From finishing 13th in the East last season, the Orlando Magic now sits atop the Eastern Conference at No. 2 only behind the Boston Celtics (they have an identical 6-2 record but due to tiebreaker). But while other NBA teams solidified their starting lineup during the offseason, Magic head coach Frank Vogel has a unique opportunity to work with the same starting lineup.

Basketball analysts and even fans are wondering how the Orlando Magic have been piling up win after win. Are they indeed the real dark horse, or will their Cinderella story soon find its abrupt ending?

For now, one thing is for real: the stars have aligned in favor of the Orlando Magic.

Overall improvement

As posted by The Ringer, the Orlando Magic have come a long way since last season after they ditched the slow-paced offense tempo. Back in February before the NBA All-Star break, the Magic front office sent Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross. Then Vogel moved Bismack Biyombo to come off the bench. While it was a bit too late, the new starting lineup of the Orlando Magic brings better spacing and faster ball movement.

Early this season, we saw big transformations from Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic as stretch-4 and -5, respectively. With more spaces to operate, slashers and cutters have feasted down the baseline.

The Orlando Magic’s three-point shooting also vastly improved. In fact, three players average at least 50.0 percent in three-point shooting percentage: Gordon (57.7 percent), Evan Fournier (55.8 percent), and Marreese Speights (50.0 percent). Even Vucevic and Jonathon Simmons contributed to this cause, averaging 45.0 and 40.0 percent, respectively, from the beyond the arc.

In addition, the Orlando Magic currently ranks first in half-court scoring offense, third in terms of pacing, and third in assist-to-turnover ratio. As of Wednesday (Nov. 1), the Magic ranks second (111.70) in offensive rating behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, and 10th (103.49) in defense tied with the San Antonio Spurs, according to Basketball-Reference.

Better all-around player: Aaron Gordon

From his 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, Aaron Gordon has proven doubters and critics wrong, averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 rebounds early this season. While many analysts are wary about whether he will sustain this pacing all throughout the season, Gordon has been making adjustments to improve his game.

For one, his free throw shooting has greatly improved since his college days in Arizona. But more importantly, Gordon adapting to the “sweep and sway” shooting technique made him a better all-around player.

Release the animal: Jonathon Simmons

During last season's playoffs when Kawhi Leonard got injured, we saw more of what Jonathon Simmons can do aside from giving just quality minutes for San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

But after he became part of the Orlando Magic, things started to change, for the better.

“Pop always wants you to slow down and learn a lot of things and that’s was so great for me because I learned a lot. But now I think it’s time to release the animal inside of me,” Simmons said about the difference between playing for the Spurs and Magic as posted on Though he was not an instant starter for the Orlando Magic, Simmons’ presence as the leader of its second unit proves more beneficial.

His energy and the up-tempo offense he brings are enough to make him the best non-starting scorer for the team with 15.8 points per game, enough to put him in contention for the Kia Sixth Man of the Year award. Indeed, the arrival of Simmons gave the Orlando Magic fans something to look forward to.