However, the schedule in front of the Magic was the fifth-easiest in the NBA. The Magic may have had every opportunity to take a late season run much like the 22-9 close to the 2018-19 season. Without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets (30-34) would be hard-pressed to maintain their 1⁄2 game lead giving the Magic a viable shot to at least draw Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors again.
But due to the abrupt nature of the season’s suspension, the Magic are stuck. Their imminent dismissal at the hands of Giannis in the first round feels all but inevitable. The Bucks swept the Magic 4-0 in 2019-20 winning each contest by an average of nearly 15 points, none closer than nine points.
Fans and even some players in the darkest depths of their cerebral may wonder, “What’s the point?”
However, commissioner Adam Silver is churning the creativity pot this week, workshopping multiple ideas which may give the Magic a fighting chance.
If (IF IF IF) the NBA went 1-16 seeds for playoffs, here are the current matchups:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 25, 2020
1 Bucks vs 16 Magic
2 Lakers vs 15 Nets
3 Raptors vs 14 Grizzlies
4 Clippers vs 13 Mavericks
5 Celtics vs 12 76ers
6 Nuggets vs 11 Pacers
7 Jazz vs 10 Rockets
8 Heat vs 9 Thunder
The first proposed change would seed each conference into one, putting the Magic in the unenviable position of a 16th seed. Though imperfect, it could pit the Magic against the Lakers, a far more competitive matchup. Currently slated, the Magic would still draw the Milwaukee Bucks. But if the regular season continues to say 70 games as is being considered, the Magic would have a very real possibility of drawing the Lakers instead.
The Magic’s size and halfcourt defense is uniquely suited to defend LeBron James. With one of the game’s best perimeter defenders in Aaron Gordon combined with the girth of Nikola Vucevic and the shot blocking of Jonathan Isaac (if healthy), the Magic could pose real problems for Los Angeles. In fact, the Magic have won three of the past four affairs dating back to last season, splitting the season series in 2019-20. While Anthony Davis was absent in that 119-118 affair, you can argue the losses of Isaac and Evan Fournier loomed just as large. Isaac has the length to contest Davis better than most and Fournier’s off-ball movement and shot making would serve as a real problem for Avery Bradley.
Winning the series may be a pipe dream, but the matchup would arguably give the Magic a more significant chance of serving viewers a competitive series.
The next idea was leaked by Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer. A wonderful idea in which the top four seeds (LAL, MIL, LAC, TOR) can each draft four teams to fill out their respective groups. Once selected, each team will play their four opponents twice. The two teams with the best win-loss record advance, with regular season record as a tie-breaker.
pick one must-watch matchup from each group: pic.twitter.com/TikmfjdKno— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) May 26, 2020
Take this example grouping as an example. The Magic dominated the Rockets by 20 on March 8th with both Russell Westbrook and James Harden en tow. The Magic have beaten the Pelicans in three straight contests and eight of their last ten matchups. The Magic have struggled against Miami this season losing three of four, but do have a 20-point victory to draw from on January 3rd.
Is it inconceivable the Magic could win four games or more in this format? If nothing else, the proposed seeding would make for much more exciting television than repeated drummings at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. And if by some chance the Magic were able to sweep both the Pelicans and Rockets, it would probably take just one win against the Lakers or Heat to advance with the other top-7 seeds into the Semifinals.
For teams like the Magic, this double-elimination tournament could instigate just enough chaos for them to make things a little bit interesting.