Beyond the Toronto Raptors: Previewing a horrible Southeast division

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
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Orlando Magic

Key Arrivals: Al-Farouq AminuMarkelle Fultz (kind of)

Key Departures: No-one

After having what was their most successful season since Dwight Howard, — which was still not THAT great as the 7th seed — the Orlando Magic decided to run it back.

Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross were both free agents, and if the team wanted, this offseason presented a chance to reshuffle the cards and make some sizeable moves around their core of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. Rather than attempting to restructure, they’re betting on chemistry and internal development this season.

Offensive outlook

Orlando was in the bottom ten offensively last season and improved this season by adding….. depth piece Al-Farouq Aminu?

The biggest problem for Orlando is a lack of creation and explosion. Every possession feels like squeezing blood from a stone as they attempt to work through Vuc, run intricate off-ball movements, and navigate through a semi-crowded lane. They don’t have anyone defenses fear with the ball in their hands, no one who can consistently pressure opponents.

Markelle Fultz is the one player who can change that. The former number one pick is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands, and if he can figure things out, has the potential to be the straw that stirs the drink. He also happens to play point guard, a position of need other than the amazingly consistent D.J. Augustin.

If Fultz can make an impact, Orlando has a chance for an above-average offense. But after two seasons with absolutely no signs of life, you can’t make that bet at this point in time.

Defensive outlook

After the All-Star break last season, the Orlando Magic had the 5th ranked offense in the NBA. They’re gigantic, have quality forward defenders with Gordon and Isaac, and perhaps as important as anything, showed all the fundamental staples of a Steve Clifford coached team. They stop transition opportunities, clean the glass, and protect the rim.  Those areas are enough to help a team transition from solid to one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Is a top-five defense sustainable for this team? Probably not. Augustin, Vucevic, and Evan Fournier aren’t exactly smothering opposing offenses. A large improvement came when injury caused the team to go with Khem Birch rather than Mo Bamba; as they attempt to improve their young core, that’s unlikely to happen this season.

However, with a ton of size and two all-defensive-level players in Isaac and Gordon,  somewhere in the 5-10 range isn’t out of the question.

Predicted record: 42-40

The Magic think they’ll be fighting for homecourt advantage but will more likely be closer to the end of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. A best-case scenario of a top-five offense and competent offense could put them in the 4-5 seed range, but if either one falls off they’re a playoff team at best.