Projecting the NBA using xWARP: Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic this year have got promise and one of my favorite young players to enter the league in a while in Victor Oladipo. They also have a long way to go to be any sort of winning basketball club. Young players and thus young teams tend to struggle on the defensive end, and teams without an established star player to act as the center of the team’s solar system, allowing the lesser lights to settle into planetary rotation, tend to fall into offensive blackholes. The Magic tick both those boxes, and as a result, they probably won’t win very many games this year.

Relative to their likely low winning percentage, they should still be a fun watch, as Oladipo is the rare perimeter rookie who has the tools, determination, and awareness to make a positive impact on that end, and he has some playmaking ability on the other end. In addition, the continued development of Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic piling up double doubles is enough to make things interesting. So what do the numbers from Nathan Walker and my guesses on minutes suggest is a likely win total for this team?

After adjusting the projection for wider league context, the Magic look like a 25 win club. Not great, Bob! But this isn’t a team that’s interested in winning this year. Orlando is, as literally everyone you will read about this team will no doubt inform you, playing the long game. They’re adopting the rebuilding model of the former Sonics, now Thunder, along with fellow expected cellar-dweller, Philadelphia. No shame in that, really. They don’t have the means to go out and get much in the way of established veteran talent and the aforementioned trio of Oladipo, Harris, and Vucevic need developmental minutes. If Oladipo is as good as I think he will be and if the Magic are able to hit on their expected high draft pick in next year’s loaded draft, the future looks much brighter for Orlando than their record this year might otherwise indicate. This is a team that could be a sneaky fun League Pass team, if you’re into watching young players develop and get better, and just want to see Nik Vucevic grab ALL OF THE REBOUNDS.

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