Having reviewed the Orlando Magic squad & it’s prospects it is time to look around the league.
We already know what our Orlando Magic bring to the new season. We come with a winning 42-40 record, a defence that was ranked number 1 in the NBA from January 2019, a balance of young explosive talent with experienced veterans & don’t underestimate the value of continuity in all areas of the team as we run-it-back.
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THE EASTERN CONFERENCE?
But as fans of our team do we know as much about those teams we will face? Especially after a summer of trades & free agency like few before it. These are the teams we play 3 or 4 times a season. The teams who stand in our path to making the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since season 2011-12.
Orlando Magic UK are here to help. I am going to be diving into their squads, the off season moves, last season’s record & prospects for this time around.
So let’s take a look at each team by order of how they finished in each Division of the Eastern Conference, starting with our own.
THE SOUTHEAST DIVISION:
Won in the 2018-19 season by our very own Orlando Magic.
With a 39-43 record the Hornets missed the playoffs & in the close season lost their star player Kemba Walker, along with Tony Parker, Frank Kaminsky & Jeremy Lamb. They have added Terry Rozier via free agency.
In losing Walker it is hard to see Charlotte progressing dramatically as they seem to be into a rebuilding phase. They are placing their season into the hands of Rozier & the development of Malik Monk, Miles Bridges & draft pick PJ Washington. They have players who can contribute in Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist & Cody Zeller. For me they remain a team who can win games but will struggle to be in the postseason.
Our Florida rivals will be dangerous, don’t think anything else! In Coach Spoelstra they have a man who is tactically strong & superb at getting the best out of his players.
Let’s start by what they lost, perennial All-Star & NBA legend Dwayne Wade, along with Hassan Whiteside & Josh Richardson. That in many teams would signal a rebuild but such is the Heat & Pat Riley’s pulling power they secured another star to take the reins, Jimmy Butler. They also picked up Myers Leonard & drafted Tyler Herro who played pretty well in Summer League.
Last season saw injuries hit the availability of both Goran Dragic & Dion Waiters. If fit both are capable of hurting teams with vision & shooting. In addition to these players their squad has Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk & Justice Winslow. There are still questions around them manufacturing a trade to land a second star, namely Chris Paul.
Whatever direction they go I think they will have a better record than last season’s 39-43. I find it hard to envisage the Heat missing the postseason & will be pushing for a high seeding.
Let’s start off with John Wall, who is expected to miss most if not all of the new season after heel & achilles surgery. The Wizards had a tough summer, losing a lot of talent, shipping out pretty much everyone except Wall & Bradley Beal.
The team are not expected to be a threat as they are clearly in a rebuilding phase. One notable move was picking up Isaiah Thomas on the cheap, who when he recovers from thumb surgery will be seeking to rebuild his career. Davis Bertans acquired from the Spurs gives them some needed shooting also.
Many people are high on the Hawks & here’s why, they have a team of young prospects with a balance of experience. Sound familiar?
In Trae Young, John Collins, Alex Len & Kevin Huerter the Hawks have young players who impressed last season. They added two further prospects in the draft being Cam Reddish & De’Andre Hunter.
Along with this youth they sought experience in the shape of Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Chandler Parsons & Jabari Parker via trades & free agency.
Make no mistake this is a well run franchise & they have positioned themselves to take a step forward. Whether that is making the playoffs this time around could depend on the continued progression of Young particularly.
As the defending Champions enter the new season it is with uncertainty & debate hanging all around them. Some feel they will miss the playoffs with their current squad, others that they can still be challenging. Few believe they are serious contenders to retain the crown.
The summer has been nothing short of dramatic for the Raptors with the free agency circus of franchise player Kawhi Leonard, who ultimately decided to move to the LA Clippers. With his exit went a player who could & did change the course of games for them singlehandedly. Also exiting from that championship team was Danny Green, along with bit part players Jeremy Lin & Jodie Meeks.
