Fluke or for real? 5 teams wildly exceeding expectations in 2023–24

Indiana Pacers v Minnesota Timberwolves
Indiana Pacers v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages
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Orlando Magic (16-10)

After years of hoping a young core would click, that finally seems to be happening in Orlando this season. The Orlando Magic have vaulted towards the top of the Eastern Conference and the top of the Southeast Division with a 16-10 start. Even if they don't win the division, they should be happy to have their second winning season in 12 years.

The names pacing this resurgence for Orlando are known. They start with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, two young stars that should be part of a core at the newly rechristened Kia Center for years to come.

An important part of Orlando's rise has been starting point guard Jalen Suggs, who is starting to come into his own in his third season and showing flashes of what made him a top-five draft pick. While he's not the lead ball handler, he's averaging 12.5 points and 2.5 assists as a starter.

Despite being one of the youngest teams in the league, coach Jamahl Mosley has the Magic doing the little things right and the team is one of the league's best at forcing turnovers. What makes it more impressive is that they've been doing well without Wendell Carter Jr., who is just returning from a 20-game absence due to a fractured finger.

Orlando has received some reminders that it's a long climb to the top, though. The team has lost four straight: two close losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, respectively, and two smackdowns at the hands of the Boston Celtics. The Magic still have a long way to go.

The Magic will be playing relevant games deep into the season. It's hot start hasn't given enough evidence to justify the deep playoff run the record may indicate, though.

Verdict: Fluke