The Orlando Magic have strung together a plethora of mediocre seasons since Dwight Howard left in 2012, and there hasn't been much to cheer for as of late. Between draft busts and failed signings, the team hasn't had much success and has taken a backseat in-state to the Miami Heat, one of the most successful teams of the 21st Century. However, the outlook changed in the second half of last season, where the Magic went on a tear late in the season, clinched the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, and even stole a game from the eventual champion Raptors before falling in five games. There's a lot of young talent brewing in the Magic Kingdom, so let's see what their situation is heading into the upcoming season.
2019-20 Orlando Magic Season Outlook
Key Additions: Al-Farouq Aminu, Isaac Humphries, B.J. Johnson
Key Subtractions: Timofey Mozgov, Jerian Grant, Jarell Martin
Draft: Chuma Okeke
The Magic enter this season with almost the same exact rotation and roster as last year, which was great given their cap situation. They were able to re-sign Terrence Ross to a long-term extension in free agency, and they also brought back Michael Carter-Williams, who played a big role towards the end of Orlando's season. Their big splash was to re-sign Nikola Vucevic, who had a career year last season and earned himself a big payday of $100 million over 4 seasons to stay in Orlando. Aside from that, the only other key signing they had was bringing in Al-Farouq Aminu, who is coming off of a successful postseason performance with Portland. In previous episodes of the Scorching Hot Podcast, I raved about his and Maurice Harkless' efforts during the Trailblazers' run, and that type of postseason experience and veteran leadership is exactly what this young team needs. I'm not exactly sure what his minutes will look like, as the Magic have a lot of players who fit into his position, but he will see important time on the floor. Another player who fits into Aminu's position is first-round pick Chuma Okeke, who won't be seeing the floor in 2020 due to a torn ACL. Okeke's draft stock skyrocketed during March Madness last year, and his versatility and his all-around solid game was enough for Orlando to take a shot at him.
It's very hard to predict how the Magic's season will turn out simply because there are so many question marks on this roster. One main question is, how will the Magic deal with their logjam at the forward and center positions? Between Aminu, Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Khem Birch, Mohamed Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu, and Amile Jefferson, that is 8 rotational players gunning for minutes. Vucevic, Gordon, and Isaac are presumably going to be starters, and Aminu and Bamba are sure to receive action off the bench, but where does this leave the other three players? Digging deeper, Vucevic had a breakout year last season, but can he prove that last season wasn't a fluke? Aaron Gordon has been a very solid player throughout his young career, but can he take another step forward by improving his shooting splits this season? Should the Magic make some mid-season moves to upgrade their guards, especially if D.J. Augustin or Evan Fournier aren't playing up to par? The second main question is, how will the younger players on this team develop this season? Mo Bamba had an uneventful rookie season, and with Vucevic back for the long-term, it's going to be interesting how the Magic view Bamba's importance in the long run. With that being said, he still has something to prove this year, that he is a rising star in this league and not just known by a song from Sheck Wes. Jonathan Isaac showed a very promising jump last season, especially on the defensive end, but his offensive arsenal is still limited. If he can expand his range and shoot more efficiently from the three-point line, he'll easily be in contention for Most Improved Player. The biggest x-factor, however, is Markelle Fultz, the former 2017 #1 overall pick who was dealt to Orlando at the trade deadline last February. He's had one of the wackiest starts to his career we've ever seen, and his shooting form and shoulder issues still remain a mystery across the NBA landscape. However, Fultz did play in the Magic's preseason opener and actually looked really good, wrecking havoc on the defensive end and making all the right plays on the fast break, including a thunderous tomahawk dunk. We're all rooting for Markelle to do great things in this league, and he's already showing flashes of his potential just one preseason game into the new season.
Final Outlook for the 2019-20 Orlando Magic
The Magic are out to prove that last season was no fluke, and that their hot streak in the second half will lead over into this season. While it might be inevitable that Vucevic takes a step back this season, Bamba should vastly improve off of last year's performance, and the Magic could definitely have a scary center duo if they play their cards right. I'm really high on Jonathan Isaac's potential, and I truly think he's in for a breakout season. He has the size and length to be a nightmare defensively (which he already is), and with his shooting numbers constantly improving throughout the regular season last year, there's no reason he can't become a premier option for the Magic's offense. As for Fultz, I'm expecting a bounce-back season from him, but I also think that the Magic will continue to play it safe and limit his minutes until he can release some of the major concerns he carries with him. Orlando is going to be one of the most interesting teams to follow this season, in my opinion, and I think they could shock a lot of people this season. My record prediction for the Magic is 44-38, a slight improvement over last season, as well as earning themselves their second consecutive playoff berth.