Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks
Time: 7 PM CT, NBA League Pass
Spread: MIL -5.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic seem to be getting things together, and it comes just as their schedule affords the with a break of lighter games. The Milwaukee Bucks will be the task tonight as Orlando travels to face the young Bucks as 5.5 point underdogs according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes. The total is set at 202 for the game which will air at 7 PM (Central) on NBA League Pass.
Orlando most recently knocked off the New Orleans Pelicans (without Anthony Davis) and the Dallas Mavericks (without Dirk Nowitzki).
Tonight they will face a (nearly) full-staffed Milwaukee Bucks team led by the wonder of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The “Greek Freak,” as he has been dubbed, is doing it all: 21.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game while posting a team-tying high PER of 24.2. The Bucks have a strong frontcourt that also features third-year phenom Jabari Parker.
Parker is averaging 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists while playing the second-most minutes on the team (32.8) behind Antetokounmpo (34.8). Milwaukee has depth in the form of Greg Monroe, John Henson and Mirza Teletovic, as well.
Its backcourt has been less stellar, but that was expected with swingman Khris Middleton due to miss most of the season. In his stead the Bucks have struggled to find outside shooting, and Milwaukee averages just 7.9 made threes per game at a 33.1 percent clip. None of the volume shooters are hitting: Tony Snell hits 30 percent while attempting 5.5 per game, and Parker and Antetounmpo are good for 31 and 17 percent, respectively.
Teletovic has done damage in knocking down 40 percent of his triples while attempting 4.6 per game, but Middleton’s spacing is desperately missed. The Bucks can pound it inside and get out in transition, but without the triple their offense is clearly lacking a key element. It has been largely to blame for the team going 5-7, with a collection of talent that only fits together in an odd manner without Middleton’s distance shooting.
Moreover, the Bucks have effectively been playing Antetounmpo at the 1-spot, but also out of sheer necessity. Milwaukee parted ways with an ineffective Michael Carter-Williams to obtain Snell, and other than Matthew Dellavedova there are no “true point guards” on the entire roster. To be sure, Antetokounmpo is a uniquely gifted Magic-esque forward, but a true point he is not.
The Bucks are a team still in need of some balance and structure, and that cannot be accomplished without making some deals. Perhaps teams come calling about Greg Monroe, who is seeing just 18 minutes a night but posting a PER of 24.2 and averaging nine points and 6.7 rebounds in that much time. Monroe does not really fit the Bucks’ scheme and has been largely a disappointment since signing as a free agent two summers ago, but the Bucks could swing a deal involving Monroe to land themselves another quality shooter.
That could even prove valuable after Middleton returns, given the fact that the Bucks are getting minutes out of an ancient Jason Terry and an often-confused and ineffcient Michael Beasley. Depth can improve in Milwaukee, and the Bucks need to put the right parts around Giannis and Parker. Deals seem nearly imperative for GM Tom Hammonds.
The Orlando Magic are a similarly poor constructed team with an overabundance of talent in its front court and a true lack of shooting throughout its roster. The Magic are just 2-4 on the road this season, and a big problem for Orlando has been its lack of scoring. The Magic have the second-worst worst point differential in the Eastern Conference despite its 6-7 record. Orlando has a -7.3 differential, which trails only the 3-10 Philadelphia 76ers (-10.4). Even the 4-9 Brooklyn Nets are 0.5 points better per game on average than the woeful Magic.
So, while the Magic are tied with New York for the No. 8 seed as of today, it is difficult to say that will stick. Evan Fournier leads the club in scoring, but is good for just 16.8 points per game and has a below average PER (13.3). Serge Ibaka has hardly embraced the greater role, averaging his typical 13 and 7 as he has most of his career. Nikola Vucevic cannot find the range, but he has been the team’s best rebounder and is still good for 10 points and 10 boards per game.
The problems become most glaring when looking at the lack of three-point shooting. The Magic make 8.2 per game, which is slightly better than Milwaukee, but Orlando shoots just 32.5 percent from three and Fournier is a humble 36 percent on over five attempts per game. Elfrid Payton is still a dismal jump-shooter that teams are daring to fire it up, and Aaron Gordon only looks good for flashes of games.
Payton leads the team in assists, but 5.4 per game still is a pretty low mark for a starting point guard who sees 30 minutes a night, especially given his lack of scoring (10.7 points per game on 42 percent shooting). Gordon can stuff the stat sheets, but he has been playing the 3-spot a lot and arguably to his detriment. The Magic still are not sure how to fit the former No. 4 overall pick into its schemes, and his 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds are about the low-water marks for someone with his extra-worldly athleticism.
New acquisition Bismack Biyombo has been a defensive force off the bench, but something of a redundancy with Serge Ibaka performing much the same role with the starters. That said, Ibaka is a free agent this summer so perhaps Biyombo has been the long-term plan all along if Ibaka does decide to head elsewhere. Biyombo leads the NBA in blocks per game off the bench (1.7).
All in all, the Magic still equate to an interesting cast of underachievers.
The Bucks have home cooking going and the Magic are coming off wins against short-handed teams. It seems probable that the Bucks manage to cover at home as the Magic fall two games below .500 and further into the mediocre ground that both teams are likely to dwell in the majority of the season. There are some transcendental talents on both teams, especially Gordon, Parker and Antetokounmpo—but neither team is getting the most out of its guys and Milwaukee is arguably just a better team.
That says a lot about Orlando’s plight, and also its inflated six-wins thus far.