MANILA, Philippines – Out of the 22 NBA teams invited for the season restart on July 31, only one has retained home court advantage: the Orlando Magic.
Owing to the season restart location being Disney World Orlando, the Magic players have the advantage of not needing to travel anymore amid the ongoing virus pandemic.
However, that’s about as far as Orlando gets in terms of getting a leg up over the other contending teams.
There are currently many filler teams in the lower rungs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoff picture, and for the second straight year, the Magic are one of them.
Talent-wise, the Magic actually have an intriguing mix of in-prime stars and rising prospects.
From 2019 All-Star Nikola Vucevic to reliable sniper Evan Fournier, Orlando has at least two players who can give a consistent offensive punch to the tune of at least 18-22 points per game.
However, that’s where the problems start. There are supposed to be at least 3 offensive options for the Magic, not two.
For some reason, slam dunk extraordinaire and fifth-year player Aaron Gordon has seen a significant drop in offensive efficiency despite staying relatively healthy for the season.
After peaking at a 17.6 points per game average in the 2017-2018 season, his offense has since dropped to 16 points last year and 14.4 this year.
Clogging in the post is likely the culprit as former 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz, who also relies mostly on attacking the basket like Vucevic and Gordon, is now playing his first full season as the starting point guard.
The Magic’s outlook on the defensive side is also bleak as young defensive anchor Jonathan Isaac is still sidelined due to knee injuries, leaving a big hole in terms of paint and perimeter defense.
Overall, inconsistency has been the beast the Magic have yet to slay this late in the season. A prolonged break and uncertainty over players backing out only compound the situation for the worse.
Holding a decent 30-35 record, at least for Eastern Conference standards, the Magic are all but a lock to make the playoffs as either the 7th or 8th seed.
However, that means they will have the dubious distinction of having to face either the Milwaukee Bucks and their back-to-back MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, or the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
The uber-deep rosters of the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat also don’t give the Magic’s shallow rotation any better chances of making much noise in the postseason.
A champion will be crowned in Orlando for sure, but that almost certainly won’t be Orlando’s home team.