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Orlando Magic

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: How much better will the Orlando Magic be?

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Orlando Magic (NBA Getty Images)

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Orlando Magic.

2018-19 season record

42-40 (7th in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

43-39 (8th in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Al-Farouq Aminu (free agency)

Chuma Okeke (draft)

Notable departures

Timofey Mozgov (waived)

Depth chart

Starters 2nd 3rd 4th
PG D.J. Augustin Markelle Fultz Michael Carter-Williams Josh Magette
SG Evan Fournier Terrence Ross Melvin Frazier
SF Jonathan Isaac Wes Iwundu
PF Aaron Gordon Al-Farouq Aminu Chuma Okeke
C Nikola Vucevic Mo Bamba Khem Birch

3 key storylines

A fresh start for Markelle Fultz

Fultz's first two seasons in the NBA didn't exactly go to plan. The first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, a shoulder injury has limited Fultz to only 33 games in his professional career in which he's posted averages of 7.7 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds on 41.4 percent shooting from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

Fultz now finds himself in Orlando by way of the Philadelphia 76ers, who traded him for Jonathon Simmons and two draft picks at least season's trade deadline.

Fultz has yet to play in a game for the Magic, but the franchise clearly has hopes for him as they picked up the fourth-year option in his rookie contract, worth $12.3 million. He is now under contract with the Magic for both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, setting him up for restricted free agency in the summer of 2021.

Expectations are generally low for Fultz entering this season, but Aaron Gordon said recently that people are now sleeping on the 21-year-old.

As for Fultz, he says he's "excited to just play basketball again" and that his goals are to do "whatever it takes" to help the team win.

An improved Nikola Vucevic

The Magic snapped their six-year postseason drought last season, due in large part to the emergence of Vucevic. In posting 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game during the regular season, the Swiss centre was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.

Vucevic, however, struggled in Orlando's first-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors. With Marc Gasol guarding him, his numbers plummeted to 11.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, resulting in the Magic losing the final four games of the series by an average margin of 18.8 points.

Despite those struggles, the Magic re-signed Vucevic to a four-year, $100 million deal. With the amount of money they've now committed to him, the franchise is counting on him to able to repeat as an All-Star and learn from a disappointing postseason debut.

It would otherwise be difficult for them to be more than a first-round exit again this season if Vucevic can't live up to his new contract.

Is the defence for real?

The Magic were two different teams last season.

Prior to Jan. 31, the Magic had a 20-31 record with the 23rd-ranked offence and the 16th-ranked defence, putting them at risk of missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season. From that point onwards, they went 22-9 with the 8th-ranked offence and the best defense in the league, which was just enough for them to sneak into the playoffs.

Can the Magic pick up from where they left off last season? Expecting them to have a top-10 offence might be unreasonable, but they'll need to defend at a high level again to make the playoffs. They certainly have the personnel to do so with Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Khem Birch, plus Al-Farouq Aminu, who they signed to a three-year, $29 million this offseason.

5 games to watch

Oct. 28 at Toronto Raptors

A rematch of last season's first round matchup and more importantly, Vucevic's first opportunity to prove himself after Gasol got the better of him in the playoffs.

Jan. 3 vs. Miami Heat

The Magic won the Southeast Division last season, but Jimmy Butler's decision to join the Heat in free agency will make it difficult for Orlando to repeat. This will be the first of four showdowns between the two teams this season.

Feb. 10 vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks aren't expected to make the playoffs this season like the Magic and Heat are, but they have the highest upside of the teams in the Southeast Division due to the potential of their two best prospects in Trae Young and John Collins.

March 17 at Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are projected to be the Magic's biggest competition for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference this season, so this late-season matchup with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond could have playoff implications.

April 5 at Philadelphia 76ers

This will be Fultz's first game in Philadelphia since the trade. Expect him to play with some added motivation while the 76ers look to stake their claim as the best team in the Eastern Conference.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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