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Preview: The Hornets host a feisty Magic team in an early afternoon matchup

While Charlotte and Orlando have two of the worst records in the Eastern Conference, the Magic have been sneaky good over the last two months.

Charlotte Hornets v Orlando Magic Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (15-39) versus Orlando Magic (21-32)

When: 1:00 PM EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBATV

There are 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. The Magic are currently the No. 13 seed while the Hornets are No. 14. This afternoon’s game is by no means a preview of a potential playoff series later this year, but it should still be an entertaining game to watch with fun, young talent on both rosters.

Orlando Magic overview

The Magic have been sneaky good going back to early December. After a rough start to the season Orlando has since gone 16-12 over their last 28 games. All things considered, Orlando has been pretty good as of late.

Orland’s starting five consists of point guard Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick who struggled early in his career but this year is averaging career highs of 12.3 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.5 steals. Shooting guard Gary Harris only scores about nine points per game but is a 3-and-D specialist who hits over 45% of his 3-pointers.

Forward Franz Wagner, the No. 8 overall pick in 2021, is having a breakout second season scoring nearly 20 points per game. Power forward Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick this year, has already essentially locked down Rookie of the Year honors by averaging over 20 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game, though his field goal percentage hovers around just 43%. Center Wendell Carter Jr. averages about 15 points and nine rebounds while hitting over 50% of his shots.

The Magic bench consists of capable guards in Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, both of whom can score in the double digits any given night and dish out several assists. Power forward Bol Bol is having a nice season averaging nearly 11 points and over six boards per game. Center Mo Wagner also averages over 11 points per game while shooting nearly 50% from the field. Big man Jonathan Isaac has also recently returned to action after missing each of the last two full seasons with a torn ACL, and there’s understandably a lot of load management taking place with him.

Orlando’s starting five is gelling while their bench is surprisingly deep and effective. While the Magic don’t traditionally strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, this will be a tougher home game for the Hornets than it appears on paper.

As for Charlotte, let’s see if their bench players can find some consistency today, especially forward Jalen McDaniels and point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

After a strong start to the season, Jalen McDaniels has tapered off as of late. While he played well in Friday’s game against the Pistons by shooting 5-of-7 for 14 points, in the four games before that he shot just 8-of-29 (27.5%) and will need to be more effective against a good Orlando second unit. The same holds true for Dennis Smith Jr. After a fantastic start to the season filling in for an injured LaMelo Ball, Smith has scored in double digits just once in his last 19 games.

The second unit needs to play well for the Hornets in this one. All eyes will be on Jalen McDaniels and Dennis Smith Jr. to see if they can deliver.