Through 26 games, the Orlando Magic have been tested thoroughly on the court.
From winning eight of their first 12 games, to losing nine in a row immediately following the hot start, the Magic have seen it all. They’ve blown teams out, they’ve won close games, and they’ve been blown out more than one occasion throughout the last stretch.
Now, entering a stretch of games where they need to find some wins against some teams they should beat, the Magic face another big hurdle.
Despite getting the win against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, the Magic suffered an equally as big loss with Evan Fournier going down with an ankle injury on the first play of overtime. Fournier, who is second on the team in scoring, was on crutches Thursday, and will likely miss an extended amount of time, despite X-rays and his MRI both coming back clean.
Fournier’s scoring ability aside — the Magic will be tasked with finding over 18 points a game in his absence — his play making, and tendency for hitting big shots, will be missed just as much. Add in the fact that the Magic are already thin on the wing with the injury to Terrance Ross — Ross will be out for an extended amount of time with an MCL sprain, and a non-displaced fracture of his right tibial plateau — and the Magic are searching for answers to fill the gaps.
The likely first player up with be Arron Afflalo, who is averaging a mere 2.3 points per game, in 12 minutes of action.
Afflalo, who excelled previously in his first stint in Orlando, has seen his numbers take a nose dive since being traded to the Denver Nuggets for Fournier following the 2013/14 season. Despite his lowered production, Afflalo has earned the trust of Magic head coach Frank Vogel, due to his willingness to throw his body around, and play hard on the defensive end.
After Afflalo, Shelvin Mack, D.J. Augustin, and Wes Iwundu will likely see more time. Mario Hezonja could also see an increase in minutes as well.
Iwundu, who has spent much of the early part of the season with the G-League Lakeland Magic, brings forth an interesting skill set that could be used to the Magic’s advantage. While he’s a rookie, Iwundu is a long wing who has the potential to be a menace on the defensive end.
Vogel talked about how Iwundu has also played within himself on the offensive end, making the smart plays, like knowing when to make the pass, or take the shot. This is the perfect opportunity for the Magic to take a look at the Kansas State product, who has seen very limited time while with the team.
At the end of the day, the Magic will face a big test with both Ross and Fournier out. They’re going to need players to step up, and in a big way.
Some of that will fall on the shoulders of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Jonathon Simmons, while some will fall on the likes of Afflalo, Augustin, Mack and Iwundu.