Washington Wizards 2019-20 Season Preview: Orlando Magic

Washington Wizards Bradley Beal (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Bradley Beal (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards got the best of the Orlando Magic last season. Will roles reverse this season?

Washington Wizards record vs. Orlando Magic last season: 3-1

Magic added: Al-Farouq Aminu, Markelle Fultz, DaQuan Jeffries

Magic lost: Jonathon Simmons, Jerian Grant

The NBA season gets closer and closer every day, and so is the Washington Wizards’ first matchup with the Orlando Magic. The Magic were a surprising 42-40 last season and snuck into the Eastern Conference playoffs as the seventh seed. They even stole a single playoff game from the Toronto Raptors in the opening round and momentarily had everyone thinking ‘ same old playoff Raptors.’ Then Toronto tore through the playoffs and won the franchise its first championship.

The question with the Magic this season is, can they repeat or even build off of last season’s success? Last season was the first winning season in Orlando since they won 52 games during the  2010-11 season. A lot of that will rest on the shoulders of Markelle Fultz.

Fultz, the former number one overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft, joined the Magic via trade midway through last season but didn’t play a single game for them due to injury. However, Fultz appears to be fully healthy, and the Magic are expecting big things from a high-upside point guard who is still just 21 years old.

If he’s able to be something close to what people expected when he came out of Washington, Fultz could turn the Orlando backcourt into one of the league’s best. Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross each averaged over 15 points last season as Orlando’s top backcourt pair.

Of course, a lot of their success will ultimately rely on 2019 All-Star Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic, like the entire Magic team, took a bit of an unexpected leap last season. Even after having a career year during the 2018 season, Vucevic improved during the 2019 season, posting career highs in points per game (20.6), rebounds per game (12.0), assists per game (3.8), and he expanded his range to become a legitimate three-point threat (36.4 percent on 2.9 attempts per game). The Magic will need him to sustain his all-star play this year.

They’ll also need to find a way to work in Mo Bamba, a center they took 6th overall in the 2018 draft. Bamba played in just 47 games last season and missed the end of the season with a left tibia fracture. While Bamba has an impressive skillset (and a freaky 7’10” wingspan), his style of play is much different than Vucevic.

Wizards to Watch

Despite only playing in two of the four games between these teams last season, Thomas Bryant did work with limited opportunities. Bryant didn’t see the floor vs. Orlando until their third meeting, a January 25th game in Orlando. Bryant was solid, providing 11 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. He shot a team-best 62.5 percent from the floor, and the Wizards won 95-91.

It was his second game against Orlando, though, that really gave us a glimpse of what Bryant could become. Coming off the bench, Bryant went off for 21 points on 75 percent shooting. He also grabbed ten boards as the Wizards won 90-100 in Washington. It was during the second of his two games vs. Orlando that Bryant outplayed the All-Star Vucevic. Per Basketball-Reference, Bryant bettered Vucevic that game in field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, plus/minus, offensive rating, defensive rating, and points, per Basketball-Reference.

If Bryant can make performances like that one against Vucevic the norm when he faces some of the NBA’s best centers, then he’s going to find himself in an All-Star game before too long.

2019-20 Game Predictions

Sunday, November 17 in Orlando

An early-season matchup against anyone doesn’t bode well for the Wizards. C.J. Miles, Troy Brown Jr, and Isaiah Thomas are all entering training camp with injuries. They could linger. Wizards catch an early L in Orlando.

Tuesday, December 3 in Washington

This one is a weird game for Orlando because it’s a single road game smacked between two home games. The Wizards should be able to take advantage of their schedule weirdness and grab a win here.

Next. Washington Wizards 2019-20 Season Preview: Orlando Magic. dark

Wednesday, January 1 in Washington

With this Wizards team, it just doesn’t make sense cosmically for them to start a new calendar year with a win. So they probably won’t. Orlando steals a game in the nation’s capital.

Wednesday, January 8 in Orlando

Now it’s the Wizards’ turn to take a one-game road trip. And it’s also their turn to take another L in the season series.