Are The Orlando Magic Finally Embracing A Tank To Improve Their Draft Lottery Odds

The NBA regular season has just about six weeks remaining. And it appears the Orlando Magic are attempting to improve their draft lottery odds.

Two weeks ago, the NBA sent out a memo to all 30 teams about tanking after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban publicly announced his Mavericks best interests were to throw games. That statement cost the Mavericks owner $600,000.

A week ago, the Chicago Bulls received a stern warning from the NBA about resting healthy players. They were holding out healthy starters to reduce their chances of winning games.

The tanking agenda is now to the point that media-related sites are warning the NBA office about other lottery bound teams possibly tanking.

But all seems well down in Central Florida. The Orlando Magic seem to be going about a possible tanking move the right way. Their latest moves come just in time as they prepare to play against some of its stiffest competition to the bottom of the standings. 

It’s all about the player’s health

A player’s health is of the utmost importance to a team’s success. Some teams can successfully game plan and remain competitive through injuries. Others completely fall flat on their faces until certain players return.

The Orlando Magic have had a long season of injuries. They began the season with an unexpected 8-4 mark with impressive wins over teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. Those 12 games had many people talking about the end of the teams current five-year playoff drought. But those talks quickly subdued. Over the course of the next 51 games they would only manage to win 12 games.

In several interviews, Magic President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, stated that injuries were a big issue this season. Looking at the numbers he is correct. Every starter on the team has missed time due to some type of injury. In total, starters have missed a combined 88 games this season and counting. Combine those games with the games missed by rookie Jonathan Isaac and that number rises to 122 on the season.

As a result, the Orlando Magic have underperformed and headed towards a sixth consecutive lottery appearance.

Coincidence or not?

The months of March and April will be lottery defining months in the NBA. For the Orlando Magic, their next 13 games will match up against 7 other lottery teams.

During their March 7th matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic suffered three key injuries to their starting lineup. Team leading scorer Aaron Gordon suffered his second concussion of the season after a collision with Lakers forward Julius Randle. According to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, Gordon will miss court action and must pass the NBA concussion protocol before returning.

The team’s second leading scorer, Evan Fournier, managed to sprain his MCL in his left knee which may end his season. Fournier has been playing very well as of late and his scoring prowess is sure to be missed.

Point guard DJ Augustin sprained his right ankle which has him expected to miss time on the court as well.

It’s never a positive to see a player go down with an injury but the Magic aren’t likely to be disappointed by having to sit a few of their key players.

Tanking seems to be on the horizon

Is it coincidence that the Orlando Magic are moving into what will be their easiest stretch of the remaining season and now have significant amount of injuries biting the team?

In theory, absolutely not.

Its been long rumored that acquiring a top draft pick in this upcoming 2018 draft was a priority for this team. Although no one within management has publicly stated or supported such claims, it’s all but assumed the Magic are preparing themselves for the summer.

Doomed with salary cap restrictions and bad contracts, the Magic must creatively find ways to improve this roster before the start of the 2018-2019 season.

The most effective hope for the future will be to strengthen positions through the upcoming NBA Draft. The Magic have scouted most of the top 10 prospects and are surely looking at non lottery talents who could become gems.

The Magic have a glaring hole at the point guard position after trading away former starter, Elfrid Payton, to the Phoenix Suns just minutes before the trade deadline.

With top prospects Trae Young and Luka Doncic vying for top point guard honors, Orlando could be looking to improve their chances to make sure they can select one of the two.

The Final Verdict

While never wanting to accuse a team of purposely losing games, it’s hard not to see the warning signs.

Is it just a string of good, eh, bad, luck that the team is suffering injuries or a thought out strategy? If the Orlando Magic were vying for a playoff spot instead of lottery odds, would players still be on the injured report? Would Jonathan Isaac have missed 44 games due to an ankle sprain? Would Terrence Ross have been back on the floor at this point from his knee injury?

While it’s never assumed an injury is not as severe as being reported, the signs are just too apparent for the draft improvement cause.

Either way, it’s clear that the Orlando Magic are positioning themselves for the best draft spot available.

 

 

Strange Rule Dooms Orlando Magic In Loss To Los Angeles Lakers

Rules are not meant to be broken. The Orlando Magic learned that lesson the hard way after a tough 107-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night.

