Magic Have the Pieces to be Elite Defensively, Now and in the Future

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - The Magic are unique in that they have a few players who are capable of transforming into NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidates in the future.

Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba – who are 23, 21 and 20 years old respectively – each have the physical tools to become three of the best defenders in the entire league.

You could even argue, as demonstrated during Thursday’s win over the Bulls in Mexico City, that all three are already elite on that side of the floor.

Much stronger this season than in prior years, Gordon has done a great job forcing opponents into tough shots, especially when they try backing him down in the paint. The five-year NBA veteran has very good lateral movement, so good that opponents have a hard time eluding him off the dribble.

Watch him prevent fellow former Arizona Wildcat Lauri Markkanen from beating him off the dribble, not once but twice on the same possession:

Isaac has incredibly quick hands and reflexes. It’s challenging for opponents to deliver entry passes into the post when he is guarding the ball. WATCH:

Bamba’s length is truly unreal. That 7-foot-10 wingspan makes it tough for drivers to shoot over him. WATCH:

What’s most amazing about this team, though, is that pretty much everyone on the roster is above average on defense.

Not previously known for his defense, Nikola Vucevic has been terrific guarding the pick-and-roll. D.J. Augustin, who drew a key offensive foul on Kris Dunn in the waning moments of Thursday’s victory, is feisty and unafraid of contact. Both Terrence Ross and Jerian Grant come up with a lot of deflections while Evan Fournier and Jonathon Simmons are excellent on-ball defenders.

Repeatedly emphasized by Steve Clifford since the start of training camp, the Magic must become a top 10 defensive team if they want to accomplish their goals this season. Their effort against Chicago, which scored just 91 points and attempted only 18 3-pointers, was a good sign moving forward.

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