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Orlando Magic near bottom of the league in early NBA power rankings

The Magic have finished in the league’s bottom-five in five of the last six seasons

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has released its first official NBA power rankings for the 2018-2019 season. And the Magic are pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be.

Unless Aaron Gordon takes an Oladipo-like leap, or Mo Bamba emerges as a lock for Rookie of the Year, or an elite point guard drops from the heavens, it’s likely that the Magic will at least be in contention for a spot in the league’s bottom-five, which is where they have finished in five of the last six seasons.

That’s not to say the Magic haven’t had a strong summer. They re-signed Gordon for less than expected, they saw Bamba fall to them in the Draft, they watched Jonathan Isaac display new aggression and confidence in the summer league. The team seems to be showing signs of climbing out of the deep hole it has been stuck in for six years, and there is some genuine excitement within the fanbase.

Progress is coming. But most don’t expect it to arrive as soon as next season. Hence the reason that ESPN has the Magic ranked 26th in their first installment of the NBA power rankings.

The Magic took a few positive steps in what figures to be a long and arduous rebuild this summer by signing Aaron Gordon to a reasonable contract and drafting Mohamed Bamba. If things go as planned for Orlando and new head coach Steve Clifford, then Bamba (a potentially elite defender), Gordon and Jonathan Isaac will form one of the top young frontcourts in the NBA. Orlando is at least one year away from competing for the playoffs, so it can afford to give Jerian Grant an opportunity to earn minutes in the backcourt. The next long-term project for Orlando? Finding a point guard who can make life easier for the aforementioned front line. -- Begley

· Key additions: Mohamed Bamba, Melvin Frazier, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Briscoe, Timofey Mozgov and Jerian Grant

· Key subtractions: Bismack Biyombo, Mario Hezonja and Shelvin Mack

Trailing the Magic are the Knicks (who could be without Kristaps Porzingis for the season), the Nets (who are prepping for future cap space), and the Hawks (who have entered full-on rebuild).

Not sure how much room there is for the Magic to move up, though the Cavs could fall into the bottom five, particularly if they end up trading Kevin Love during the season to embark on a rebuild (UPDATE: Guess not, the Cavs just re-signed Love to a four-year, $120 million extension). I’m expecting 30 wins from the Magic, which I don’t think will be enough to move ahead of the Bulls or Suns.

Do you think the Magic are ranked too low? Too high? Just right? Share your thoughts below.

(And on a personal note, next season I’m going to deeply miss selecting a “Sad Vogel” picture each week to go with the “Orlando Magic Power Ranking Round-Up” post).