“Because there’s no possession when the clock goes off, the ruling is that there’s a jump ball, center circle, the rule is 13E-9-2. And anytime there is either an inadvertent whistle and/or a horn when the ball is in the air, there’s no possession and we go center circle, jump ball.” – NBA Crew Chief Bill Spooner

And with that rule, the Orlando Magic found themselves losers of their second game in a row Wednesday night.

The Orlando Magic felt cheated. Hurt. Flat out disappointed. A NBA rule took their final possession taken away from them because of a game clock error.

“We feel cheated,” Orlando forward Aaron Gordon stated in the locker room. “It felt like they gave them the game. It’s just a terrible end to a game of basketball. They didn’t even give us a chance to win. And that’s the last time we see them. We have to wait a year to play them again. They have gotta change that rule and I think they will.”

The Magic made a late 10-0 run to put themselves up one point just before fouling Laker’s center Brook Lopez. Lopez, who finished with 27 points on the night, made two free throws that put the Los Angeles Lakers up for what would be the final possession.

With six-tenths of a second left, the Magic attempted an inbound alley-oop towards the rim for forward Aaron Gordon. The shot clock began as the ball was thrown and the buzzer sounded in the air before being touched by anyone or anything. Based on the current NBA rule, the shot clock issue required a jump ball at center court. After the jump ball, the Lakers swatted the ball away as the real game clock expired.

Aaron Gordon most critical of necessary change

Gordon seemed to be most vocal about the need for a rule change as he finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds.

“Vucevic played perfect defense,” Gordon told reporters. “They called a foul. They gave them the game. For the most part the referees did a good job throughout the game. Just down the stretch it was bad. So they’ve got to change the rule.”

Kobe Bryant Adds Another Win To His Resume, Seals Oscar for Best Short Film Animated

After the game was over, head coach Frank Vogel made critical comments about the officiating late in the game as well.

” They took the ball from us and made it a jump ball with 0.6 seconds, which kills any chance of us tying the game or winning the game,”Vogel said. “I don’t know. It’s just common sense would tell me that in that situation, the clock started early, that you do redo the possession. They felt otherwise.”

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic finishes with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball ended the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Kobe Bryant Adds Another Win To His Resume, Seals Oscar for Best Short Film Animated

Kobe Bryant is a future hall of fame basketball player. And now he has entered the world of film as an award winner.

Kobe Bryant never envisioned he would win an Oscar after his basketball career ended a couple of seasons ago. But he did just that.

At the 90th annual Academy Awards Show, Kobe Bryant took home his first Oscar Award. The award for Best Short Film Animated was awarded to Bryant’s film titled “Dear Basketball.”

“Dear Basketball” was written by Bryant in 2015 as he decided to announce his soon to be retirement from NBA. Kobe Bryant narrates the film, based on his same titled poem, as he speaks about his love for the game and what brought him to play basketball.

Disney animator Glen Keane shared the award with Kobe Bryant on stage.

Bryant clearly was a bit shocked as he accepted the award but delivered a powerful message in his acceptance speech. A message that athletes have voices beyond sports.

“I don’t know if it’s possible,” Bryant stated. “I mean, as basketball players, we are really supposed to shut up and dribble but I am glad we do a little bit more than that.”

The message was a direct shot at Fox News host Laura Ingraham who recently commented on NBA superstars LeBron James and Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble” as James criticized President Donald Trump.

Afterwards, he thanked his family who was in attendance and spoke a few words of Italian to them telling them, “You are my inspiration.”

On Nov. 29, 2015, Kobe Bryant announced that he would be ending his career after the season. For that day’s Laker’s game, a copy of the poem was distributed to every fan at Staples Center.

Two years later, Bryant’s film was presented to the arena before his iconic jersey’s of #24 and #8 were retired by the Laker’s on December 18, 2017.

Kobe Bryant was a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and now is a one-time Golden Award winner.

Cheers to Kobe.

On and off the court.

Analyzing the Elfrid Payton Trade and Whats Next For the Orlando Magic

The 2018 NBA trade deadline is yesterday’s news. The Orlando Magic were inclined to begin making changes to the roster. And dealing point guard Elfrid Payton was the first move to make.

The Orlando Magic only made one deal before Thursday’s 3p.m. trade deadline. The team decided to remove fourth year guard Elfrid Payton from the magic equation. An equation that resulted in four years of losing seasons. Soon to be six overall since the teams last playoff appearance in 2012.

