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Magic vs. Bucks preview: Orlando prepares to tangle with the best in the East

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Contributions from all are needed if the Magic are to have a chance of toppling Giannis and company

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Magic are rolling into Milwaukee post-deadline having managed to walk an interesting tightrope across one of the NBA’s craziest periods. Going in it was unclear whether or not the team would be looking to prop up a playoff push or start preparing for the future. Somehow, they managed to do both.

Expiring veterans and intriguing trade targets Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross both remain in pinstripes, indicating that the postseason remains the goal for the current season. More excitingly, the first overall selection from the 2017 draft now also calls Orlando home, with the Magic turning Jonathan Simmons and a handful of future picks into Markelle Fultz.

The front office bought low on a distressed asset whose addition doesn’t bring any guarantees of future success. Yet, the potential is undeniable. Fultz’s ceiling remains incredibly high, even if the floor is also now known to be disastrously low. For the Magic, it’s a risk worth taking. If things pan out the team has just found their point guard of the future. If not, the cost was minimal.

The deal for Fultz was reported only minutes before Orlando faced off on their home court against the Timberwolves in their most recent contest. They raced out to an early lead before withstanding a Karl-Anthony Towns-inspired fourth quarter surge, ultimately prevailing 122-112. It was a balanced effort for Orlando with contributors across the board. They’ll need to replicate this if they’re going to be a chance in tonight’s match up.

In comparison, the Bucks exited the deadline with no doubt as to their current place in the league: legit contenders. They’re all-in on an assault on the Eastern Conference championship, fueled by the play of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and a bevy of long-limbed three point bombers. They’ve prioritized space around their MVP candidate, surrounding him with long range snipers capable of dragging defenders out of the paint and giving him ample opportunity to leverage his elite athleticism. It’s worked to devastating effect.

Against a hapless Washington side on Wednesday they ripped off 50 in the first on their way to a bonkers 85-point first half. They’ve launched more three point attempts than any team bar the Rockets this season. They’re fourth overall in terms of offensive efficiency. Oh, and did I mention that their defense is currently smothering the opposition and holding them to the league’s worst field goal percentage? I probably should have.

To this league-best wrecking ball they also added the sweet shooting Nikola Mirotic, a stretch four who will add another wrinkle to the team’s already scintillating offense. Injuries have slowed him this season after a hot start, but if he can get his body right before the playoffs start it’s pretty easy to envision him emerging as a key contributor in big moments.

All in all, it’s a tough assignment for Orlando.

Heading into this one what questions might be rattling around in the head of Magic fans? How about:

As always, be sure to join us in the game thread and dive into the discussion!