Daily Dish: The Orlando Magic are actually good now

Don’t look now–or go ahead and look, if you like November NBA basketball–but the Orlando Magic might actually have themselves a team this year.

You can’t really credit many of their recent top draft picks (Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja, Domantas Sabonis) for the fast start, but Orlando is 6-3, with wins over the Spurs, Cavs, Heat and Grizzlies.

They’ll get another test on Sunday when they host the 7-2 Celtics.

It’s way too early, but with the East arguably weaker than college basketball’s Big Ten, the Magic have a legitimate chance to make a run at their first playoff appearance since 2012.

Related Content: Aaron Gordon is ready for his breakout

Head coach Frank Vogel has done a terrific job of galvanizing this roster, and creating an identity for a team that was previously best described as “young.”

25-year-old Evan Fournier is suddenly playing like Manu Ginobili, averaging 21.9 points, 3.7 assists and 4.8 boards per game. All of those numbers are career-highs.

Aaron Gordon has emerged as a legitimate force, putting up 19 and 8 and showing a vastly-improved jumper–he’s shooting 58 percent from three, which is incredible given the fact that he shot 27 percent, 29 percent, and 28 percent over his first three years in the league. He’s shooting 54 percent from the floor overall, up 90 points from last year’s 45.4.

Nikola Vucevic continues his run as one of the league’s most underrated big men, averaging 18.4 points, 7.7 boards and 1.1 blocks per game, and they’ve gotten solid contributions from Jonathon Simmons (14.7 ppg), who’s applying everything he learned from two years in Spurs school.

Speaking of applying things learned from championship teams, Mareese Speights  appears to be a welcome veteran presence. He hit six threes in a 115-99 win over the Pelicans.

The team’s first-round draft pick (No. 6 overall) Jonathan Isaac hasn’t shown much so far (5.9 points in 18 minutes per game), but should take time to develop. Even with Hezonja the subject of trade rumors and getting limited minutes (they could have had Devin Booker), this club has found a way to perfectly mesh its talent with a committed defensive mindset and a willingness to move the ball and get great shots. Just watch them dice up the Spurs.

We’re only nine games in, but based on what we’ve seen so far (and despite last night’s 105-83 thrashing at the hands of the awful Bulls), there are plenty of reasons to believe in the Magic.

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