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NBA - US Sports: NBA - Can Orlando make the play-offs in 2022-23?

Orlando Magic finished rock bottom of the Eastern Conference last season as they missed out on the playoffs for the second successive season.

The Magic ended the campaign with an abysmal 22-60 record, only Houston Rockets fared worse, but after selecting Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft they should expect a better showing next season.

Orlando have never managed to win a championship but have enjoyed some success in the not-too-distant past. The Magic reached the postseason in both 2019 and 2020 and qualified for the playoffs for six successive seasons between 2007 and 2012.

How far away are Orlando from being a competitive team?

The season was over almost before it began for Orlando last year as they managed a paltry four victories in their first 22 games, and at no stage did it ever look even remotely likely that they would be able to gatecrash the postseason spots despite the introduction of the play-in tournament.

The capture of Jalen Suggs with the fifth overall pick in last year's draft looked to be a decent move but his campaign was heavily impacted by injury, meaning the Gonzaga product was never really able to show what he was capable of.

Franz Wagner, who was the eighth pick in the 2021 draft, did show some promise and earned a spot on the All-Rookie First Team so there were some positives to take for the Magic but last season was essentially a write-off.

Following the introduction of the play-in tournament, a team can finish 10th in their conference at the conclusion of the regular season and still reach the playoffs but even that looks an unrealistic target for Orlando in the season ahead.

The Magic finished up 21 games behind Southeast Division rivals Charlotte last season as the Hornets came in 10th, and the rest of their Eastern Conference rivals have also strengthened.

The East is becoming stronger

The West has been the strongest of the two conferences for some time now but the East has improved over the last few seasons. Brooklyn's super team may be in the process of being dismantled, but there are still plenty of strong sides in the East.

It is hard to imagine 2021 champions Milwaukee Bucks, 2022 finalists Boston Celtics and last season's top seeds Miami Heat missing out on a top six finish next season - and that essentially means there are only three automatic playoff places to battle for.

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Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls and potentially the Nets will all have realistic championship goals going into the new campaign, while Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Charlotte will all fancy their chances of reaching the playoffs.

What is a realistic target for Orlando Magic?

Orlando shouldn't necessarily view the playoffs as unobtainable and they do have a good young core in place. Banchero only played two games in the Summer League as after those displays the team decided he was ready for the NBA so there is a reasonable chance he could enjoy an exceptional rookie season.

If Suggs can stay fit, he could yet prove to be a real talent and if Wagner continues to improve the Magic should be a far more competitive team.

They are +10000 to win the NBA Southeast Division and a huge +20000 to win the Eastern Conference in 2022/23.

Reaching the playoffs may be unlikely but if Orlando can improve their winning percentage they will view next season as a success and if their young core does manage to impress they should find it easier to recruit next season.

Aside from their draft picks, Orlando haven't made any major moves in free agency and it seems as if they are slowly trying to rebuild rather than seeking instant success. As such, it looks highly unlikely that the Magic will be among the contenders for a playoff place next season but if they can show they are improving and be a little more competitive they will view next year as a positive campaign.

The main aim for Orlando, however, will be helping their younger players develop and Banchero is rated at +300 to win the Rookie of the Year award, while Suggs is +4000 to be named the Most Improved Player.

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