There have been plenty of early season surprises this year. The Los Angeles Clippers are in first place in the Western Conference, despite losing All-NBA point guard Chris Paul in the offseason. Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting up historic numbers for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Boston Celtics have not lost a step after the injury to All-Star Gordon Hayward. All things considered, the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers have provided the two biggest storylines this season. The Magic are tied with the Celtics for the top spot in the East, while the Cavs have lost four straight games.
LeBron’s Cavs Look Lost
Despite LeBron James logging a whopping 37 minutes per game, Cleveland has not been able to put together a winning formula yet this season. Sure, it is early, but it appears that all the new pieces that were acquired this offseason are not meshing in the way Ty Lue had hoped. Injury ridden point guard Derrick Rose has already been banged up this year. Dwyane Wade was almost immediately demoted from the starting lineup. Now, big man Tristan Thompson is expected to miss at least a month from a calf injury sustained in last night’s loss to the Pacers.
Wednesday’s 17-point loss to Indiana was the Cavs’ fourth straight loss, but the worst past about this losing streak is that Cleveland is not just losing games… they are getting blown out. They are losing to bad teams too. Three of their last four losses have come against teams that didn’t even win 32 games last season, and the other loss was to Indiana, a team that made the playoffs but lost Paul George in the offseason. Prior to this losing streak, LeBron-led teams had been favored by double digits 252 times and never lost one of those games by 15+ points. This year, they’ve lost three of those games by more than 15 points… and it’s only 8 games into the season. Isaiah Thomas better be rehabbing like a mad man, because this team is going to need him sooner rather than later.
Magic On The Rise
On the other hand, the Orlando Magic are off to a blazing hot start. At 6-2, they are tied atop the Eastern Conference. More impressively, they beat the Spurs by 27 points and the Cavs by 21. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon have each logged a 40-point outing already this season, and Evan Fournier is averaging a team-high 22 points per game. They are accomplishing these feats, despite their starting point guard Elfrid Payton not playing due to injury.
Much of Orlando’s success can be attributed to their vastly-improved perimeter shooting. Currently, they lead the league in 3-point percentage, shooting 44% from beyond the arc. To put that into perspective, the Magic finished second-to-last in that category last season. Nine players are shooting at least 39% from 3-point range with five of them shooting 50% or better. In fact, Gordon and Fournier both rank in the top-5 in the entire NBA, shooting better than 56% from downtown. Orlando looks to keep it rolling, as they host the last place Bulls tomorrow night.