With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
Despite a surprising surge from the youngest Wagner, it feels like there’s only one possible answer when figuring out who takes the honors in the very first installment of the Friday Form Guide — it’s Mo Bamba! Across the start of the season the fourth year big has elevated his play from ‘somewhat intriguing’ to ‘damn encouraging’, stuffing the stat sheet and ascending to a higher and more consistent level of performance than we’ve ever seen from him before.
Blessed with significant opportunity and motivated by the lure of restricted free agency next summer, the 7-footer has taken the first giant step towards silencing some of his harsher critics. The question now will be whether or not he can maintain this strong start; Bamba has teased before with both suggested leaps and per-minute potential. Still, rarely has the Magic fan base appeared to be so uniformly in support of the big man and his performances. Let’s hope it’s a trend that sticks.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: at Raptors (tonight); at Pistons (Sat); at Timberwolves (Mon); vs Celtics (Wed)
Orlando’s road-heavy start to the season continues over the next seven games, with three of the week’s four contests taking place out of state. It’s a slightly more forgiving run of opponents than the team has faced recently, but the simple fact remains that the Magic can probably count on one hand the total amount of games that they’ll enter as favorites this season. As such, they’ll be looking for underdog upsets in all four of these starts.
Still, Orlando will like their chances of nabbing their second win of the young season. All of the upcoming Eastern Conference foes have already shown some sort of weakness during the season’s earliest stretch, while the Minnesota franchise perpetually feels like a bubble about to burst. There’s also the general state of Detroit, a team that like the Magic is smack-bang in the earliest stages of a monumental rebuild. It hurts that that particular showdown comes on the second night of a back-to-back (against a more rested opponent), but it seems like a genuine chance.
The crystal ball says …
The Magic get win number two after a 1-3 week, nudging their overall point differential in the right direction in the process.
The next week is an important one for …
Cole Anthony. The second-year point guard needs to keep his radar locked in so that he can provide the team with the dependable offensive presence that it craves. He’s always going to be more of a score-first ball handler than a table-setting playmaker (although that element of his game does look improved through the first five games!) , so it’s all the more noticeable when he can’t find the bottom of the bucket. We’ve already seen what his offense can do for the side — he basically single-handedly shot the team to a road win against the Knicks, while his scoring punch kept the side in the contest against the surprisingly frisky Hornets. It’s no surprise that the lop-sided losses have coincided with Cole’s cold spells. If Anthony can maintain the recent uptick in attempt accuracy, the Magic will be all the more competitive for it.
A figure for thought
34.25 — The percentage of all minutes that the Magic have allocated to players best-suited to the center position.