It's hard to know what to make of the Orlando Magic. They're a game out of a playoff spot with a 6-9 record, but rank 29th in NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions). They're one of the league's most improved defensive teams, but only two teams have taken a bigger step backward offensively.
When you consider both ends of the floor, the Magic have played the ugliest basketball in the league, with Orlando and its opponents combining to score just 98.6 points per 100 possessions. That shouldn't bee too much of a surprise given that the Magic's new coach is Frank Vogel, who had some great defenses and bad offenses in Indiana.
The Basics - Orlando Magic
Having scored a paltry 87 points per 100 possessions over their last five games, the Magic host the Washington Wizards, another Eastern Conference team trying to climb out of Lotteryville, on League Pass on Friday (7 p.m. ET).
The Magic have the point differential of a team that's 3-12.
No team has a bigger discrepancy between their actual wins and their "expected" wins, a number based on point differential. The Magic haven't won a game by more than eight points, but have lost five by double-figures, including two by 26 and 32 points.
Entering Friday's action, they sit in 11th place in the East, only a game out of a playoff spot. But they're down with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers in regard to point differential.
To add to the pessimism regarding the Magic's early start, consider that they've played the league's third easiest schedule thus far, taking opponent record, game location and days of rest into account. Only two of their first 15 games have come against teams that currently have winning records. They've played three games with a rest advantage (where they didn't play the night before and their opponent did) and only one with a rest disadvantage.
More than likely, this is closer to a 19-win team (what their point differential says) than a 33-win team (what their record has them on pace for). And the schedule begins to get tougher next week.
The Magic rank last in the league in effective field goal percentage at 45.4 percent.
If you want to know why the Magic have the worst offense in the league, start with shooting. It's the most important thing in basketball and Orlando ranks as a below-average team from every area of the floor. But the Magic's perimeter shooting is a bigger problem than their shooting in the paint, where they rank 27th in field goal percentage.
From outside the paint, the Magic have an *effective field goal percentage of 41.0 percent, the worst mark in the league. In fact, over a full season, that would be the lowest effective field goal percentage from outside the paint since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
* Effective field goal percentage (eFG%) = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
Through Wednesday, Jeff Green (34.5 percent), Mario Hezonja (28.4 percent) and Elfrid Payton (25.4 percent) rank 157th, 163rd and 165th in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint shots among the 166 players who have attempted at least 50 shots from the outside.
Aaron Gordon (37.5 percent on 92 attempts) and Nikola Vucevic (40.9 percent on 82 attempts) are also well below the league average (46.9 percent). On the Magic, only Evan Fournier (50.0 percent) and Serge Ibaka (50.6 percent) have been above average shooters from the outside. Bad shooting begets bad spacing, especially when you consider that one of the Magic's only good shooters (Fournier) is their best playmaker.
All of the Gordon, Green, Hezonja, Payton and Vucevic group have seen a big drop in their shooting from outside the paint, though all of them except Hezonja were below the league average last season too. It's not like they have good shooters that just aren't shooting well. They have bad shooters that are shooting really bad.
Still, there's hope for improvement as the season goes along. They can't be this bad, right?
But it's not like the Magic have faced a bunch of great defenses. Five of their 15 games have been against teams that currently rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, about the ratio you'd expect over a full season.
Magic opponents have attempted just 23 free throws per 100 shots from the field.
That's the fifth lowest rate in the league and a big improvement from a mark of 29 per 100 (23rd) last season. Only the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers have seen a bigger improvement in opponent free throw rate.
The Magic still rank low in offensive free throw rate, a problem that has plagued them since they traded Dwight Howard. But they're slightly improved in that regard and, after getting outscored by 2.7 points per game at the free throw last season, they're only getting outscored by 0.3 this season.
The Magic also rank in the top five in regard to improvement in opponent effective field goal percentage. They're one of five teams that has reduced the percentage of opponent shots that come from both the restricted area and 3-point range.
Things may not be looking good this year, but the road back to the playoffs begins with defense. And Vogel at least has the Magic moving in the right direction on that end of the floor.
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