It’s important to note that it’s very early, it’s the first season under a new coaching regime, and it’s a season that will be judged more on development than wins and losses. But, six games into the season, there is some early cause for concern with the Orlando Magic.
Of course, there have also been some positives: like the impressive wins over the Heat and Celtics and the jump in touches in the paint.
But the numbers (and the eye test) suggest the Magic so far have strongly resembled the 25-57 team of last season. Most bothersome is the game-to-game inconsistency, both as a team and individually: from a strong defensive showing on the road against the Celtics to a lackluster effort at home against the Trailblazers, or from Aaron Gordon following up a 26-point performance with a 5-point outing.
So, let’s take a way-too-early look at some concerning early-season numbers for the Magic in hopes that they are addressed and improved moving forward. And, of course, we are contractually obligated to say that these are based on a very, very small sample size. (All stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats, ESPN and BasketballReference.com)
Offensive Rating = 100.2 points
The league is scoring at a record rate, but the Magic so far have not really taken part in it. With an offensive rating of 100.2 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com, the Magic are currently ahead of only the under-performing Oklahoma City Thunder, who have an ORtg of 99.6. The Magic are currently averaging 4.5 points less per 100 possessions than they were last season when they finished 25th in the league at 104.7 per.
Effective Field Goal Percentage = 46.7 percent
No big secret behind the Magic’s poor offensive rating. They simply aren’t shooting well. Their 46.7 effective field goal percentage is second to last in the league and down from last season’s percentage of 51.2.
Three-Point Percentage = 31.6 percent
Perhaps the biggest concern of all for the Magic entering the season was their lack of outside shooters. That is reflected early on in their three-point percentage. The Magic are middle of the pack in attempts with 32.2 per game, but are connecting at just a 31.6 percent clip, which ranks fourth worst in the league. When not shooting the ball well, you attack the rim. Right? Not so much….
Drive Points Per Game = 12.5 points per game
Another concern entering the season was a lack of players that can create their own shot, which often leads to an inability to attack the rim. So far the Magic are averaging 39.2 drives per game (20th) and are converting on just 33.3 percent of their drive attempts, which is worst in the league. That has produced a league-worst 12.5 drive points per game. The Magic are also towards the bottom of the league in shots at the rim, averaging just 29.7 per, which is sixth worst.
Percentage of Points (Free Throws) = 13.9 percent
When you can’t get to the rim, you often don’t get to the line. Only 13.9 percent of the Magic’s points have come from the free throw line, which is sixth worst in the league. The Magic, who averaged 20.1 free throws a game last season (21st), are third to last in the league at 19.0 free throws per game.
Defensive Rating = 110.8 points per 100 possessions
With the addition of Steve Clifford, the newly formed B.I.G. lineup, the healthy return of a perimeter ballhawk like Terrence Ross, and a renewed defensive focus for Aaron Gordon, expectations were high for the Magic defense entering the season. But, with scoring and pace up across the league, the Magic have allowed at least 113 points in four of their first six games. Per NBA.com, they are 18th in the league in the category, and trail last season’s rating of 109.3. Clifford helped the Hornets jump into the top 10 in defensive rating when he took over, but it’s going to take some time with this group.
Offensive Rating with Mo Bamba on the Court = 87.8 points
The Magic have struggled offensively in the 120 minutes they’ve played with the still raw Mo Bamba on the court, averaging just 87.8 points per 100 possessions, the lowest of all players on the team. When Bamba is off the court, their offensive rating jumps to 105.5 points per.
Defensive Rating with Nikola Vucevic on the Court = 113.9 points
Nikola Vucevic has been highly productive on the offensive end, but when he takes a seat, the Magic’s defensive rating has improved to 100.4 points per. Interesting side note, though Khem Birch has played just 17 minutes this season, and mostly against reserves, the Magic have a 90.2 defensive rating when he is on the court and 112.1 rating when he is not.
Aaron Gordon’s Effective Field Goal Percentage = 47.4 percent
More of Gordon’s shots are coming closer to the basket so far this season, albeit by marginal percentages (28.9 of his field goal attempts are coming from within three feet of the rim compared to 27.5 last season, 14.5 percent of his attempts are from with 3 to 10 feet compared to 10.9 percent last year, and so on). But Gordon, coming off a 3-for-15 outing against the Bucks, has a 47.4 effective field goal percentage, which is the lowest of his career. As is his 96.0 offensive rating.
Again, it’s early. And with a new coach and new system, it’s going to take time before we see the team playing to its full potential. So, we’ll check back in a few weeks when the sample size has increased, and we have a more accurate gauge.
What other stats concern you about the Magic? And overall, what do you find most alarming? Join the conversation below.