The return: A 2018 second round pick from the Phoenix Suns. The second-most valuable pick between Charlotte, Memphis and Miami’s picks.

Elfrid Payton averaged 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game this season. Payton is shooting a career high 37 percent from three and 52 percent from the floor. However, the Magic were not convinced that he was the long-term solution in their rebuilding plans.

Some felt Orlando should have received more compensation for a player like Payton.

Some thought this trade offer was a joke of some kind.

Some believed Elfrid Payton was worth more than a second-round pick due to his ability to score in isolation and push the tempo on offense. Payton helped lead Orlando to the seventh fastest pace played in the NBA this season. His PER of 18.2 was a career high and sported an offensive rating of 105.9, also a career high.

On the contrary, his defensive prowess that he was billed to have upon entering the league was non-evident and some felt his offensive gains this year were not accurate. In actuality, Payton’s defensive rating was atrocious at 113.6 on the year.

As a primary ball handler with the Suns, Payton will have the opportunity to showcase his abilities and increase his value. Payton should put together a strong campaign playing alongside sharpshooter Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. Phoenix has been looking for a fixture at the point guard and this was a buy-low type of deal.

The Viewpoint on Trading Elfrid Payton

Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, confirmed the decision to move on from Payton in an interview with Fox Sports Florida after Thursday night’s game at home against the Atlanta Hawks.

“The NBA is evolving, and we have to fit this into our team and into the context of the league,’’ said Weltman. ” Certainly, as we grow the team, there are certain principles and cornerstones that we want to build with. These all go into the mix of free agency, draft and timing of where we are as a team. Do we want to lock in financially to a team that struggled in recent years? These are all factors that figure in.”

“We added a draft pick, we retained a little flexibility and that’s what we got today. We’re excited to have those and we feel that we need those to have a little bit of wiggle room and creativity as we assemble the roster.” Weltman said. “All of that stuff comes to bear in June when we start to do this all over again.”

Falling in line with long-term objectives, Orlando Magic management decided moving Payton now was the right move.

Did Orlando Get The Best Possible Deal

The Orlando Magic were not going to resign Payton to a long-term deal after the current season. So instead, they decided any sort of compensation was better than no compensation at all.

The best case scenario anyone could have hoped for was to receive a younger prospect. Or a first round selection in the upcoming draft. It had been reported that the New York Knicks were showing interest in Payton but rebuffed the idea of having to part ways with promising rookie guard Frank Ntilikina. The team also had a deal in place that would’ve swapped Payton for former Denver Nugget guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who was later acquired by the Knicks. Indications are that Denver felt they should not have had to relinquish picks for Payton in a player swap deal. Rumors throughout the league indicated teams would be reluctant to part ways with any sort of first-round pick for Payton likely due to his expected salary increase this summer.

With all aspects considered, Orlando did in fact receive the best possible compensation at the time of the trade. They could have sign and traded him during the off-season but that’s under the assumption the team matched an offer sheet for him and would have had to take back salaries. It was better to go for the sure thing now than risk losing Payton for nothing later.

Orlando Magic: Last-minute Elfrid Payton trade an awful one

What’s Next For The Orlando Magic

“Do we want to lock in financially to a team that struggled in recent years?”, Weltman said during his recent interview with Fox Sports Florida.

The Magic failed to move on from other players tied to those struggling years before Thursday’s deadline.

One or more current Magic core players could find themselves playing for a new team before the start of next season.

Its been confirmed that Orlando wants more shooting from the guard position and newly anointed starter, DJ Augustin, provides just that. What fails to be seen is if Orlando will give Augustin an opportunity to win the starting job for next season or if they will look to solidify the position in the upcoming draft.

In all likelihood, the Magic are setting themselves up for what should be an active draft night in June.

Last summer, the Orlando Magic moved draft picks to create cap space and roster space to sign veterans. This summer they could choose to do more of the same. Or they could use their bevy of future picks to move down in the draft or gain another first round selection.

Its less likely Orlando decides to bring back more than two rookies this draft. They are not aiming to getting younger necessarily but want to improve as a team.

 

 

Should the Orlando Magic Retain Elfrid Payton Past This Season?

The Orlando Magic declined to extend fourth year point guard Elfrid Payton during the off-season. But now is the time for them to reconsider his value to the team for the future.

Elfrid Payton is not a household NBA name. His herky-jerky style is not a common style of play. He has had question marks about his overall team effectiveness while in the NBA.

