The Orlando Magic entered the 2018-19 season with (very) modest expectations and, on the heels of a 25-57 season in 2017-18, that made sense. The Magic did make a few upgrades to the roster, headlined by the addition of intriguing rookie big man Mo Bamba, but Orlando’s core remained largely in tact, providing something of a baseline for what many envisioned as a follow-up.
Through 17 games, however, the Magic are soundly outpacing that baseline, with a 9-8 record on the strength of quality offense. Given that Orlando put forth a bottom-five offense in the NBA a season ago, it stands to reason that this may be an instance of over-performance on that end of the floor but the work of Nikola Vucevic (20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds per game with 45 percent shooting from three) and a team-wide penchant for taking care of the ball have buoyed this group.
It has to be noted that the Magic are outperforming their peripheral statistics at the moment, as the team has been outscored for the season despite a winning record. Still, Orlando is riding a three-game winning streak that featured triumphs over the Lakers and Sixers and this season’s performance doesn’t entirely feel like a fluke.
Are the Magic a .500 team? Probably not. After all, their middle-tier offense probably isn’t as good as the numbers suggest when/if Vucevic cools off and the team’s defense doesn’t appear ready for a jump into the league’s upper echelon. With that said, it has to be exciting for the folks in central Florida to have a competitive team as Thanksgiving approaches and the young Magic are one of the better stories of the season to this point.
Where does Orlando land among the pecking order of NBA teams this week? Let’s find out with our Dime power rankings.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (12-4, Last week — 2nd)
The Bucks haven’t been quite as dominant in recent days but, in taking the entire picture into account, Milwaukee has the best resume right now. The team’s recent win over Denver was a nice feather in the cap and, perhaps more importantly, all four of Milwaukee’s losses came against current playoff teams.
2. Toronto Raptors (13-4, Last week — 3rd)
The Raptors stopped the bleeding of three straight losses with a blowout win over the Bulls. Somehow, Toronto moves up in the rankings despite their worst stretch of the season and, as you’ll see in a moment, that has more to do with the team from the top falling.