Opening Night in the NBA has arrived.
With the Magic set to tip off Wednesday night against the Heat, it’s time to check in on where the experts have placed the team in NBA Power Rankings around the web.
It’s not easy to measure where the Magic stand in an improved Eastern Conference. Orlando will goes as far as its young core takes them, and the front office seems to be banking on the internal improvement of Markelle Fultz (and perhaps Aaron Gordon as he enters Year 7), and the addition of two could-have-been-lottery-pick rookies in Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke.
The Magic managed to hold on to the eighth seed last season, but teams like the Hawks (Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, a full season of Clint Capela), Hornets (Gordon Hawyard, LaMelo Ball), Wizards (Russell Westbrook), Bulls (Billy Donovan) below them made some aggressive offseason changes and will be taking aim at the playoffs.
Here’s where the Magic stand in power rankings around the web. Click on each publication for the full ranking:
ESPN - Magic at 19
As has been the case for years, they are currently in arguably the worst place to be in pro sports: the middle. On top of Fultz’s and Anthony’s development, they’ve got to hope that 2019 first-rounder Chuma Okeke has a nice first year after missing all of last season while rehabbing from a knee injury.
Steve Clifford is one of the most respected coaches in the league, but he still doesn’t have the kind of star that every team needs to build around. The Magic haven’t been nationally relevant since trading Dwight Howard and desperately need their young core to continue to grow and develop together.
Do they trade Aaron Gordon and try to shake things up and build more assets? There aren’t a lot of moves that can get the Magic out of the hole of mediocrity they’ve created. — Nick Friedell
NBA.com — Magic at 19
Cole Anthony seems to have a spot in the Magic rotation, which is good for him and for all of us who watch League Pass and (with apologies to the flammable Terrence Ross) want to see a little more juice in the Orlando offense. LaMelo Ball had the highlight on Saturday night, Anthony outplayed the No. 3 pick, taking Ball into the paint for an and-one, hitting a game-winning floater with less than 15 seconds left, and finishing with 19 points.
There are 57 two-game series in the first-half schedule, and the first two are back-to-backs on Saturday and Sunday. One is Phoenix-Sacramento, while the other is between two teams — the Magic and Wizards — who seemed destined for the play-in scrum in the Eastern Conference. The Magic swept the season series last year, with the 120.3 points per 100 possessions they scored being their best mark against any East opponent. — John Schuhmann
The Athletic — Magic at 23
Biggest change of the offseason: Nothing really. And that’s the problem. The Magic are staying pat, as the rest of the East tries to find ways to leverage a weak back end of the conference for their own glory. The Magic can’t really just make the playoffs by default anymore. They need guys to take leaps to generate that playoff revenue. Orlando didn’t do much of anything this offseason, other than drafting Cole Anthony. The Magic is banking on growth from within or status quo being good enough. — Zach Harper
Bleacher Report - Magic at 19
Very little has changed in Orlando, and that may not be a good thing. The Magic return the same core powered by Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier.
You can expect the Magic to defend; that is a hallmark of Steve Clifford teams. Markelle Fultz also showed some flashes last season, and they are going to need him to continue to find his old game, as creating offense has always been a challenge for this team.
If the Magic struggle early on, it will not be a surprise if they begin to shop Gordon, who might be in need of a change of scenery.
In seasons past, they benefited from some of the teams below them not improving, but this season, staying the same has put them behind the eight ball as a few of the teams behind them improved. — Mo Dakhil
The Ringer — Magic at 26
Chuma Okeke has been out of sight, out of mind this past year after a torn ACL ended his rookie season before it even began. But his name shouldn’t be forgotten, especially now that he’s back and ready to play in his first NBA campaign. The league will see a 6-foot-8 forward who impacts winning, something the Magic desperately need. Okeke’s talents have already been utilized well in the preseason: They’ve run offense through him on the elbows, an area of the floor that’ll allow him to shoot, attack off the dribble, or find a cutter...Okeke is the type of player who won’t make it onto too many highlight reels, but he is good enough to make the Magic front office question who they actually want to keep around long term. If Okeke excels, their crowded frontcourt rotation will begin to overflow. Could Aaron Gordon become available? What would that mean for Mo Bamba? Or would Nikola Vucevic, their best player, turn into their best trade asset? Okeke could be the player who sets off Orlando’s dominoes. — Kevin O’Connor
Sports Illustrated - Magic at 24
Is there an organization in greater stasis than Orlando? The Magic haven’t won a playoff series in the last 10 years, and they’ve treaded water with a .471 winning percentage across the last two seasons. Expect a similar trajectory in 2020–21. Franchise headliner Jonathan Isaac is out for the year, and the rest of the roster features a collection of pieces that don’t quite fit. Aaron Gordon isn’t a capable lead playmaker. Nikola Vučević provides some scoring punch and little else. Markelle Fultz does provide some intrigue, though it remains in question how much of an impact he can make with a broken jump shot. Don’t be shocked if we see Orlando take a dip in the Eastern Conference standings in 2020–21. — Michael Shapiro
CBS Sports - Magic at 21
With Jonathan Isaac out for the season and a couple of Eastern Conference lottery teams making a bid for the playoffs, the Magic elected not to have a fire sale this offseason and will run it back with Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier ... at least for the time being. Orlando is a solid defensive team, but they had one of the worst offenses in the NBA last season, with no discernible improvements during the offseason. The best hope is that Markelle Fultz takes a big leap and Gordon hits another level with more offensive responsibility. Otherwise we could see some roster changes before the trade deadline. — Colin Ward-Henninger
NBC Sports - Magic at 22
The Magic’s best-case scenario may be a slow start that finally convinces the front office to put Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier on the trade market to initiate a rebuild. The more likely scenario is that Orlando hovers around .500 while battling for a spot in the East play-in tournament. — Darren Hartwell
Zach Lowe - Magic are “Chasing No. 10” in the East
Is it weird that I might peg the Bulls as the most likely among Chicago, Orlando, and Charlotte to bust the East play-in party? They are starting Coby White at point guard! That’s a real thing!
One rookie could change this calculus: Cole Anthony in Orlando. With D.J. Augustin gone and both Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu injured, the playoff-incumbent Magic feel dangerously thin. Two fringe players — James Ennis III and Dwayne Bacon — are battling for the starting small forward spot.
Super-sub Terrence Ross figures to seize it a lot in crunch time. The Magic over the past four seasons have just barely outscored opponents with the foursome of Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic on the floor. The lineup of those four plus Markelle Fultz went plus-19 in 235 minutes last season.
Meanwhile, the Augustin/Michael Carter-Williams backcourt led bench units that blitzed opponents; can Anthony carry that over in reserve groups featuring Ross, rookie Chuma Okeke, and Khem Birch?
You also wonder if Orlando’s veterans feel in their souls that this whole thing has run its course — that they have gotten as far as they’ll go before the inevitable breakup. That malaise can seep onto the floor.