The Orlando Magic were one of the surprise packages in the NBA last year, with the team ending the regular season as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. This highly-successful season was preceded by six straight years without a postseason appearance, with all but one out of the six campaigns ending with less than 30 wins the entire year.
Unfortunately for the Magic, they were faced off against the second-seeded Toronto Raptors, which as we all know, went all the way to upset the former defending champs, the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Kawhi Leonard and company made easy work of the Magic, emerging victorious in the series, 4-1. Nonetheless, despite their early postseason exit, this was still a season to be proud of for the entire Orlando franchise.
This upcoming 2019-20 NBA season is going to be a bit different for the Magic, though. There’s going to be much more pressure on the entire team this time around, and anything less than last year’s success would be considered a disappointment. As a matter of fact, ESPN has them as the fourth overall seed in the East for the 2020 playoffs.
This only means that a ton of pressure will likewise be placed on the shoulders of each and every member of the Magic squad, and below, we picked the three players we feel will be at the very top of the pressure cooker for the 2019-20 NBA season.
Nikola Vucevic was perhaps the biggest reason behind Orlando’s highly-impressive run last season. The 28-year-old was handsomely and deservedly rewarded in the offseason with a four-year, $100 million deal. Before Vucevic put pen to paper on this big-money extension, there was a lot of talk that the Swiss international was being targeted by a number of other squads as a free agent. As we all know, the 7-foot big decided to stay on with the Magic and continue to build on what he had started with the squad some seven years ago.
However, this huge payday also means that he will now be expected to put the entire franchise on his broad shoulders for the next four seasons. Nikola Vucevic did tremendously to up his stock in his contract year, and starting next season, he will be out to prove that he is worth every penny of the $100 million the Magic committed to him.
Another man that will be entering this new campaign with perhaps the most pressure he’s faced throughout his five-year career would be 6-foot-9 forward Aaron Gordon. In 2018, the former fourth overall pick signed a big-money deal with the Magic to the tune of $76 million for four years. While not in the same region as the Vucevic deal, this is still definitely a lot of money.
Aaron Gordon did relatively well last season, averaging 16.0 points (on 44.9 percent shooting), 7.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks, while also connecting on 1.6 three-pointers per contest on a 34.9 percent clip. Not bad, right? Well, the former University of Arizon standout is expected to do even better this season as the team’s second option behind Vucevic on a playoff-bound squad.
Rounding out our short list is incoming third-year guard Markelle Fultz. The former first overall pick’s seemingly endless bouts with injury is well-documented, and to say that he has been a disappointment thus far would be an understatement.
The Magic took a huge risk in bringing Markelle Fultz over in the middle of last season from the Philadelphia 76ers, and Orlando gave up quite a few assets to acquire the services of a player that was once considered to be one of the most promising prospects in the NBA. The promise is still there for the University of Washington alumni, though, and it’s just a matter of being able to stay healthy for Fultz.
The 21-year-old has been given a second chance by the Magic, and how performs in the upcoming season will definitely have a tremendous effect on his career moving forward.
All in all, this should be a very exciting 2019-20 NBA season for the Magic and their supporters. It has been quite some time since this team was considered to be a relevant side in the East, and there should be no shortage of fireworks throughout the season. As a matter of fact, this is the first time in a long time that the team will be entering a new season with this much buzz going around.
However, this also means that as a serious threat in the conference, the Magic and its players will be entering unfamiliar territory. This is the type of stuff that defines teams, and it will be very interesting to see how Orlando will respond to this type of pressure.