Orlando Magic racking up quality wins as they surge in NBA power rankings

The Orlando Magic made their rebuild intentions clear 2021 when they traded Nik Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and replaced Steve Clifford with Jamahl Mosley.

The Magic were just 22-60 in Mosley’s first season in 2021-22, but if you looked closely at roster construction and the plan set forth by president of basketball operation and then-GM John Hammond, who is now in a senior advisory role with franchise, you could see potential.

The Magic won 34 games last season, and this season, they are 14-6, tied for second place in the Eastern Conference and won nine consecutive games before Saturday’s loss to Brooklyn. The improvement is obvious.

Orlando is No. 4 in defensive rating, allowing 109.3 points per 100 possessions and No. 4 in steals (8.8 per game) and have improved offensively with the top-rated offense in the past 10 games, scoring 117.5 points per 100 possessions.

It is doing it with a collection of draft picks (Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Anthony Black, Jonathan Isaac) and veterans it acquired through free agency and trades (Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Wagner, Joe Ingles, Goga Bitadze).

Among their victories, they have quality ones against the Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana, Milwaukee, Denver and Boston.

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Now, can the Magic keep this up and remain one of the top seeds in the East? A difficult schedule lies ahead. The the next 30 days will reveal plenty with 12 of their next 15 games against teams currently with winning records: Cleveland (twice), Boston (twice), Miami, Milwaukee, Indiana, Philadelphia, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento and Denver.

Let's check back on the Magic in 2024.

USA TODAY NBA power rankings

1. Boston Celtics (15-4)

The Celtics had a 3-0 week with victories against Chicago to reach the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament and against Philadelphia. They have won 10 of their past 12.

Last week: 1

2. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-4)

Karl-Anthony Towns averages 21.8 points, 9.1 rebounds. 3.0 assists, 1.0 steal and shoots 50.2% from the field, 41.1% on 3-pointers and 91.1% on free throws.

Last week: 2

3. Orlando Magic (14-6)

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero argues over a call against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.
Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero argues over a call against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.

The Magic have won nine of their past 10 games, including nine consecutive, and while five of those victories have come against Chicago (twice), Washington (twice) and Charlotte, they also beat Denver and Boston – and have an early-season victory against Milwaukee.

Last week: 5

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-6)

Chet Holmgren’s rookie stats through 19 games: 17.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.2 blocks, 53.1% from the field, 39.5% on 3s and 86.5% from the foul line.

Last week: 4

5. Milwaukee Bucks (14-6)

Despite uneven play, the Giannis Antetokounmpo-Damian Lillard combo is starting to find an offensive groove. The Bucks have scored 123.1 points per 100 possessions with those two on the court in the past seven games.

Last week: 7

6. Denver Nuggets (14-7)

Even with injury issues (Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon), the Nuggets won three games during the week, and Nikola Jokic did averaged 15 assists during the four-game week.

Last week: 12

7. New York Knicks (12-7)

Jalen Brunson continues to show he is an All-Star-caliber guard, averaging 24.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steal and shooting 46.7% from the field and 47.4% on 3s.

Last week: 9

8. Phoenix Suns (12-8)

In the past 10 games, the Suns have the second-best offense, scoring 123.6 points per 100 possessions – and they’re still waiting for Bradley Beal (injury) to join Devin Booker and Kevin Durant on the court.

Last week: 6

9. Sacramento Kings (11-7)

As he starts to accumulate more games played after returning from an injury, De’Aaron Fox is moving into the MVP discussion: 30.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game and shooting 48.6% from the field and 37% on 3s.

Last week: 15

10. Philadelphia 76ers (12-7)

The Sixers are No. 5 in steals per game (8.7), blocks per game (6.2) and fastbreak points per game (16.8) – turning defense in to easy offense.

Last week: 3

11. Dallas Mavericks (11-8)

The Mavs had a 30-0 run against Oklahoma City Saturday – and lost. The Mavs trailed 111-987 with 10:56 remaining in the fourth quarter and took a 117-111 lead with 4:18 to go. The Thunder won, 126-120. New dad Luka Doncic had 36 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds.

Last week: 10

12. Los Angeles Lakers (12-9)

The Lakers are 24th offensively, and while their ninth-ranked defense matters, they also need better offensive efficiency.

Last week: 13

13. New Orleans Pelicans (11-10)

Zion Williamson, averaging 23.5 points, is shooting 62.7% from the field in his past eight games.

Last week: 18

14. Cleveland Cavaliers (11-9)

Getting guys healthy and in the lineup has made a difference in Cleveland’s defense, which is climbing in the ratings – No. 8 overall and No. 2 in the past 10 games and No. 1 in the past five games.

Last week: 19

15. Brooklyn Nets (10-9)

Mikal Bridges has two 40-points games this season, including 42 Saturday against Orlando. Another player in line to make his first All-Star appearance.

Last week: 21

16. Indiana Pacers (10-8)

No team has more games with at least 130 points (nine), and no team has more games with at least 140 points (four) than the Pacers. They dropped 144 on the Heat Saturday.

Last week: 14

17. Houston Rockets (8-9)

The Rockets are No. 6 defensively, but they are also 0-8 on the road, the only team without a road victory this season.

Last week: 11

18. Miami Heat (11-9)

Jimmy Butler called. The Heat are mediocre, but it also seems the Heat know how to play the long game and will be a factor in April.

Last week: 9

19. Los Angeles Clippers (9-10)

Victories against Dallas, Sacramento and Golden State are encouraging signs, but the Clippers are still trying to find the right lineup combinations for Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Last week: 17

20. Golden State Warriors (9-11)

The Warriors are just a middle of the pack team right now – average offensively and defensively.

Last week: 20

21. Atlanta Hawks (9-10)

Trae Young is starting to pick it up offensively (impressive with 45 points, 14 assists in a win against San Antonio), but the Hawks will hover around .500 if their defense doesn’t improve.

Last week: 16

22. Toronto Raptors (9-11)

The Raptors are 24th in 3s made per game (11.2) and 28th in 3-point field-goal percentage (.337).

Last week: 22

23. Utah Jazz (7-13)

Another rookie to watch: Jazz guard Keyonte George, the No. 16 pick in the draft, who averages 10.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds.

Last week: 25

24. Portland Trail Blazers (6-13)

Road victories against Indiana and Cleveland last week were positive developments.

Last week: 26

25. Chicago Bulls (7-14)

A contender can use a player like DeMar DeRozan, who had 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting with 10 assists and five rebounds in a victory over New Orleans Saturday.

Last week: 24

26. Memphis Grizzlies (5-14)

The Grizzlies stopped a four-game losing streak with their first back-to-back victories (Utah, Dallas) of the season.

Last week: 27

27. Charlotte Hornets (6-12)

One more rookie to watch: Brandon Miller, the No. 2 pick, is starting to find his offense: averaging 17.5 points and shooting 48.1% from the field and 53.1% on 3s in his past six games.

Last week: 23

28. Washington Wizards (3-16)

After the Wizards allowed an opponent to score at least 130 points in a game for the ninth time this season, Kyle Kuzma said it best: "We can’t guard a stop sign."

Last week: 28

29. San Antonio Spurs (3-16)

Losers of 14 consecutive games, the Spurs have the worst net-rating at minus-12.1 points per 100 possessions. No other team has a double-digit minus rating.

Last week: 29

30. Detroit Pistons (2-18)

Losers of 17 consecutive games, the Pistons have major problems that first-year coach Monty Williams can’t solve quickly.

Last week: 30

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA power rankings: Orlando Magic racking up quality wins