As has been the case throughout the preseason, the Orlando Magic will open up their season with D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic as their starters.
Going into preseason camp, many wondered wether or not Isaac, who missed much of his rookie campaign with ankle injuries, would be ready to start. From the start of the preseason, Magic coach Steve Clifford showed faith in Isaac, starting him in every game he was healthy for.
Isaac has proven to be a force on the defensive end, and with Vucevic as the starter, having Isaac next to him will undoubtedly help. If Vucevic is able to show off some of the defensive play that he did in stretches last season, the combo could become lethal for a Magic team desperate to find an identity.
Starting Isaac does bring forth more questions for the team. Can Isaac and Aaron Gordon play for long stretches together? Is Isaac a developed enough shooter to be able to stretch the floor, and open up driving lanes for Gordon, Fournier and Augustin? What kind of impact will Terrence Ross have off the bench?
Only time will be able to answer the questions for the Magic, and prove that starting Isaac early on, was in fact their best option.
Rolling out a roster chalked full of players who need other to create for them, the Magic’s shot selection will be a hot topic early in the season.
Our Cory Hutson looked at the shot selection of Aaron Gordon from last season, and how he could improve on that this year.
In their five preseason games, the Magic were a middle of the pack team, shooting 44.5 percent from the field, and a poor 32.6 percent from beyond the arc. While it’s hard to draw too much of a conclusion from the preseason — thanks in large part to the wide variety of players each team rolls out — those numbers are concerning. While the percentage is low, the team did attempt the seventh fewest three-pointers in their five warmups.
“We have to shoot more threes,” said Steve Clifford when asked about his teams shot selection from the preseason. “There are a lot of things we did well in the preseason. We have to create more spot-up threes as we go along.
“On our team, D.J. [Augustin] is very good at shooting threes off the dribble, [and] there aren’t that many guys in this league who are. You’ve got to shoot spot-up threes, you’ve got to create spot-up threes where there’s no dribble, the guys open or has enough space to shoot a rhythm three. The only way that happens is if the ball is being driven, or cut the ball in the paint. When we’ve done that, we’ve created good shots, and been fouled. When we don’t, we don’t.”
Finding the penetration to open up these shots could be the toughest thing for the Magic. A lot of the weight will be put on the shoulders of Augustin, Gordon and Fournier, but also will take away two of their best outside shooting options.
The Magic finished last season 28th in the league from beyond the arc, and will have to improve on that number this season, especially if they want to be in the playoff hunt late in the season.