How would a 32-50 season set with Orlando Magic fans? Better yet, how many disappointing post-game press conferences could Coach Frank Vogel stand? Or how many would the front office accept?
If ESPN’s “real plus-minus,” (RPM), is correct, another lottery pick finish is in the cards for Orlando. Such a record would be good for 10th place in the NBA Eastern Conference, narrowly behind the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers, but just ahead of the Paul George-less Indiana Pacers.
Despite bringing in top draft pick Jonathan Isaac, free agents Jonathan Simmons, defensive-minded guard Shelvin Mack, sharpshooter Arron Afflalo (making his second tour with Orlando) and St. Petersburg native Marresse Speights to add depth at all positions, RPM was not impressed.
Orlando is projected to pick up only three more wins than they had in 2016-17. Defense, a prime focus of Vogel, is predicted to be the culprit.
“RPM isn’t optimistic about the Magic’s chances of improving last season’s disappointing defense, ranked 24th in the league on a per-possession basis,” the summary said. “In fact, with newcomer Marresse Speights claiming regular minutes in the frontcourt, Orlando is projected to drop to 27th in defensive rating.”
RPM operates on a complicated formula that rates each player by what happens to his team what that player is on the floor. It is not, of course, fool-proof.
For example, RPM correctly pegged the type of season the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets would put together. On the other hand, they missed on the success of the Milwaukee Bucks making the playoffs and the Detroit Pistons missing them.
If RPM is concerned about the Magic’s defense, coaches will tell you that playing hardnosed defense is a product of desire. If Vogel can get his team to consistently play hard, they have a chance to do much better than many expect and perhaps make the playoffs.
The good news is the Eastern Conference is wide open below the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Only one true superstar, LeBron James, remains in the East.
With 32 wins, the Magic would be projected to miss the playoffs by three games. That is not much more than a rounding error.
Despite the poor prognostication, let’s go ahead and play the season anyway.