If you’re a fan of the Orlando Magic, a second consecutive playoff trip after seven years without one should make you happy. But it should be modest happiness, because it seems like the same situation for the second year in a row. They’ll get into the playoffs as a low-seed, but they made little-to-no improvement, so don’t expect them to stick around.
Last year’s Magic got to the playoffs with a late-season surge that catapulted them ahead of Dwyane Wade’s Heat. And they did it by having one of the best defenses in the league. They even won a game against the Raptors in the opening round, but then they never stood a chance.
Looking ahead to this postseason, which will obviously be different than year’s past, the injury bug is playing a major role. On the bright side, Evan Fournier is now 100% healthy, and they do have Markelle Fultz out there playing fantastic ball for them. But there is some bad news too.
Aminu Won’t Be Playing
They will continue to be very thin at the wing as Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) and Jonathan Isaac (knee) will not be ready to return right off the bat for this team as they play the regular season portion of the year beginning at the end of the next month.
For Aminu, this is disappointing based on his ability to impact the game on the defensive end. He was a critical part of Portland’s run to the Conference Finals last year, with his long arms and fantastic perimeter defense. He was fitting in well here with the defense-first culture in a bench role.
The hope will be that he can come back next year and continue to improve on what he had done this year. The offensive production is always secondary with Aminu, but still, he is capable of scoring 20-25 on some nights, so he is doubly missed.
Isaac Gone Too?
It is unclear exactly when star defensive player Jonathan Isaac’s timeline for a return is. He suffered a knee season early in the year after getting off to a fantastic start, and this marks the second year out of his three in the league that injuries played a part. He was leading the league in blocks per game, something a small forward hasn’t done since Andrei Kirilenko in 2004-05.
Isaac was coming along as a scorer, as well, adding to the strong performance he gave in the opening round of the playoffs. And when you look at just how much he brings to the table, it is wildly impressive that Orlando, even in a watered-down conference, could be as “good” as they were. Hopefully, he will be able to return for them, although there have been no guarantees from management on the subject.
Another guy not playing that they hope to get an impact from immediately is Chuma Okeke. The former Auburn standout tore his ACL during the March Madness tournament last year, and Orlando knew he wouldn’t be playing this year when they got him. He’s got a lot of potential to be a strong NBA player, so eyes will move toward him next season.
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