No one is pretending that losing both Leonard & Green is anything other than a huge blow but the roster that remains has strength & quality running through it. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Patrick McCaw & Norman Powell. Toronto picked up Cameron Payne & Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also but neither is likely to turn Toronto into contenders.
Having previously traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi, who subsequently walked after the one season there are questions being asked about if the Raptors should break the team up & get some value from Lowry, Ibaka & Gasol, all who enter free agency next summer.
I’m going to say that they will compete in the East. I still see them as a high seeding playoff team.
Everyone is asking if the 76ers are getting better or taking a step backwards. The 76ers had a 51-31 record to secure the 3rd seed last time around, where they lost in the Conference semifinals to the eventual champions, the Raptors.
From that squad the 76ers had the departures of Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, TJ McConnell & Boban Marjanović. Those are some big gaps to fill!
The 76ers took on Al Horford, Josh Richardson & Trey Burke in an effort to rebalance some of the shooting & defensive ability they lost. They have paid Horford a lot of money to come.
Philly also firmly invested into their existing pair of Ben Simmons & Tobias Harris, paying them big money. As yet I haven’t mentioned Joel Embiid who had a superb year. The squad further includes James Ennis III, Raul Neto & Kyle O’Quinn. A core group of Simmons, Embiid, Harris, Horford, Richardson, Burke, Neto & Ennis is an impressive squad.
They can be in the top seedings of the East if they can find a balance on the front court. It remains to be seen how far they can progress in the playoffs without further tweaks through the season.
And so to another team in flux. The C’s had a 49-33 record last season, made the Conference semifinals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1. Their season was considered a failure!
Whether by choice or not the Celtics moved on from Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, Marcus Morris & Aron Baynes, in the process losing their franchise player & an All-Star center. To replace in came 3 draft selections, the veteran Enes Kanter & two-time All-Star Kemba Walker.
In picking up Kemba the Celtics have not greatly downgraded at the point guard position as Kemba brings virtually the same quality as Kyrie but with none of the attitude. The Celtics are a squad that still boasts Gordon Hayward, Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown & Marcus Smart. Kemba has never had so much talent around him & that could make the Celtics really interesting as the mesh together as a team.
Entering last season they were seen as having the potential to make the NBA finals & possibly win it, this year the fervour is less but they will still easily be a top seed in the East.
The Nets made the playoffs with an identical 42-40 record to ourselves, going out to Philadelphia 4-1 in the first round.
Unlike the Magic the Nets decided to swing big & ring the changes. Their only significant loss was All-Star D’Angelo Russell, who left along with Allen Crabbe, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley & Shabazz Napier.
To replace them the Nets got Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler & Tauren Prince. They join Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris & Chris LeVert.
This organisation is now well run & had a huge offseason. We all know that Durant is unlikely to play at all this coming season as he recovers from achilles surgery. The Nets will surely be a handful for many teams & are likely to make a visit to the postseason season again.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Having previously traded Kristaps Porzingis for cap space the Knicks also moved DeAndre Jordan, Noah Vonleh, Emmanuelle Mudiay & Mario Hezonja. However the big signings in the summer didn’t happen for the Knicks. They didn’t get Zion Williamson in the draft & were left looking at their neighbours the Nets as they signed Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving.
With so much cap space available they decided to go for short term free agents to allow for future flexibility. They picked up our former guard Elfrid Payton, along with Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Julius Randle, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock & Taj Gibson. They join the number 3 draft pick RJ Barrett & young prospects Dennis Smith Jr, Kevin Knox & Frank Ntilikina.
I actually think the Knicks got better on paper without sacrificing their future but they are not going to make any waves. Coach Fizdale will have a balance to strike between development of the young talent & allowing the experience to play.
Are the Bucks the team to benefit most from Kawhi’s departure from Toronto? Is there anyone in the East who legitimately challenges them for the top seed in the East?
