NBA League Pass Picks: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic

Miami at Orlando

Time: 6 PM CST (NBA LP)

Spread: MIA -1.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

ORLANDO NEWS & NOTES:

The Orlando Magic have to be somewhat pleased with its internal progress. There are a number of glaring issues that will likely cause Orlando to bow out in the first round of the NBA playoffs for a second straight season, but there are enough bright spots for the Magic to know things are at least headed in the right direction. The Magic possesses the league’s No. 29 ranked offense and only score 102.5 per game, but it has been one of the league’s better defensive teams in holding opponents to 103.8 per.

The Magic are a team without a single player who could be a No. 2 option on a contending team, yet have played together in such a way as to maximize the gifts of both Vucevic and star-wing player Evan Fournier. Fournier was outstanding while Vucevic was out, and the Magic are hoping he continues the aggressive play with the starting 5-man back in the fold.

One the season, the Frenchman is averaging 19.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game, while posting the highest PER on the team (outside of Vucevic’s 21.54) of all active players right now. Aaron Gordon has been his usual inconsistent self, and clearly now appears to be hitting something close to his eventual peak—the notion he is going to be a breakout player every year should surely die its slow death finally. Gordon averages 13 points and seven rebounds per game, but he shoots just 41 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three this season.

Third-year forward Jonathan Isaac has emerged into one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders, but he is still trying to figure things out on the offensive end, mostly. He just suffered a tragic hyperextension to his knee that will leave him out at least the next eight weeks. Prior to suffering that injury, Isaac averaged 12.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.8 steal/blocks per game. Isaac also gets 2.6 blocks per contest while doing a good job of avoiding foul trouble. His defense is clean and deadly.

Markelle Fultz is rounding into form after battling bizarre injury diagnoses his first two seasons before being traded to the Magic. Fultz is averaging 11.7 points and 4.1 assists per game, but he is really probably just scratching the surface as a once-vaunted former No. 1 overall pick.

Former Texas product and rookie Mo Bamba has shown flashes, including a very efficient and strong three-point shot, but he is not ready for the bulk of the center minutes yet, so Orlando has played Khem Birch extensively due to his sharp defensive institutions and his reliability on both ends of the court. Birch has limited upside comparatively, but Orlando is focused on winning now, returning to the playoffs, and allowing its team to blossom, far more than obtaining another high draft pick. That is especially due to the fact that the best pick of Orlando’s rebuild (Victor Oladipo) is now starring for the Indiana Pacers.

HEAT NEWS:

The Miami Heat lead the Southeast division as one of the NBA’s early surprise teams. Miami has won its last three and is 15-9 thus far. Miami has won seven of its last 10 games.

The Heat seems to be really adapting to having Jimmy Butler as its leader. He has increased the defensive intensity, and Miami’s offense ranks No. 12 in the Association at 111.6 per game. Defensively the Heat limit teams to 107.2, good for a differential of +4.4 points.

Miami has moved past the play of Hassan Whiteside and instead promoted Bam Adebayo as the premier big man of the team. He has fully responded. Adebayo is averaging 15.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while functioning as a post playmaker. Butler is the key cog, though, at 20.3 points and 6.6 assists per game. That is not to ignore the great play of undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn, the No.2 scorer behind Butler at 15.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. For a team that was expected to have offensive issues, it has been far from the case. Miami is shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 38 percent on threes (32.8 attempts per game). Rounding out the rotation is veteran point guard Goran Dragic and rookie Tyler Herro. Both have been essential.

While Dragic’s role has declined, he is still seeing 28.4 minutes per game and averaging just under 16 points per game. Herro is already a key rotation player, playing 28.7 minutes per game and averaging 13.7 points per game while shooting 39 percent from three. All in all, the Heat are both a deep and talented team and far better than expected. Credit some of that to Erik Spoelstra, but the rest of the credit falls on a team of players that are all outperforming preseason expectations.

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