With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
The odds were undoubtedly long at the start of the season, but anyone who had ‘Bol Bol is our new wingspan wunderkind’ on their bingo card can step forth and claim a prize. Bol has frequently been a revelation for the Magic in the early going, having first worked his way into the rotation, then staked a claim to more minutes, and most recently even snatched a spot among the starters thanks to a flurry of eye-catching appearances.
10 points in the season opener was followed just a couple of contests later by a career-high 19. Since then he’s generally gone from strength to strength, with either double figure points or rebounds – or, on two occasions, both! – in almost every game. No matter how you choose to measure it, he’s providing career-best output in just about every facet of the game, whether that’s traditional counting stats, per-100 possession numbers, or advanced metrics. He’s leading the league in blocks, with his total of 23 averaging out to 2.6 per night and an absurd block percentage of 11.1%. Bol is also pacing Orlando’s roster in PER, box plus/minus, win shares per-48 and true shooting percentage (through the first 8 games), while also featuring as a contributor to some of the team’s most impressive three and four-man combinations.
Bol has been more than just long-limbed speculation on a losing team; despite the somewhat ungainly aesthetics of his play he’s showcasing a solid individual game and the capacity to contribute to winning basketball. In fact, he’s currently the only player whose court time has resulted in the Magic scoring more points than they’ve given up! Whether that holds true for the rest of the season remains to be seen, as does precisely what he projects to be in this league moving forward. Regardless of the eventual outcome, Bol has already succeeded in carving out a well-deserved spot in Orlando’s rotation, a fact that this last week has clearly demonstrated.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: vs Kings (Sat); vs Rockets (Mon); vs Mavericks (Wed)
The Magic are now smack bang in the middle of a season-long stretch on their homecourt, with all three games this week happening in the sunny climes of Central Florida. On tap is a trio of Western Conferences foes, a fate which in years past would frequently have signified a difficult time at the office for a rebuilding outfit. However, this week’s visitors present a slightly softer challenge, with the three just a combined 7-16 on the admittedly still-young season. Regardless, both the Rockets and Kings are matchups that the Magic should feel pretty good about, particularly with plenty of rest and the benefits of some home-cooking. Assuming, you know, that the fourth quarter zest they demonstrated against the Warriors remains a reality.
The crystal ball says …
The Magic untether themselves from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings by adding a pair of Ws to the season tally.
It’s time to keep an eye on …
Mo Bamba. If we’re being honest, the Bamba experience was already on life support long before this season got underway, but if one wasn’t aware of that fact before now it’s unfortunately all too plain to see. It was a somewhat curious decision to bring the seven-footer back at all given the complexion of the side moving forward, but his play through the season’s opening stretch has just further cemented the notion that he’s not long for the pinstripes.
Across nine contests Bamba has so far scored in double figures just once, recorded a block in only one-third of the games played, failed to reach 18 minutes of court time on any occasion, and has seen the team be outscored by 29 across his 113 minutes. His counting stats are down across the board and the energy seemingly absent, a fact which undoubtedly contributed to the paltry six scoreless minutes of action that he saw against the Warriors.
Five years into his professional career Bamba remains significantly more abstract potential than reliable production. Unless there’s a major and unexpected turnaround in the next few weeks,, it’s almost certainly time for the Magic to move on.
Three from downtown
- The 43 point offensive avalanche that the Magic hung on the Warriors in Thursday night’s third quarter was just one point shy of a franchise record.
- When it comes to the charity stripe this Magic team is almost unrecognizable. The 46 free throws that Orlando shot last night were the team’s most since 2012, a contest in which Dwight Howard was hacked to the tune of 39 individual attempts. The opponent a decade ago? Golden State.
- Pretty soon we’re going to start hearing Paolo Banchero All-Star game buzz, right?
A figure for thought
57.1. The percentage of Magic losses in which the team has at one stage held a double-digit lead.