For teams like the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, the All-Star Break is a relatively quiet time as neither team had representatives in the All-Star game. Both teams had young players competing in various All-Star events like the Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, but those are the quieter events of the weekend.
It makes things nice from a fan perspective, as you can take the time to not have to worry about your star player possibly getting hurt in the All-Star game and you can just focus on watching some of the best players in the world competing.
The goal is for both of these teams to have players playing in the All-Star game in the future, but for now, we get a Thursday evening matchup between two teams near the bottom of the standings in the East.
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Amway Center in Orlando, Florida
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +6.5
The Pistons are 2-0 against the Magic this season, but the Magic have really turned things around since their last matchup on December 28. The turnaround for them actually was beginning at that point, but they have played near .500 basketball throughout most of 2023.
If it wasn’t for their bad start, the Magic might be a bit more relevant in the play-in tournament conversation. They might still get there with 23 games left, but they will not have a huge margin for error.
The Pistons have a new toy to play with in the addition of James Wiseman at the trade deadline, who had a decent debut against the Celtics before the All-Star Break. There were some flashes defensively and he finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds. That was with only one practice, so hopefully with a few more under his belt he can start to get a bit more comfortable.
The Pistons will have another new toy courtesy of the Magic in RJ Hampton, as they are expected to sign him after he clears waivers. However, he will not clear waivers until after this game, so he will not be able to play. It will be an easy trip for him after this game, as he can probably just fly home with them as long as there aren’t any snags in the signing process.
Seeing a team like the Magic as 6.5 point favorites when they are only 13th in the East is a bit shocking if you haven’t been paying attention this season, but as I mentioned above, they are basically a .500 team in the New Year. The biggest reason for that has been health. Most of their roster is healthy now and they have a few young players, like Franz Wagner, that have made a leap this season. Combine that with the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year, Paolo Banchero, and the Magic are a competitive team every night.
The Magic have young veterans like Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter Jr. playing very solid basketball as well, and it is the recipe for a pretty good team.
Like the Pistons, they are still another high pick away from being able to talk about contending, but Orlando is closer to that goal with the current iteration of their roster than the Pistons.
One thing to keep an eye on in this game is that it is the first meeting between these teams since their altercation in the last game when Moe Wagner pushed Killian Hayes and caused a bench clearing scuffle. Hayes was rightfully suspended for his reaction along with Wagner and Hamidou Diallo, but it will be interesting to see if there is any further bad blood during this game.
With 23 games left, you will probably start to see the Pistons phase out some of their veterans down the stretch to give more minutes to young players. That is where new additions like James Wiseman and RJ Hampton can expect to receive the reps they need to determine whether they will sink or swim in the NBA. However, we are still a few weeks away from that happening, so the Pistons should be playing with their usual rotation in this game.
The Pistons have played well against Orlando this season, but I don’t see this team moving to 3-0 against the Magic.
Orlando Magic (24-35)
Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr.
Detroit Pistons (15-44)
Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren
Question of the Day
What are you expecting out of the addition of RJ Hampton?