Washington at Orlando
Time: 6 PM (CT), NBA LP
Spread: ORL -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
ORL TEAM NOTES:
The Orlando Magic have lost seven of its last 10 games. The Magic are now eight games under .500, and it is one of many teams expected to be very active at the trade deadline. Orlando has been utilizing D.J. Augustin as its starting point guard all season, and while Augustin has certainly played well, he is best as a second unit guy, lacking the size and strength to cover the bigger 1s in the Association.
To address this, the Magic are expected to make a run at Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. Smith is the son of former Magic player Otis Smith, so perhaps that gives the Magic an edge on the multitude of other teams bidding for his services. In just his second season, Smith has a lot of room for improvement but just as much of that elusive “potential;” Dallas simply feels it best to develop the immense talents of rookie Luka Doncic, which is what has made Smith expendable (seemingly).
The Magic have mostly run its offense through center Nikola Vucevic this season. He is averaging a career-high 3.8 assists per game to go with his 20.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.07 blocks/steals per game. In theory, those are All-Star numbers, but with Orlando lingering under .500 and on the outside of the playoff picture, it might not be enough to earn “Vooch” a bid, after all. There is also speculation that the Magic could possibly part with him, though he is its best player.
Orlando drafted center Mo Bamba with the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, and while Bamba is somewhat raw, he has exhibited enough potential that the Magic easily could turn to him as a starter to accelerate his development. He seems to fit nicely alongside of forwards
Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, though Gordon and Isaac are essentially both power forwards. It has worked reasonably well, but the Magic could use a “three and ‘D’” defender more than playing a 4-man out of position.
The problem is that just about half the teams in the league are in search of that coveted prototype. No matter what the case, the Magic have some potential residing on its roster, but without addressing the hole at point guard and the need for some perimeter lockdown defenders, it likely will miss the postseason for the seventh consecutive season. There is promise in this John Hammond-led rebuild, but it will be intriguing to see just what he does in February at the trade deadline.
The Magic are unlikely to sit idle being on the cusp of being a playoff team: The right move could improve it enough to sneak into the postseason, which at this point is actually a priority because the fanbase and organization needs it after suffering so much since the departure of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard in 2012.
WAS TEAM NOTES:
The Washington Wizards have won six of its last 10 but it still lingers seven games below .500 and it is out of the playoff picture in the East.
The Wiz have begun to pay better attention to the defensive end, and that is the primary reason behind its recent success. Only two of its last six opponents have scored more than 106 points, and that was a 140-138 loss to the Toronto Raptors, as well as its last 118-126 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Trevor Ariza has assumed a comfortable role as the team’s No. 3 option after John Wall and Bradley Beal. Beal is having an All-Star season and career year. He is averaging 24.7 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. Ariza helps tie it together with his two-way play, as one of the best defensive wings in the NBA. He is averaging nearly 15 points per game in his 16 games as a Wizards, and it appears that (though no one thought it could) he could change the Wizards’ fate this season.
In its 17 games with Ariza, the Wizards have fared 8-9, which is an improvement and a mark good enough to be playoff-worthy in the Eastern Conference. When analysts and fans talk about team-changing talents, Ariza is not the first to come to mind, but he has been just that thus far for Washington.