By Josh Cohen
Oct. 11, 2017
The Orlando Magic have played inspired and ferocious defense this preseason. Through five games, opponents are shooting a shade under 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point range. They rank in the top five in the league in both those categories.
The Magic have done an excellent job fighting over screens, closing out on the perimeter and challenging jump shots. This roster has so much athleticism and versatility that it’s been fairly easy for them to make on-the-spot defensive switches in pick-and-roll and off-ball screen situations.
Opponents shot 36.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Magic last year, which ranked in the bottom 10. Frank Vogel emphasized during training camp the importance of improving in this area.
Newcomers Jonathan Isaac and Jonathon Simmons are having a major defensive impact. Isaac’s length, agility and timing is outstanding. Simmons is by far one of the most aggressive and tenacious one-on-one defenders in the league.
Isaac covers a lot of ground defensively and he’s quick to recover. He’s already shown he can guard positions one through four. Over time that should extend to the five as well once he adds on more muscle to his lanky frame.
Another offseason addition that has made a difference on defense is Shelvin Mack, who does a really good job sneaking around ball screens and pindowns. Wes Iwundu is a sharp defender as well because of his length and lateral foot speed.
Here’s a look at a few defensive possessions from the last two games in Dallas and San Antonio that illustrate the Magic’s defensive excellence.
SIMMONS CLOSES OUT & PLAYS TEXTBOOK DEFENSE ON DANNY GREEN
SIMMONS RELENTLESS AGAINST DARRUN HILLIARD
IWUNDU RECOGNIZES BACKDOOR CUT, MACK EVADES SCREEN
ISAAC GETS AROUND PICK, THEN DASHES BACK TO CONTEST DIRK