There is optimism in the air in Orlando.
A fresh start. Plenty of raw talent. Healing ACLs. New faces. A clear direction.
Refreshing as it all is, it probably isn’t going to equate to a whole lot of wins for the Magic this season.
In all of the offseason/post-free agency/training camp editions of NBA power rankings I came across, the Magic are ranked last or second-to-last in the league by the prognosticators.
Here’s their reasoning (click on each publication for the full ranking):
ESPN - Magic ranked 29th
Aside from the ongoing rehab process for Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, the big early question for the Magic revolves around rookie Jalen Suggs and the impact he’ll be able to have early in his first season. Suggs had some nice moments at summer league and has the ability to energize a fan base that is yearning for some excitement. — Nick Friedell
Sports Illustrated - Magic ranked 29th
A healthy Jonathan Isaac is necessary for Orlando to climb out of the Eastern Conference cellar, and even if he is on the floor come opening night, this team won’t look anything like a playoff contender. Don’t despair, Magic fans. The franchise’s latest youth movement could lead to sustained success in future years, with Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner both joining the franchise with plenty of promise as top-10 picks. Don’t be surprised if we endure another tankathon from the Magic this year as they look to add additional talent in the 2022 draft. — Michael Shapiro
CBS Sports - Magic ranked 30th
The Magic were happy to take Jalen Suggs — who some had as a top-two prospect — with the fifth pick in the draft, and he’ll be a fixture for Orlando as the rebuild begins in earnest. Franz Wagner should combine with Jonathan Isaac to create an intimidating defensive frontcourt, but they’re going to struggle to improve on the league’s 29th-ranked offense from a season ago. Barring dramatic improvement from some young players, the Magic should be competing for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. — Colin Ward-Henninger
Bleacher Report - Magic ranked 29th
Orlando jumped off the mediocrity treadmill last season and went into a full rebuild. Going with a youth movement and development is now the plan. The hope is Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz can both come back from knee injuries that kept them out for most of last season.
Orlando’s trade with Chicago netted the team another young promising prospect in Wendell Carter Jr. to develop, but more importantly, it loaded the Magic with even more draft assets. Because of that trade, Orlando holds two top-10 picks, in addition to a future one that has until the 2024 draft to convey before turning into multiple second-round picks. After that, they will also receive a first-rounder from Denver from the Aaron Gordon trade.
In addition to the change of course on the court, Orlando also made a change on the sidelines. The Magic hired Jamahl Mosley from Dallas as head coach to develop their young talent. Mosley was well-regarded as an assistant coach with his ability to create relationships with his players, and now will have the chance to show what he can do.
The Magic are starting their rebuild and in a good position in the long run, but it will be a stretch before seeing Orlando return to the playoffs in the next few years. — Mo Dakhil
Sporting News - Magic ranked 30th
Jalen Suggs energizes the Magic in ways they haven’t seen since Tracy McGrady. Sure, Dwight Howard brought the Magic to the Finals, but he never truly owned the city and transformed the Magic into a must-see outfit. With the fifth overall pick, Orlando ultimately nabs the best player in the draft as the Suggs revenge tour gets off to a rolicking start and never lets up. Jonathan Isaac stays healthy and re-enters the DPOY conversation while one of Wendell Carter and Mo Bamba finally puts it all together. Suggs completely transforms the Magic overnight and suddenly, Orlando emits some more than faint hope. — Micah Adams
NBA.com - Magic (in the Eastern Conference only) ranked 15th (of 15)
Three numbers to know…
• The Magic have ranked in the bottom 10 offensively in each of the last 9 seasons. Only one other team (Chicago — six seasons) has an active streak of more than three seasons in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency.
• The Magic were outscored by 6.7 points per game in the restricted area, the league’s biggest discrepancy last season.
• Chuma Okeke ranked third among rookies in both deflections per 36 minutes (3.1) and defensive win shares per game (0.081). He was also one of five players who played at least 1,000 minutes and had as many (or more) steals (48) as personal fouls (48).
Key question: Which of the young guys will take a big step forward?
The Magic now have nine players under the age of 24 who were selected in the first round of the Draft, with six of the nine having been selected with a top-seven pick. Expectations are obviously low and it would be a surprise if (the Thunder let Shai Gilgeous-Alexander play and) this team doesn’t finish last in offensive efficiency. Suggs will add some much-needed juice off the dribble (Cole Anthony’s second year will also be interesting in that regard), but the Magic are the only team without a single player who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season.
This season isn’t about wins and losses and progress won’t be linear. But the potential for good defense is there, and it would be particularly interesting to see Okeke and Jonathan Isaac (who led the league in steals + blocks per 36 minutes two seasons ago) play together on that end of the floor. Isaac’s four-year, $70 million extension kicks in this season, and he’ll be almost 15 months beyond his ACL tear when the Magic open their season in San Antonio. — John Schuhmann