But enough is enough.

Elfrid Payton has proved he belongs in the NBA.

He may never earn an NBA all-star bid. He may never have a chance to earn a max contract or be featured in a McDonald’s commercial. His career numbers will not fit the criteria for the NBA Hall-of-Fame.

But he is an effective NBA point guard and that is important for his career.

Individual Play Has Improved

The Orlando Magic should be done evaluating Payton this season.

Elfrid Payton’s play as of late has been similar to finding a loose crinkled $100 bill on the ground — unexpected, not very pretty, but greatly appreciated and valuable.

Elfrid Payton is the type of point guard who excels in a role that allows him to get out in transition. The Magic are a team who have done well when they played a faster paced game. Make no mistake about it, this Orlando Magic team is built to run — something they failed to do after a promising 8-4 start to the season. The Magic currently rank 8th in the league in pace at just over 102 possessions per game. In the Magic’s last 13 games, Payton has increased his scoring (15.4), three-point shooting percentage (47.6) and overall shooting percentage (52.8) — areas of question during his NBA tenure.

Ironically, Payton’s recent surge in play coincides with the time frame center Nikola Vucevic has been inactive with a hand injury.

Elfrid Payton Still Has Room To Improve

Payton has been in the NBA for four years now.

And he is only 23 years old.

At such a young age, it would be foolish to believe Payton is incapable of expanding his game further as his career progresses. Some players need a bit more time to peak and Payton may be one of those players.

This year, Payton has been able to find a very respectable three-point shot as he is converting on 40 percent of his 1.6 attempts per game — 10 percent over his career average.

With nearly the same core of teammates he has been with since he entered the league, growth was expected. The longer players are together, they should develop chemistry. In Payton’s case, this may have been the opposite. It’s a possibility his teammates were simply holding him back.

Last year, Payton went through a very similar phase. The Magic attempted to play a half court style centered through big men Nikola Vucevic and Serge Ibaka. After a trade to bring in a smaller, quicker Terrence Ross, Orlando and Payton witnessed different results. While the win column failed to grow, Payton blossomed into a triple-double threat in a more up-tempo style of play. He averaged 13.5 points per game, 7 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1 steal through the final 24 games of the 2016-2017 season.

In Payton’s last 10 games, he has been in double-digit scoring seven times. In four of those games, he went for 20 or more points. This is an indication he is capable of being a consistent offensive threat if given the opportunity — but he must remain aggressive.

Orlando has witnessed several other young prospects leave the team to blossom into fixed starters or all-stars somewhere else. The team would regret watching Payton develop into a legitimate threat at the point guard position with another franchise.

Life After Elfrid Payton

Let’s roll the dice and assume Payton is gone after season’s end. According to HoopsHype.com, the top three available point guards this summer are Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas and — Elfrid Payton. The next three rated free agent point guards are Tony Parker, Jeremy Lin, and Rajon Rondo. Of the list, only Paul and Thomas are scoring more points per game than Payton this season. Only Paul and Rondo are averaging more assists per game. A big question mark for every other player but Payton will come down to injuries and age. Everyone on the list has had a serious history with injuries or a battle with father time. So, if Orlando chooses to move on from Payton, free agency seems to be out of the equation.

A second option for Orlando would be to allow guards DJ Augustin and Shelvin Mack run the offense. Only the former could be a legit option as a starter. Augustin is a career backup guard but proved he can lead a fast pace offense. The issue with him for Orlando is his defensive limitations and limited upside. This move would be for the short-term as the team likely explores the next option — the draft.

And here we are, the last option for Orlando. The 2018 NBA Draft. The Orlando Magic are likely to be in position to draft another point guard this summer with their expected high lottery pick. The only legitimate names to consider would be Oklahoma’s Sooners Trae Young and Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic. Orlando could go with either player in an attempt to establish some type of fixture at the point guard position. What Orlando would have to figure out is if either player is ready and capable to start from day one and be effective — not two or three years later.

If the answer is no, Payton should find his way back with Orlando until one became ready.

Situational Lineups for the Orlando Magic for 2017-18 NBA Season

Payton by the Numbers Is Worth A Deal

Examining the numbers of the NBA, Payton is worth a new deal to the Orlando Magic. The average NBA starting point guard falls in one of two categories. The first category is being on a rookie contract — which Payton is currently on — and the second option is on an average annual salary contract of $18.3 million.

