The Orlando Magic strategy coming into this season wasn’t a secret, it really was all about the NBA draft in June and coming into Toronto to face the Raptors after being abused by the Pistons the night before in Detroit doesn’t really change anything. This is a young team playing young players big minutes with a focus on player development and some not so subtle showcasing of potential trade assets.
The Magic have acquired some high potential young talent already.
23-year-old center Nikola Vucevic has been a double-double machine for the Magic these past 2 seasons and his team is just 2-15 without him this year. Vucevic has missed most of January with a concussion and could return any day, but the Magic were just 10-18 with him on the court.
The Magic’s best player and arguably star trade asset is their veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is averaging career highs for minutes played (37.3), points (20.4), field goals made and attempted (7.1-15.1), rebounds (4.4) and assists (3.8). His shooting is solid, 47.1 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three, plus he is getting to the free throw line a career best 5.1 times per game. Afflalo was a solid player for the Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri when they were both in Denver a couple of years ago. Let the showcase continue.
Glen Davis, Jason Maxiell and Jameer Nelson provide a veteran presence to the rotation. However, the Magic’s defense is suspect, their rim protection is barely noticeable and they don’t really score or rebound all that well. Any team that treats them with respect and plays hard should walk away with the win this season. This team is second last in the NBA.
The Raptors are on a roll in January and will end up with a second consecutive winning month, thanks in no small part to the Rudy Gay trade in early December. Toronto is 17-9 since Gay was traded and Head Coach Dwane Casey received the 4 players from Sacramento that now makeup his second unit. Post trade, the Raptors are scoring 100.7 points per game and giving up just 95.8 points. Toronto has risen to third place in the Eastern Conference as a result.
It is expected Toronto will be missing DeMar DeRozan again on Wednesday as their leading scorer turned an ankle on the weekend. He’ll be back when he’s ready, but the Raptors just defeated the Nets without him, so there shouldn’t be any pressure to rush just yet. Tyler Hansbrough has missed almost the entire month of January with a sprained ankle, but he should be ready to play any day now.
For the first time in years, the Raptors appear to have enough depth to win games missing a couple of key players in their rotation. All they have to do on Wednesday is avoid the Magic Tank Trap.
Check out which Raptors could be All-Stars:
Raptors Are Division Leaders And All-Star Worthy
Head Coach Dwane Casey believes his team should have 2 players selected for the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves and both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been doing everything possible lately to prove their coach right.