The NBA’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is still only 24 & gets better each season he plays. He is well supported by Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Brook Lopez & Khris Middleton. The Bucks lost some good players in the summer being Malcolm Brogdon, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic & Tony Snell but replaced well by picking up Dragan Bender, Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez & Wesley Matthews.
It will be a surprise if the Bucks are not in the top 2 in the East come April.
The Pacers need Victor Oladipo to return to his best following his devastating tendon rupture. Let’s be honest we as Magic fans still love & are pulling for him. He isn’t expected back for the early part of the season. When he returns there will surely be careful load-managed by minutes restrictions.
How quickly & effectively Vic gets back onto the court is key for the Pacers playoff position. After Oladipo’s injury the Pacers squad played hard & held onto their postseason berth. Myles Turner, Doug McDermott & Domantas Sabonis remain from that team.
The Pacers saw Boban Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Tyree Evans, Cory Joseph, Wesley Matthews, Thaddeus Young & Kyle O’Quinn leave. They picked up Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, TJ McConnell, TJ Warren & CJ Wilcox. Also worth a note is their Draft pick at 18, taking Goga Bitadze, a Centre with Euroleague experience.
I think the Pacers had a great offseason & are in a position to build on their 48-34 season.
The Pistons had a 41-41 season, taking the 8th seed but few feel they have done anything to strengthen their position.
After having an excellent season the summer saw knee surgery for the Pistons star man Blake Griffin, which could see his playing time have some load-management.
The addition of the former MVP Derrick Rose will offer a threat potentially from the bench. His off the bench impact can be important to the team as was seen last year when Rose had a resurgence season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Aside from Rose the additions to Detroit are Markieff Morris, Tony Snell & via the draft Sekou Doumbouya.
They lost Ish Smith & Wayne Ellington. Their squad contains Andre Drummond, Langston Galloway, Reggie Jackson & Thon Maker.
They are certainly in the mix for a low seed return to the postseason.
The partnership of Lauri Markkanen & Wendell Carter Jr is key for the Bulls to grow. It is cited as the difference between being contenders for the playoffs or stuck in a rebuilding cycle.
The Bulls seemed to address their needs quite well by taking much fancied Coby White in the draft & then picking up Tomas Satoransky & Thaddeus Young. Their only departure was Robin Lopez. They have some nice pieces in their squad which includes Wendell Carter Jr, Kris Dunn, Cristiano Felicio, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr & Denzel Valentine.
The Bulls are definitely moving in the right direction in their rebuilding. I still see them as missing the postseason.
The Cavs are in a full rebuild, picking up as many young pieces as they can but this is a long process for them. The draft picks of Darius Garland & Kevin Porter Jr are both good prospects.
The Cavs squad still contains Jordan Clarkson, Matthew Dellavedova, Brandon Knight, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr, Cedi Osman, Colin Sexton Tristan Thompson & Ante Zizic. The Cavs have waived JR Smith.
Honestly, it is set to be another long season for Cleveland fans.
8 FROM 10?
Where does that all lead me to you may ask?
For me there are 10 teams chasing the 8 places; being the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Heat, Nets, Pacers, Raptors, Hawks, Pistons & Magic. That’s not to ignore or to be disrespectful of the Bulls, Hornets, Knicks, Cavs or Wizards.
There are still trade decisions by executives to be made, roster spots to fill, injuries to be managed & finally there is a lot of basketball to be played before April 2020.
In every season a more fancied team falls short. Could that be the Pistons or Hawks this year? In every season an unfancied team finds their rhythm & makes a push at the offseason. Could that be the Wizards or Bulls ?
Cards on the table, I am firmly onboard the Magic hype train!
What I do believe strongly at this point is that on paper very few teams in the Eastern Conference are clearly ahead of our Orlando Magic. They are the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, 76ers & Heat.
If we hit the ground running I’d hope we can challenge for homecourt. As I wrote previously those first 20 games of the season are imperative for a good season.
Because of that I genuinely believe we as Magic fans are in for another exciting season & I can not wait!