That’s right. The average starting point guard is making $18.3 million a year. Payton ranks 29th in terms of salary at just over $3 million a year. If Orlando wants to keep Payton it will not cost them $18 million dollars a year.

That means Orlando can get crafty and hopefully hold on to a solid point guard — on a much cheaper contract — while they figure out the long-term situation.

According to comparable stats, Payton ranks 12th in the NBA amongst all qualified point guards in PER at 18.15. That’s just below all-star guards such as Kyle Lowry (18.6), John Wall (19.48), and Kemba Walker (20.20). Amongst qualified guards, Payton ranks 3rd in field goal percentage this season converting on 52.4 percent of his attempts.

While these numbers may not hold much weight on a losing team, they do indicate that Payton is a valuable contributor to his team. This team.

Orlando must figure out a clear direction for the franchise and whether or not that includes retaining Payton beyond this season.

 

The Orlando Magic Have Options As The Trade Deadline Approaches

This is the time of year the trade winds start brewing in Orlando. The 2018 trade deadline is approaching and the Orlando Magic have options.

Wins are difficult to acquire for the Orlando Magic this year. Eight of the teams wins, came within the first 12 games of the season.

The 2017-18 season is going in the history books as another lost season for the Orlando Magic.

Hope for the team’s future is not as lost.

This is the time of year, teams look at their respective rosters and gauge if they will maneuver for a playoff run or if they are fishing for a top lottery pick. The Magic are headed towards the latter scenario.

This will be the first trade deadline for Hammond and president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, with the Orlando Magic. Weltman stated before the season began, that this would be an evaluation season for the team. He included the Orlando Magic would do their due diligence and evaluate what each players value is and would be towards the Magic’s future. And this upcoming deadline will prove to be a true test of their evaluation process.

The season has been a disappointment thus far at the midway point but the Magic will have an opportunity to change their misfortunes.

A few rumors have already surfaced that link the Magic towards a core shakeup. The most common name involved is wingman Evan Fournier. But the Magic are not looking to make a deal just to please the public’s perception of the teams flaws. If a favorable deal surfaces, then management will choose whether or not to make a deal. But don’t expect it to be for pennies on the dollar.

In an interview with ESPN Orlando Scott Anez, Jeff Weltman indicated the Magic would receive calls for just about everyone on the roster. Teams around the league view Orlando as a franchise who may make a deal to give them a sense of new direction. What’s not clear is the direction the Orlando Magic intend to take. Magic brass has been quite mum on their future intentions but the team is willing to listen to all offers. Only the deals aligning with the long-term vision will be given a second look. And this team has a few options ahead of the trade deadline.

Blow It Up and Build From Scratch

The Orlando Magic could choose to start the new era of Magic basketball by unloading everyone on the roster not in the long-term plans. The Magic have value in their current players and teams around the league recognize it. That talent just hasn’t been able to mesh well together in Orlando and that could lead the team into moving on from anyone not in the long-term plans.

Most of the current players would be easy to move because of their current contract status but realistically all of them could be serviceable to another team under the right situation.

A move of this magnitude would mean the Magic would have to embrace another three to five years of rebuilding.

As of now, reports indicate forward Aaron Gordon and rookie Jonathan Issac to be out of trade inclusions. Those two figure to be the two players the current regime intend to build around. Everyone else should be expendable for the right price under this plan.

Retain the Current Core of Players and Add Pieces

The Orlando Magic are not a team incapable of winning. Weltman stated the Magic were an astounding 8-4 when everyone was healthy and played their team roles. Clearly an indication the team is capable of winning. They sported a top five offensive unit during that stretch and top five overall net efficiency rating. But the team had deficiencies in the rebounding area and efficient scoring from the guard positions.

Those needs could be addressed via the draft and or free agency this summer. If the team felt they could win sooner with current players on the roster then the core may be around longer than this season.

A key issue the Magic have endured this season is injuries. Injuries may as well have an assigned Orlando Magic jersey. The Magic were off to a torrid start shooting the ball that simply couldn’t be sustained all season. But with a healthy roster, the team could have competed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s already been confirmed the Magic have scouted highly rated players like Oklahoma Sooner’s Trae Young and Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic this season. Both players offer dynamics that the team currently does not possess in playmaking and shooting. Orlando will consider both players if they become available to the team during the 2018 NBA Draft.

The Magic are not done scouting and will continue to gather information on other top rated NBA prospects including top rated front court players like Arizona Wildcat Deandre Ayton, Duke Blue Devil Marvin Bagley III, and Missouri Tiger Michael Porter Jr.

The newcoming NBA rookies are sure to be intriguing. But the Orlando Magic will have to be strategic in free agency as well to fill out the roster. Last summer, the Magic signed veteran free agents who could contribute to the team immediately. This summer should be no different. The team must continue to add strong veterans who can mentor and lead this ball club into a winning season.

While maintaining the current core players past this year may not be a fan favorite idea, it’s highly plausible and must remain in play if the team values improving and winning over simply getting younger and starting from scratch.

Trade For A Bona-Fide Superstar

The last scenario that favors Orlando at the moment, is to push for an established star player. The Orlando Magic ar not the star chasing type of team. Usually they end up with a borderline star type of player — or a player past his prime. This regime will be no different. Current reports indicate Orlando would be willing to pull the trigger only if the right deal came along.

The Magic are not an attractive team for the league’s star players. But that doesn’t mean they should not make the pitch If they find a star worth pursuing.

Several league marquee players are on the trade market. Their current situations are not quite panning out as expected. That’s a window of opportunity for Orlando — however small it may be.

The Magic will have a difficult task of signing a star player outright this summer. A trade is the only realistic option. To do so, Orlando must first be able to convince a star player of greener pastures soon to come. Only 10 teams will have more cap space than the Magic this summer to pursue players. Combine that idea with the thought of playing with a potential number one pick and a player like Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac and it just may be possible.

Players such as Oklahoma Thunder’s Paul George and Charlotte Hornets Kemba Walker are a couple of players the Magic could choose to target for a rebuild. George makes the most sense due to his long history with head coach Frank Vogel. But nothing is likely to gain traction until closer to the February 8th trade deadline.

Whatever process Hammond and Weltman decide to take the team, the Magic community will have to trust that it’s for best.

But also trust that it won’t come at a discounted price as the Magic have options.

Post Game Reactions: Orlando Magic Welcome Elfrid Payton Back With A Win Over The New York Knicks

The Orlando Magic found their offense Wednesday night against the visiting New York Knicks. Losers of two in a row, the Orlando Magic of old returned and continued their strong team effort play defeating the Knicks 112-99.

The New York Knicks (6-5) were expecting to have Kristaps Porzingis on their trip to Florida. The Orlando Magic (7-4) were hoping but not expecting to have point guard Elfrid Payton. Both received unexpected surprises.

A little over an hour before game time, New York revealed Porzingis would not play due to a right ankle sprain and right elbow contusion. Around the same time, the Orlando Magic announced Elfrid Payton would return from his eight game absence due to a nagging hamstring injury.

The Return of Elfrid Payton

The Magic offense showed why Elfrid Payton was so valuable to what they want to do this season. Payton consistently pushed the ball in transition and found the open man either cutting to the rim or spot up for an open three. On the opening play of the game, Payton found Aaron Gordon for an easy open alley-oop connection. A few plays later, he found an open Evan Fournier in the corner for a three. After the game, Payton stated that was his purpose. “That’s what I’m here for, to make everybody job as easy as possible”. Payton finished with 11 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds on the night.

Offensive Flow and Tempo

The Orlando Magic ended the game with 30 assists on 46 made baskets. It was apparent the Magic needed Elfrid Payton back for the offense to find fluidity once again. The Magic converted on 54 percent of their shot attempts and shot a sizzling 46 percent from three.

They seemed to have returned to their old selves as everyone contributed in a Magic win. The Magic had three players score 20 points or more and stayed true to their playing style of pushing the tempo every chance possible. Speaking to Evan Fournier after the game, he reiterated the importance of having Payton back for the offense. “It definitely feels better. We only had one point guard for two games, and we lost those games by 20. Again, that’s not a coincidence.” Fournier tallied 23 points for the Magic.

Center Nikola Vucevic led the Magic in scoring with 24 points and forward Aaron Gordon added 21 points, including going 4-6 from three.

Defensive Tenacity

On the defensive end, Orlando kept their hands active. The Magic forced the Knicks into 23 turnovers and several key blocks down the stretch. Orlando played smothering defense holding the Knicks to just 23 points in the fourth period. Forward Aaron Gordon reminded his former teammate, Kyle O’Quinn of the Magic defense with an emphatic block at the rim that created another Knicks turnover. The Magic had a season high 16 steals with Fournier responsible for creating five.

