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Which team do you believe in more: the 5-2 Orlando Magic or the 5-3 Detroit Pistons?
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David Aldridge: Despite their loss to the Lakers Tuesday, I’m still more Team Detroit at present, for a couple of reasons. Last season, Orlando was 29th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (.328) and 29th in Offensive Rating (101.2). Through the first two weeks of this season, the Magic is first in 3-point percentage (.441) and second in Offensive Rating (110.9). I just don’t think that kind of perimeter turnaround is sustainable over the course of an entire season. Big men Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic look comfortable shooting 3-pointers so far, but it’s a long season and big guys wear down. The Magic does have significant upside, to be sure (Gordon playing more at center? Sign me up!), and if there’s one thing coach Frank Vogel can build, it’s a defense-first team.
But I just like Detroit’s group. I’m a big Avery Bradley guy; he’s a winner and almost everything he does on the court leads to more winning. We’ll see if Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson can be the answers up front, but IMHO, there’s no reason Harris can’t continue to be a go-to guy. Plus, Andre Drummond looks poised for a big ol’ season, and if he gets back to being disruptive defensively and a Hoover on the boards, Detroit can compete against anyone. It would help them if more people actually show up at Little Caesars Arena.
Steve Aschburner: Gotta stick with the Pistons for now. Their loss to the Lakers Tuesday was a disappointment in the context of their back-to-back success over the LA Clippers and the Golden State Warriors, a potential sign of feeling too easily satisfied on the West Coast trip. Detroit has no business even knowing the definition of “complacency.” But I did see them bouncing back this season for a playoff spot in the East, which I didn’t project for the Magic. Orlando has more offensive firepower and talent that’s been due to mature, but let’s see how they’re doing a month from now – nine of their 15 November games are on the road, including a four-game swing out West — before buying in.
Shaun Powell: Wow … I’ll give the edge to the Pistons only because their wins (at Clippers and Warriors) are of higher quality, but it’s almost a push. It’s possible that we’re seeing Aaron Gordon finally turn the corner in Orlando, and right on time since it’s a contract year. And likewise for Tobias Harris (interestingly, a Magic giveaway) in Detroit. Both teams made solid offseason pickups in Avery Bradley (Pistons) and Jonathon Simmons (Magic), too. Good to see these franchises are feeling frisky, even in the weak East, although you can’t be totally sold on their staying power until they prove otherwise.
John Schuhmann: The Magic have the much better point differential, but their five wins are against teams that are otherwise 15-15, while the Pistons’ five wins (highlighted by back-to-back road wins over the Clippers and Warriors) are over teams that are otherwise 20-9. It’s also clear that Orlando’s numbers from 3-point range — they’ve shot 44 percent and their opponents have shot 28 percent — are not sustainable. Aaron Gordon as a full-time four (instead of starting the season at small forward like he did last year) makes a big difference and Frank Vogel knows what he’s doing, but Detroit has more experienced talent, with Reggie Jackson (Tuesday’s game in L.A. notwithstanding) and Andre Drummond both looking much better than they did last season.
Sekou Smith: Right now it’s fun to see both of these teams we didn’t necessarily expect to be playoff contenders come out of the gate as strong as they have. Sometimes you hope you are wrong when you pan a team (like I did to the Magic in our season preview). I believe the Pistons have more of what it takes to sustain a higher level of play this season, based mostly on personnel that fits the playoff profile. But I’m anxious to see if the Magic, led by a couple of my favorite players (Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Simmons), can continue to defy the preseason expectations — or lack thereof. There’s something about the “no-one-believes-in-us” attitude Orlando has that can fuel their fire in ways internal motivation simply cannot.
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