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The Orlando Magic have clearly been one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season. With Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard, and Ryan Anderson out of the picture, the Magic were projected to be one of the worst squads in the league.
Instead, Orlando has been borderline average, thanks in large part due to Jacque Vaughn’s coaching wizardry and the players competing hard on a nightly basis. Veterans like J.J. Redick have grown into bigger roles, almost out of necessity, and rookies like Andrew Nicholson have contributed immediately.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Magic can continue to overachieve as the dog days of the season near.
With one-quarter of the regular season in the books, the Magic Basketball crew gets together to examines some of the top storylines surrounding Orlando’s surprising 8-13 start.
Most pleasant surprise so far?
Nate Drexler: Orlando’s ability to win as a team. The old adage is that if you play hard as a unit, you will find success. The Magic are really proving that with their blend of young talent and veteran role players. It didn’t seem possible from the outset, but the way these guys are relying on each other to win games and executing in that reliance is both pleasant and surprising.
Sean Highkin: The two players the Magic got from the Sixers in the Dwight Howard trade — both of whom were seen as throw-ins when the trade was initially being dissected. Nikola Vucevic has blossomed into a reliable defender and rebounder as the Magic’s starting center. Moe Harkless has the beginnings of a solid defensive skill-set.
Noam Schiller: Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic started strongly as a rookie in Philadelphia, but by the second half of last season, he was shooting so poorly that Doug Collins found him unplayable. Be it a year of maturation or a friendly system that allows for mistakes, the Montenegrin big man has started every game and is performing relatively well.