No Porzingis, Big Problem For the Knicks

The New York Knicks felt the absence of Kristaps Porzingis and his ability to create offense. Porzingis is second in scoring in the NBA at just over 30 points a game. His absence and points needed to be replicated in order for the Knicks to have a chance at pulling off the upset win in Orlando. The only Knick to step up and show some consistent scoring for the Knicks was Tim Hardaway Jr. who led the game in scoring with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Orlando Magic , New York Knicks , Elfrid Payton , Tim Hardaway Jr. , The Oliver's Twist

Forward Michael Beasley started for Porzingis and was inefficient and ineffective finishing with four points on the night in 20 minutes of game action.

Orlando Magic Are Trending Up With Latest Win-Loss Projections

The Knicks kept pace in the game until the fourth quarter. That’s when swingman Jonathon Simmons single-handedly pushed the game out of reach for the Knicks. Simmons entered the fourth quarter and scored 11 straight points to essentially secure the Magic lead. He finished with 16 points. Vogel credits Simmons being back on the wing in Payton’s return as the reason for his effectiveness. “When we’re at our best, its with the starting unit doing what they are doing and Simmons coming in and running the show with the second unit.”

The Magic will have Thursday off as they prepare for a four game west coast trip beginning Friday night against the Phoenix Suns (4-8).

Pregame: Will the Orlando Magic Put A Halt on The New York Knicks Winning Ways?

The New York Knicks are coming off an incredible win over the Charlotte Hornets last night. Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis is on a torrid scoring start to the season. But the Orlando Magic have found success over the league’s premiere big men led teams so far this season.

The Orlando Magic (6-4) are coming off their first set of back to back losses on the season. The New York Knicks (6-4) are coming to Orlando winners of their last three games. Tonight, will be a good measuring stick for both clubs.

Elfrid Payton Status Remains Unclear

The Orlando Magic were wishful that starting point guard Elfrid Payton would be rested and ready for tonight’s game. After Tuesday’s practice, team officials are debating whether to continue to rest Payton after he strained his right hamstring earlier this season.

Frank Vogel indicated Payton felt soreness and tightness in his left hamstring and might not play.

“He looked great again,” Vogel said. “He still has some tightness in there, that we’re concerned about. So we’ll see how he feels. If it’s significant, then we’ll hold him out again. We want to be smart about it. Hopefully, he’s able to go.”

If Orlando is without Payton for the ninth consecutive game, it could be a tough night for the offense averaging just 85.5 points per game without Payton and reserve DJ Augustin.

Kristaps Porzingis’ Scoring Streak

Porzingis enters Wednesday’s contest averaging 30.2 points per game. He ranks second only behind Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Porzingis set a Knicks franchise record for most points in the first 10 games of a season with 300 total points after Tuesdays home win against the Charlotte Hornets. He has scored 30 or more points seven times this season and will likely need to make it eight if the New York Knicks have any chance of winning tonight’s game.

Orlando Magic Are Trending Up With Latest Win-Loss Projections

Keys to the Game For the Orlando Magic

The Magic will have to pick their poison tonight against the Knicks. Without a true defensive ace to guard the 7’3 Kristaps Porzingis, the team will likely use a mixture of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Nikola Vucevic. Gordon expects to see significant time against him tonight.

“He’s a tough matchup for sure.” Gordon said. “I’m just going to go out there and make it difficult for him, take him out of his comfort zone, crowd him, be athletic, run him up and down the court.”

The Magic have cooled off from their hot three-point shooting over the past two games, and will look to bounce back against the Knicks.

Milwaukee Bucks Have A Dynamic Duo After Agreeing to Trade For Guard Eric Bledsoe

The Milwaukee Bucks used to be a one man wrecking show. MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a mission this NBA season. And now he has a new sidekick to help him push Milwaukee over the hump in Eric Bledsoe.

The Phoenix Suns have done their parts in moving on from the Eric Bledsoe area in the desert. Bledsoe has spent the last five seasons with the Phoenix Suns. He played his first three seasons as a reserve for the Los Angeles Clippers. The sudden alteration in roster decisions comes after Bledsoe sent out a controversial tweet. A tweet referencing remaining a member of the Phoenix Suns.

