The Orlando Magic have been rebuilding their roster ever since trading away their franchise centerpiece, Dwight Howard. With multiple high draft picks, the Orlando Magic stockpiled young talent to build around in hopes of gaining continuity and returning to playoff contention someday. Orlando is now 11-9 and eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. A solid start to the 2015-16 NBA season for the Orlando Magic may have them right in the thick of contending for a playoff spot. Youth and inexperience will either lead the Magic to improve on this start or ultimately send them into a familiar spiral towards the bottom of the East. There is no doubt that the Orlando Magic have a roster with a plethora a rising talent, but is this the year the Magic make the playoffs?
Change in the Culture
The Orlando Magic have six players 23 years-old and younger that are contributing to the early success of this team. Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon are establishing a new culture in Orlando. Give a lot of credit to head coach, Scott Skiles, for stepping in to mentor this young players and bring the best out of them. All of the players mentioned, with the exception of Aaron Gordon, are averaging over 10 points per game. Skiles is installing a nice system of ball movement and managing the minutes of these budding NBA players very well. No player on the Orlando Magic roster is averaging over 34 minutes per game.This keeps the fresh legs even fresher, so they will not tire out at the end of the game. Now let’s take a look at the team statistics that will give us a further look into the Orlando Magic’s cultural change.
The Orlando Magic are playing great basketball on both ends of the floor, as they become a team that can get it done offensively and defensively. The Magic are 12th in points per game with 101.6 and 12th in opponents points per game with 99.5. Orlando is impressively holding opposing teams to under 100 points per game, while scoring over 100 on the offensive end. The Magic are 9th in the NBA in assists with 22.7 per game, which shows the willingness of these young players to share the ball and look to get their teammates easier shots. Scott Skiles deserves a lot of credit because no one has expected this kind of play from the Orlando Magic, or at least not so soon.
How to Reach the Postseason
The Orlando Magic will go as far as their young core will take them. The team made the right move by bringing Victor Oladipo off of the bench in a Manu Ginobili type role. This lets the starting line up play their natural positions and provides a spark from their second unit. Since moving Oladipo to the sixth man, the Magic have five of their last six games. Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Evan Fournier must continue to look for their offense and constantly have the confidence to score points. All of that is possible with second-year player, Elfrid Payton, running the show for Orlando. Payton is transforming into an above-average, two-way point guard in the NBA. Elfrid Payton is averaging 11.4 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. His improvement and commitment to getting better on both ends will help the Orlando Magic become another tough team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
The NBA season is tiring and long so there is always a mental aspect to the game. The Magic must continue to make an effort to work hard throughout the season one game at a time. Orlando is still young and cannot afford to take any nights off. The reason the Magic are in a good position in the standings right now is because they go into each game thinking they can win. The Magic are always in the games until the last minutes and have the mentality that they can beat any team on any night.
The Orlando Magic are a tough team to decipher because they are inexperienced and their core is still trying to adjust to the playing at a high level in the NBA. However, both of those elements can help the Magic only focus on playing their hardest night in and night out. The likes of these 23 year-old and younger players are leading the Magic to their respectable start. Let’s not forget the coaching performance that Scott Skiles is putting one in the early going. Skiles is developing this Orlando Magic team into a playoff team, but can they make it this year? Do not be surprised if they just so happen to do so.
Spark Sports NBA Analyst