The Orlando Magic have not won over 40 games since Dwight Howard last put on an Orlando uniform (where they were 52-30 in 2010-11). Poor front office decisions, many roster moves, and chemistry issues have severely hampered their ability to succeed. With a couple of exciting youngsters and solid role players, Orlando is finally able to respectively compete on a nightly basis. Although there is a good chance they will miss the Eastern Conference Playoffs for a seventh straight season, not all hope is lost. Realistically, the Magic have a young core and are a piece or two, away along with player development, from being an exciting squad. For now, however, they are stuck in a transition period. Here are three X-factors that will decide how successful the Magic are in 2018-19.
X-Factor #1: Aaron Gordon’s Perimeter Shooting
Through his first four seasons, Aaron Gordon has improved his scoring with each passing year. Coming off a 2017-18 campaign in which he contributed 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game (all career-highs), many thought he would test the waters in restricted free agency to see how much money he could get and it was unknown how much Orlando would decide to offer. All speculations were buried when Gordon and the Magic agreed to a four-year deal worth $84 million, locking him under contract until age 26.
As one of the most athletic forwards in the game, Gordon has been adding to his offensive arsenal. However, one aspect that he is lacking in is perimeter shooting. The former Arizona Wildcat has shot 31.1 percent in his career from behind the arc, but his efficiency has been constantly rising; he shot the ball at a career-high 33.6 percent clip from deep last season.
Why does it matter how well he can shoot considering that he is a big man? For starters, it never hurts to add another scoring aspect to an already dynamic player, but Gordon holds the key to unlocking the Magic’s offensive potential. By being able to hit the three-point shot with some consistency, he creates a headache for opposing defenses. Not only does it make him a harder matchup for other forwards, but it opens up the floor as a whole. The other young members of the frontcourt core, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba, would benefit tremendously.
Gordon spacing the floor would open up the paint to allow both Isaac and Bamba to use their craftiness from the mid-range to the low post. Having three players clog up the lane creates bigger roadblocks, especially for the Magic. It is unknown whether Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford will place Isaac and Gordon in certain positions when they are on the court together, but signs point to allowing both to play the wing and at the four.
Next Up: X-Factor #2