And now it seems as if Bledsoe has received his wish. He will be sent to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Greg Monroe and a future first round pick. That is a steal for the Milwaukee Bucks as they attempt to bolster their lineup for a deep playoff run. The last two years, Bledsoe averaged over 20 points per game for the Suns. His explosiveness and ability to score in bunches is what makes him a viable threat. He is a perfect candidate to play Robin to a featured Batman — a Giannis type of Batman

Antetokounmpo has been on a torrid start to this season. So far in nine games, he has averaged 31 points per game to go along with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Adding Bledsoe as a running mate only further strengthens their ability to run. Opponents should once again, “Fear the Deer.”

The Milwaukee Bucks knew they needed to make a relevancy move to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference and this move is the type of move that makes them near conference favorites.

While the Bucks have yet to make formal announcements of their intentions for Eric Bledsoe, its safe to assume he will be a team starter. The Bucks scoring offense ranks in the bottom tier of the league with an average of 103 points per game (21). They do a solid job of converting their field goal attempts (48.2%, 2nd) and converting on three pointers (39.5%, 3rd) but they don’t attempt enough shots outside of Antetokounmpo. Defensively, the Bucks could use a boost as they allow 107.9 points per game to opponents for a -2.3 net rating.

The Bucks are banking on Bledsoe being able to help increase the offensive pace of the offense in transition and create mismatches in the half court sets. Currently they rank 22nd in the league with a pace of 98.76 possessions per game. Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo could become the next Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant type of one-two punch on offense.

At least the Milwaukee Bucks hope so.

Orlando Magic Power Rankings Round-Up: Week Three

The Orlando Magic stumbled a bit last week as they suffered their first set of back-to-back losses on the 2017-18 NBA season. Week three of the NBA wasn’t kind to Orlando as they attempted to battle through adversity. As a result, the power rankings heading into week four tumbled for the team.

Week three of the NBA power rankings witnessed the Orlando Magic return to earth. The team lost their second starting point guard in DJ Augustin to a hamstring injury and the results were catastrophic. Their once high-powered offense became stagnant as ball movement slowed and open shots began to not fall as frequently. As the Magic finished with a 2-2 record.

The Magic found victories on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies but lost both contests at home against the lowly Chicago Bulls and conference leading Boston Celtics in what transpired into blowout losses. As a result, they loss their top 10 rankings in most outlets weekly power rankings.

ESPN – Current ranking: 14 , Previous ranking: 12

While the rest of the world waits for Aaron Gordon to cool off from beyond the arc, Gordon continued to defy the odds last week. He knocked down 9 of 17 triples and has now scored in double figures in all eight games this season, after doing so in just 61 percent of his games last season. — Micah Adams

NBA – Current ranking: 13 , Previous ranking: 9

Whether it was regression to the mean, injuries to their point guards, or a combination of both, the Magic offense that ranked second in October ranks 30th in November after a couple of ugly losses (without both Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin) to Chicago and Boston. Their other four starters have scored 121 points per 100 possessions in 86 total minutes with either Augustin or Payton at point guard, but just 96 in 69 minutes with either Shelvin Mack or Jonathon Simmons. Payton is expected to return from his eight-game absence against New York on Wednesday.

USA Today – Current ranking: 11 , Previous ranking: 14

The Magic entered the weekend leading the league in three-point percentage on offense (44.2%) and defense (28.6%) then proceeded to shoot 16-for-64 from deep in losses to Chicago and Boston.

Sports Illustrated – Current ranking: 18 , Previous ranking: 19

Tickets are on sale now for the regression tour. Somehow Orlando pulled out a win over Memphis, but blowout losses to the Bulls (yikes!) and Celtics should keep the Magic right here.

Orlando Magic Are Trending Up With Latest Win-Loss Projections

Overall Analysis

As embarrassing as the last two losses have been in Magic Kingdom, the Orlando Magic have not shown regression in their two losses. They are simply a team without their starting or reserve point guard trying to stay afloat while they await their returns from injury. If the landslide continues against their opponents this week, then expect a landslide in the power rankings next week. The Orlando Magic face the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets and need to find their lost shooting touch from deep.

Statistically, the Orlando Magic still hold favorable ranks amongst the league. They rank 5th in pace per game at 104.4. They took a dip in offensive rating at 105.3 — good enough for 12th in the league. Their defensive rating remains top five at 100.9. And they cap it all off with an overall net rating of +4.3 which keeps them in the top 10 of the league at position nine.

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