From WinnersandWhiners.com – A pair of Eastern Conference teams hoping to improve their fortunes in 2019-20 open their NBA season down in the Sunshine State. The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the road as they travel down the east coast to face the Orlando Magic Wednesday night. Cleveland missed the postseason in the first year of the second coming of the post-LeBron James era, finishing the season 19-63. Orlando finished 42-40 last season and ended up with the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, not to mention the Southeast Division champions: they were beaten in the opening round of the playoffs in five games by the Raptors. The Cavaliers lead the all-time regular season series 57-52 but the Magic took two of three matchups last season, including a 120-91 romp at home in the last meeting on March 14, 2019.
Cleveland Cavaliers Trying to Figure Out Strategy
Cleveland finished last season 19-63, which was the second-worst record in the league, ahead of only the lowly Knicks. The Cavaliers struggled to put things together on either end of the floor and it’s going to be an uphill climb for the team again this season based on their roster. Cleveland parted ways with coach Larry Drew and brought in John Beilein, the former coach at Michigan, to take over the reins. He has plenty of youth to work with this season and it’s going to be a tough go for him until there is an influx of talent. Cleveland didn’t make any moves to speak of in free agency but added Darius Garland with the fifth overall pick in the draft. The team also picked up Kevin Porter Jr. in a deal and has rookies Dean Wade along with Dylan Windler in the mix.
The Cavaliers were 29th in the league in scoring this season with 104.5 points per game. Cleveland was 26th in rebounding with 42.7 caroms a night while the team stood 29th with 20.7 assists per contest. The Cavaliers were below average defensively, ranking 24th in scoring defense by allowing 114.1 points per game. Cleveland was 28th in the league by shooting 44.4 percent from the field. The Cavaliers were tied for 20th in the league in made threes with 10.3 triples a night while ranking 13th in three-point shooting by shooting 35.5 percent from downtown. Kevin Love led the team last season with 17 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest but played only 22 games last season due to foot injuries. Jordan Clarkson contributed 16.8 points a night while Collin Sexton put up 16.7 points a game as a rookie. Cedi Osman averaged 13 points plus 4.7 rebounds per game while Tristan Thompson (10.9 points, 10.2 rebounds), Larry Nance Jr. (9.4 points, 8.2 rebounds) and Brandon Knight are going to be counted on to contribute along with the rookies. Windler is out currently with a tibial stress reaction in his left leg.
Orlando Magic Look to Defend Southeast Division Crown
Orlando managed to win the Southeast Division last season despite finishing just two games above the .500 mark on the season. The Magic hopes that they can improve on that mark this season and perhaps win more than one playoff game. Orlando went 22-9 from January 31 to the end of the season as their defense stepped up. The Magic was first in defensive rating and points per game allowed down the stretch to help carry them to the postseason. Orlando kept their roster virtually intact from a season ago: they did add Markelle Fultz from Philadelphia and Al-Farouq Aminu from Portland to add another gritty banger in the frontcourt.
The Magic was below average last season putting the ball in the basket: they were 24th in the league during the regular season with 107.3 points per game. Orlando was 14th on the glass with 45.4 boards per contest and finished 12th with 25.5 assists a night. The Magic was 5th in scoring defense as they allow 106.6 points a game. The Magic was tied for 18th in the league in field goal percentage as they shoot 45.4 percent as a team. Orlando was tied for 12th with 11.4 made threes per game while the team was tied for 10th in three-point percentage as they shoot 35.6 percent from downtown. Nikola Vucevic, who signed an extension in the offseason, led the team with 20.8 points, 12 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest. Aaron Gordon (16 points, 7.4 rebounds), Evan Fournier (15.1 points), D.J. Augustin (11.7 points, 5.3 assists) and Jonathan Isaac (9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds) are the starting five. Terrence Ross (15.1 points), Mo Bamba (6.2 points, five rebounds) and Wesley Iwundu (five points, 2.7 rebounds) are key reserves while Aminu (9.4 points, 7.5 rebounds with Portland) is going to be a solid contributor.
The Cavaliers are dealing with plenty of new faces in their rotation and a ton of youth, not to mention a new coach here. Cleveland still has Love to be the anchor of the rotation but until the younger guys can contribute, the Cavaliers are going to have a tough time competing on a nightly basis. Orlando brings back the top eight guys from their rotation last season and the addition of Aminu is a smart one. The Magic played stout defense in the final couple months of the season and if that continues, along with their youth stepping forward, it could be a good year for them. In this one, Orlando’s experience and depth give them the upper hand here.Prediction: Orlando Magic -8
Written by; Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in-depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. Now he is writing for our team here at Winners @ Whiners. Chris keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college. He is also very knowledgeable in the NHL, the NBA, college basketball and MLB. If you want consistency, then be sure and check out Chris’ content daily.