Orlando at Houston
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: HOU -8
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.
HOU TEAM NOTES:
Though the Rockets have struggled this season, the team has won six of its last 10 overall and still is situated No. 6 in the Western Conference. The team lost Trevor Ariza over the offseason, hoping that replacing him with Carmelo Anthony would solve its problems. It did none of that, and the team has taken many steps back defensively, which ultimately is the reason it has failed to succeed at the rate it did a year ago. Houston is surrendering 110 points per game and scoring 112 itself, which yields just a 2.0 positive, point differential.
The Rockets must tighten up its defense significantly to rejoin the realm of Western Conference contenders, which many are feeling can still happen.
But it cannot be all Clint Capela’s work, despite the outstanding season the center is putting together. Capela recently suffered an injury and is out for four to six weeks. That leaves the Houston Rockets with a massive hole at the 5-spot, given its lack of sizeable backups. Nevermind the fact that Clint Capela alone was having a career breakout season.??Capela had been making a strong bid to be an All-Star and it is easy to see why Houston felt comfortable releasing Dwight Howard to clear the way for Capela.
Truth be told, he has a little of young Dwight, in him and his game. Capela averages 17.6 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.88 blocks per game while posting the second-best PER on the Rockets. He has proven to be the anchor of a defense that greatly needs perimeter improvement, and it is hardly all the fault of Harden as the narrative often goes.
Harden is playing passing lanes well, coming up with 2-plus steals a game, while heading the offensive attack in his usual masterful way. Harden’s averaging 33.9 points and 8.6 assists per game.
Chris Paul has fallen off in a noticeable way, but he has also played through some injuries and is declining as expected as he ages. The Rockets really need a power forward of the defensive mindset, and losing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is as much to blame for the team’s defensive decline as losing Ariza. Few are factoring in the value of strong defensive role players and the Rockets roster is nearly bereft of such talents now.