Ten games into their 25th anniversary season, the Orlando Magic have played a slightly below-average brand of basketball. According to NBA.com/stats, the team ranks 21st in offensive efficiency, 12th in defensive efficiency, and 18th in scoring differential. Despite having the league's 12th-leading scorer in Arron Afflalo and its fifth-leading rebounder in Nik Vučević, the team has not excelled. And despite having arguably the league's least effective starting five--on which subject MagicBasketball.net scribe Jack Winter expanded expertly in this space--Orlando is not yet in the league's cellar. In fact, the Magic's 4-7 record has them on the verge of playoff contention in the top-heavy East.
As a result, the team is mired in the middle of the NBA pack. Nathan Walker of The Basketball Distribution noted on Twitter Thursday that Orlando is playing like a 36-win team, the seventh-best in the East through that date.
That news no doubt distresses the Magic fans who want their team to lose on a nightly basis in order to secure a high lottery pick in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft. But there's good news for that crowd: Orlando, losers of five of its last six games, is indeed trending downward. In that span, the Magic rank 25th in offense, 27th in defense, and 28th in scoring differential per possession, per NBA.com/stats.
An important and potentially obvious caveat applies here: the Magic are just 13 percent through the season, one they've begun without Glen Davis or Tobias Harris, two players who figure to log 30-plus minutes per game once they return to full health. The team Orlando fields in April may not necessarily look or play like the one its fielding now.
But in the moment? The Magic are just sort of okay, news which satisfies neither the tank commanders nor those who want the team to compete for a high playoff seed. Fear not: given its salary-cap picture and the wealth of young talent on its roster, Orlando is not limbering up for a long jog on the mediocrity treadmill.