Orlando Magic have exceeded expectations but can they defy odds in the NBA Playoffs?

The Orlando Magic have exceeded expectations this season, but are they ready to make a run in the playoffs?

Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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The Orlando Magic have an aggressive yet imperfect defense

While the Magic have been efficient on defense this season, there are some big red flags in their defensive profile.

For starters, their defensive effective field goal percentage, a metric that measures scoring efficiency by giving more weight to threes, is 12th in the NBA. That’s above average, but defensive rating is heavily correlated to this metric, so it’s pretty surprising that their defense has been so efficient this year.

When you watch their defense, there are some major issues that make their opponents’ scoring efficiency make a lot more sense. For starters, the Magic struggle to defend pick-and-rolls. They don’t have a great shot blocker and opposing teams, especially those with strong offensive creators like the Boston Celtics, have been able to take advantage of this and generate shots at the rim with ease.

Their production against pick-and-rolls has been quite disappointing this season as they allow 0.93 points per possession against pick-and-roll ball handlers (21st percentile) and 1.16 points per possession against pick-and-roll roll men (41st percentile). On top of this, they also struggle to defend in one-on-one situations as they allow 1.01 points per possession in isolation (7th percentile).

Another issue with their defense is how often teams take advantage of their off-ball defense. There are simply too many times when they provide support in help defense on the strong side of the court (the side of the court where the ball is) and this puts their defense out of position and gives their opponents easy shots.

This is concerning because teams with great offensive units are going to be able to exploit these weaknesses in the playoffs. I'm just not sure how the Magic can survive very long in the postseason with weak pick-and-roll defense and an aggressive playstyle that leads to lapses in help defense.