From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the Orlando Magic, who, after a decent start, sunk like a stone to the league’s worst record in the league last season.
98.8 - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Magic defense through Dec. 19.
Does anyone remember that the Magic were 12-13 (ninth in the Eastern Conference) through their first 25 games last season? The key to that solid start was the sixth-ranked defense in the league. But from Dec. 20 on, the Magic went 8-49 and ranked 30th defensively, allowing 110.2 points per 100 possessions.
So what happened on Dec. 19? Glen Davis sprained his left shoulder and was lost for 11 games. He returned for nine games in January, but then broke his left foot and was done for the season.
Davis isn’t exactly Kevin Garnett when it comes to defense. He’s not as mobile, he’s not as intense and he’s not as vocal. Nobody is.
But Davis did spend four seasons learning from KG in Boston. And compared to the rest of Orlando’s roster, he has a ton of experience. That can go a long way when it’s time to defend a pick-and-roll…
The Magic’s strength of schedule wasn’t great in those first 25 games, but they did beat Denver, the Lakers (on the road) and Golden State twice, allowing the Warriors (who finished with the 10th best offense in the league) to score just 96 points per 100 possessions in the two games.
Much was made of the offensive production of some of the Magic’s young players in the second half of the season. There’s a lot of promise in guys like Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic.
But over the last 57 games of the season, their team defense was absolutely dreadful. They didn’t defend the paint or the 3-point line very well, and they barely forced any turnovers.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that their defense in those first couple of months was at its best, allowing just 95.5 points per 100 possessions, with Davis on the floor with fellow vets Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo. The trio missed a total of 92 games last season.
His absence will likely keep them from being a decent defensive team at the start of the season. But if he can somehow come back at close to 100 percent, he could certainly spark an improvement and make Orlando much less of a walkover for opponents looking to pad their record.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions