Orlando Magic fans have to consider a playoff run in 2018-2019 as a bit of a pipe dream after finishing 25-57 in the 2017-18 regular season.
But newly appointed Head Coach Steve Clifford is highly unlikely to consider ‘tanking’ as a solution in his first tenured season as Orlando’s chief signal caller.
With his fundamental and disciplined approach to the game, could the Magic up end a weakened Eastern Conference and make a play for the eighth seed? After all, the Magic were one of the league leaders in games lost to injury last season, and should enjoy better success in that department.
With the new addition of sixth overall pick, Mo Bamba, second year man Jonathan Isaac, as well as the healthy return of Terrence Ross, the Magic should be in position to at least top the previous threshold of 25 games.
The primary concern lies at the point guard position, with solid if unspectacular, D.J. Augustin, as its leader. After him, it’s uncertain what to expect from former first round pick Jerian Grant, and undrafted Kenucky Wildcat, Isaiah Briscoe.
So, how do the boys of the “Do you Believe in Magic Podcast” see the Eastern Conference unfolding.
- Boston Celtics – With the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, in addition to the development of promising players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics seem the heavy favorite.
- Toronto Raptors – The Raptors shocked the NBA by parting from their all-time leading scorer, DeMar Derozan, in exchange for Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. But should Kawhi return healthy, the Raptors will have what they haven’t had before. A top-five player.
- Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers were quiet by their standards, this offseason, but have improved nonetheless. With newly acquired Wilson Chandler, set to back up Bob Covington, plus the additions of Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet, the 76ers continue to improve their depth. While losing veterans Marco Bellinelli and Ersan Ilyasova appears a setback, another year of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid’s development should make up for that.
- Indiana Pacers – Victor Oladipo broke out in dramatic fashion last season, and this year he’ll be joined by Aaron Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Doug McBuckets, and Kyle O’Quinn who promise to upgrade over Lance Stephenson, Trevor Booker, and Glenn Robinson III.
- Washington Wizards – The Wizards infighting and disappointing ‘17/18 finish appears to be a concern, and that’s why the Wizards traded Marcin Gortat for Austin Rivers, and signed future Hall of Famer, Dwight Howard. They also drafted Troy Brown, and added small forward Jeff Green. The Wizards will be one to watch. They have the potential to compete for the EC crown, and to fall into the lottery.
- Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo makes this squad go. Should he take another step toward the MVP conversation, this team could vault into the top two. The Bucks added Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova and Donte DiVincenzo, but lost Jabari Parker.
- Miami Heat – The Heat roster hardly creates salivation on paper, with an increasingly aging Goran Dragic, and an overpaid Hassan Whiteside, but they still carry one of the best three coaches in the league, and a bunch of try hard guys who fight every night.
- Orlando Magic - Could it be a pipe dream? Of course! But there’s no reason to take bets on the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers or Charlotte Hornets, either. The Magic have three lottery picks in prime position to pay off in Gordon, Isaac, and Bamba as well as the offensive potential of veterans Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic. Terrence Ross should bounce back on the wing, and Jonathon Simmons will return to the sixth man role that saw him play with great success in his limited time there last season.
For more unlikely scenarios, join Zach Oliver, Aaron Goldstone, Will Ogburn, and special guest, Chris Barnewall, as they break down their take on the Eastern Conference in Episode 29 of the Do You Believe in Magic Podcast.
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