This or That: More Interesting Markelle Fultz Stat, 2019 & 2020 Comparison and More
More Impressive Stretch: Winning 22 of 31 to finish last season or winning 8 of 12 before the hiatus began this year?
Maybe it’s a silly debate, just based on the difference in number of games. It’s hard, and perhaps a bit ridiculous, to compare a 31-game stretch to a 12-game span, no doubt. But, when digging a bit deeper into it, one could theoretically argue what the Magic were doing before the stoppage, albeit different, was just as impressive as to what they accomplished at the end of the prior season. While their defense wasn’t nearly as good – the 2018-19 Magic had the NBA’s best defense over their final 31 games – Orlando was playing its best offense in a decade in the few weeks before the hiatus. The Magic, in fact, ranked No. 1 in the NBA in offensive efficiency in that period, averaging 120.8 points and 29.1 assists.
Opinion: The more impressive of the two has to be the 22 of 31 in 2019, but it really felt like this year’s Magic were heading down a similar path, at least in terms of wins, if not for the league having to pause the season.
Which reserve will make a bigger impact during the Magic’s seeding games: D.J. Augustin or Michael Carter-Williams?
Both were playing extremely well before the hiatus. Their numbers were comparable, too. Over the final nine games before the stoppage, Augustin averaged 10.4 points and Carter-Williams 10.2 points. Most significant about MCW’s production in that stretch was his 42.1 percent 3-point shooting – notable considering he’s a 25.6 percent shooter from downtown in his career.
Opinion: The Magic will obviously need both to be effective in the seeding games and playoffs, assuming Orlando qualifies. Augustin’s floor leadership and outside shooting will be key, as will MCW’s defense and versatility. For the Magic to move up to the No. 7 spot in the East and give their first round postseason opponent a good run, they will need to be better defensively, which is why MCW is my choice.
Will the added muscle help Mo Bamba more on offense or defense when the season resumes?
Kudos to Bamba for getting in excellent physical shape while quarantining. The Magic’s second-year center told team season ticket holders earlier this summer he gained 28 pounds of muscle during the shutdown – truly an incredible transformation in a relatively short period of time. That healthy weight is going to help Bamba battle inside with the big boys.
Opinion: It’s going to take a full offseason for the recently-turned 22-year-old to enhance his offensive skills. For the time being, expect him to do most of his damage from behind the 3-point line, where he shot 35.6 percent before the break. On defense, however, his impact could be more substantial with that added strength. From boxing out for rebounds to denying opposing centers from backing him down in the post, Bamba has the potential to be a real force on that side of the court.
More Interesting Markelle Fultz Stat: His durability or his field goal percentage in clutch moments?
Fultz, who was acquired by the Magic at the 2019 trade deadline from the 76ers, missed just one game before the hiatus and that was because of a stomach virus – truly extraordinary considering he appeared in just 33 games in his first two NBA seasons combined. He also was terrific down the stretch of tight games. With the game tied or his team ahead or behind by three points or less in the final three minutes, the 6-foot-3, 209-pounder made 10 of his 14 shot attempts (71.4 percent).
Opinion: This is a tough one. Considering some questioned last summer whether he’d actually play this season, the best choice is probably his durability – although shooting over 70 percent in those pressure-packed moments is a rare statistical feat for any player.
Team Magic would match up best with in first round of playoffs: Bucks, Raptors or Celtics?
The Magic hope to leapfrog the Nets for the seventh seed in the East. That would lock them in to a playoff spot for the second straight year. Orlando didn’t do well against any of those opponents in the regular season, going 0-4 against the Bucks, 0-3 against the Raptors and 0-2 against the Celtics.
Opinion: If Giannis Antetokounmpo, the likely MVP for a second straight season, is healthy and playing, nobody wants Milwaukee in the first round. Nobody thought Toronto would end up with the second best record in the East after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency. Boston got better from last year, mostly because Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have significantly improved. Just judging off what expectations were going into the year, the Raptors seem more vulnerable, especially if the Celtics are getting good production from Gordon Hayward, their X-factor when the season resumes.