A 25-57 season for the Orlando Magic a year ago was enough to oust Frank Vogel after his second year at the helm, and the franchise decided to tab former Charlotte Hornets lead man Steve Clifford as the team’s new head coach.
The Magic get their first shot at notching win No. 1 on the season on opening night when they face in-state rival, the Miami Heat, tonight at the Amway Center.
A ton of questions swirls around Orlando as they head into its home opener versus Miami, as the roster didn’t get a huge shakeup and the front office is hoping Clifford can mold the young talent they’ve accumulated over the past few seasons. From power forward Aaron Gordon to this summer’s No. 6 overall pick Mo Bamba, the Magic are loaded with youthful talent across the board but we that turnover into wins early on?
We get our first look at Orlando tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, so we take a closer look at a few keys to tonight’s matchup.
Feed the frontcourt early and often
There’s no reason why Orlando’s frontcourt won’t be the featured mainstay of the team, as most of the club’s capital is invested in the big men. Gordon is coming off a season that saw him sign a long-term extension, so expect him to see his touches, with Bamba and Nikola Vucevic also getting in the mix.
Don’t allow ‘Father Prime’ to get going
Yes, we know that Dwyane Wade has been restricted to more of a role player these days for the Miami Heat, but his impact off the bench can’t be denied. Wade showed flashes last postseason that old ‘Father Prime’ can show up and show out, so the Magic’s reserves must make sure he doesn’t go off.
Mix it up
Clifford is working with a roster that closely resembles the one Orlando sported last season, but he’ll have to play around with lineups to find the right chemistry. He’ll start out with the backcourt of DJ Augustin and Evan Fournier, but depth after that could be of concern. Second-year player Jonathan Isaac, last season’s first-round pick, will be expected to have a bigger role this 2018-2019 campaign.