On Wednesday night the Orlando Magic will embark on it’s 30th season, as they get set to tip off the 2018/19 season. After six disappointing and frustrating years, many are looking at this season to be one that restores hope in a fan base that’s seen the worst stretch in franchise history and no playoff appearance since 2012.
This past offseason has seen a number of changes, none bigger than the hiring of Head Coach Steve Clifford, a coach hand picked by President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman. Jeff had previously interviewed Clifford for the Head Coaching position when he was part of the Milwaukee Bucks front office in 2013, before he was offered a second interview, Clifford was hired by the Charlotte Hornets. After parting ways with the Hornets at the end of last season, Clifford quickly became one of the favourites for the Magic job, who was a part of Stan Van Gundy’s coaching staff from 2007-2012.
Orlando had a decision to make over the future of forward Aaron Gordon who became a restricted free agent heading into the offseason. The Magic resigned Gordon to a team friendly 4 year, $78m contract, a deal that’s front loaded, paying him more in the first few years of the contract and less at the end. This will give Orlando more available cap space in 2 years time to add to the core of Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba.
The Magic landed the 6th overall pick in this years NBA Draft, selecting Texas center Mohamed Bamba. A long, athletic, rim protecting big man, who’s size and versatility next to Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon has Magic fans salivating. Whilst the league is going small, the Magic have drafted big, bringing in players who fit the mold of switchable, defensive minded players. A lot of questions are being asked whether long term the trio fit together and that is something to keep your eye on this season.
The Magic head into the new season with almost the same roster that finished up the 2017/18 season, with a few new additions. Orlando picked up point guard Jerian Grant and center Timofey Mozgov in a deal that sent Bismack Biyombo to the Charlotte Hornets, they also drafted Melvin Frazier Jr and signed point guard Isaish Briscoe to round out the roster.
Many don’t have the Magic improving much on last seasons 25 wins, but Orlando do have the potential to surprise some people this season if they can stay healthy and find a way to play hard and compete every night.
This week Orlando have the chance to get off to a good start as they face the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets at home before a tough away trip to Philadelphia.
Wednesday 17th October
Orlando Magic vs Miami Heat (Amway Center)
Tip Off: 12:00am
Like 2017/18, the Orlando Magic will open up their regular season by facing the Miami Heat at the Amway Center and will be hoping opening night starts with another win. Miami lead the head to head record 64-51 all time, with the two teams splitting the season series last year with two wins a piece. Last Monday, in preseason we had a preview of how the two teams might face off against one another, during a 89-90 loss for the Magic, a game that Orlando had the chance to win in the dying seconds.
Miami start their season with a back to back starting with the Magic on Wednesday night, before flying to Washington to take on the Wizards on Thursday. The Heat have been dealing with several injuries during the preseason, Dion Waiters who had ankle surgery in January, hasn’t made much progress with his recovery and seems uncertain when he will return this season. James Johnson has been suffering with a hernia, both players are listed as OUT. Justice Winslow tweaked a hamstring during Heat practice on Monday and it’s being reported that he won’t play against the Magic, so expect to see either Derrick Jones Jr. or Rodney McGruder step into the starting five. Lastly, Wayne Ellington has missed the entire preseason after rolling his ankle and looks set to join Waiters, Johnson and Winslow on the sidelines.
After an injury plagued 2017/18 season, the Magic will be hoping for a change in fortune and they open up against the Heat with no reported injuries. After a mild ankle sprain in preseason, Jonathan Isaac may still be on a minutes restriction as the Magic open up the season but everybody is hoping that he can shake off his ankle issues and have a long, healthy season.
Friday 19th October
Orlando Magic vs Charlotte Hornets (Amway Center)
Tip Off: 12:00am
Friday Night Magic will see a few familiar faces make the return to the Amway Center, as well as Head Coach Steve Clifford facing his former team for the first time since leaving the Hornets last season. Former Magic Interim Head Coach/Assistant Coach James Borrego replaced Clifford as the Hornets Head Coach in the offseason, who makes his return to Orlando where he served as an assistant under Jacque Vaughn before given the interim job after Vaughn was fired in 2015. This will also be the first time we see Bismack Biyombo, who was traded to Charlotte in the offseason.
This will be the first road game of the season for the Hornets who will have faced the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, and the first in a back to back as they head to Miami to take on the Heat on Saturday. Like Orlando, the Hornets come into the week with no reported injuries to start the season.
To have Steve Clifford standing on the sidelines as Head Coach of the Orlando Magic, maybe something every Magic will be pleased to see. After being hired in 2013 by the Hornets, Charlotte have won 15 of the last 20 games against the Magic, including the last 11 meetings between the two. Friday will hopefully be the night that the Magic end the Hornets streak before heading up to Philadelphia.
Saturday 20th October
Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers (Wells Fargo Center)
Tip Off: 12:30am
The Magic make the trip to Philly on Saturday, their first back to back of the new season, hopefully full of confidence. The Sixers will provide a tough test for Orlando despite losing their opening game of the season in Boston on Tuesday night, but the Magic will have to do a better job of slowing down Joel Embiid down. Embiid had his way with both Nikola Vucevic and Mohamed Bamba during the first game in preseason, as he bullied his way into the paint and got any shot he wanted whoever was guarding him. Philadelphia have a ton of talent including point guard Ben Simmons and last years number one overall pick, Markelle Fultz who will be looking to improve on their 52 win season a year ago in a much weaker Eastern Conference.
The Sixers swept the season series 3-0 last year and it’s the first time since 1998/99 that they’ve won a season series against the Magic, but the Magic lead the all time head to head 75-36 in the regular season. After Tuesday’s loss to Boston, the Sixers will face Chicago on Thursday and get a day off before the Magic are in town.
Philly have a few injury problems, forward Mike Muscala missed Tuesday’s game against the Celtics with a right ankle sprain and maybe doubtful for Saturday, whilst rookie Zhaire Smith (foot), Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and Jerryd Bayless (knee) will all be OUT as they’re all several weeks away from a return.
Orlando Magic UK Predictions (Week 1)