Due to Injuries, No Magic Wand Will Fix Orlando This Season

orlando magic

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 5:02 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 5:02 PM UTC

After a hot start early in the season, the Orlando Magic have taken their usual spot among the NBA’s worst teams. Is there any reason to be optimistic the rest of 2017-18?

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On Nov. 1, the Orlando Magic won in Memphis to improve to 6-2. They had quality victories already over teams like the Grizzlies (back when they were decent), Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers (on the road, no less) and San Antonio Spurs. This writer posted a story entitled: Magical Turnaround for Orlando or Likely Disappearing Act?

We have our answer: Disappearing Act.

What the Magic were doing early in the season were hitting 3-pointers at an unsustainable rate of 44 percent that was easily tops in the NBA. Guys like Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier were well over 50 percent. In addition, the Magic led the NBA in opponent 3-pointers made and opponent 3-point percentage.

All of those numbers have fallen off a cliff as the Magic have won back-to-back games just once since and have had two losing streaks of at least nine games. They have been arguably the NBA’s worst bet outside of perhaps Memphis since Nov. 11. Orlando is now shooting just over 35 percent from deep and ranks second-to-last in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage. The Magic are 28th in points allowed.

This was an expected regression, although the bottom completely falling out can be blamed partially on injuries. On opening night, the Magic’s starting lineup was Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Fournier, Gordon and Terrence Ross. That unit hasn’t played together for a long time.

Gordon, who was at an All-Star level for the first few weeks, had played once since Dec. 8 due to a concussion and then calf injury before returning Thursday (Orlando did end a nine-game losing streak by beating Detroit, but don't get too excited Magic backers). Fournier himself recently returned from an eight-game absence – the Magic lost them all. He’s Orlando’s top scorer and go-to threat in close games. Ross has been out since late November with a sprained right MCL and a non-displaced fracture of his right tibial plateau and remains sidelined indefinitely. Rookie forward Jonathan Isaac missed 17 straight games from Nov. 12-Dec. 16. He's currently hurt again.

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Bad news for the @OrlandoMagic: Nikola Vucevic is out indefinitely with a fractured metacarpal in his left hand. #PureMagic pic.twitter.com/GKdpfrQV4y

— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) December 24, 2017
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The team’s best player has been Vucevic, but he’s now expected to miss 6-8 weeks due to a recently fractured metacarpal of his left index finger. Vucevic is the Magic’s third-leading scorer (17.4 ppg), best rebounder (9.3 rpg) and, according to Coach Frank Vogel, the most unselfish guy on the Magic. He also could have been excellent trade bait but now might not return until just after the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The league moved the deadline ahead of the All-Star Break this year. Vucevic would have brought back a nice return not just because he’s a good player but makes “only” $12.25 million this season and $12.75 million in 2018-19 in the final year of his contract.

Free-agent bust Bismack Biyombo (signed $68 million deal before last season) has assumed the starting center job, but probably the only thing Biyombo does better than Vucevic is block shots. Biyombo can’t shoot or pass to save his life.

In one aspect, all these injuries could help the franchise long-term. With everyone healthy, maybe Orlando could have squeaked into the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now? Tankapalooza and the chance to draft a superstar, which the Magic haven’t had since Dwight Howard, in 2018. Keep betting against this team on most nights until its full strength again -- if it ever is.

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