orlando will really struggle without either of their regular point guards. This could have a really poor effect on their momentum until they return.
Confidence Will be the Key
Orlando’s starters and bench players have seen what the team is capable of. The Magic players have finally shown they’re at least able to put up big numbers. Simply knowing the offensive skill is within the team is key to carrying momentum. Soon enough the strong numbers will come down. But it’s absolutely vital for the Magic to stay confident. The players now know what they can do on offense. That confidence is the key to Orlando’s momentum going forward.
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