Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) advances the ball downcourt during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Banchero-Led Magic set to open 2022-23 season in Motor City

The Orlando Magic will open their 2022-23 season Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit against the Pistons.

Orlando finished 22-60 last season — last place in the Eastern Conference — and the Pistons finished second-to-last in the standings just one game ahead of the Magic. In four meetings last year, Orlando lost three times including both matchups in Detroit.

Head coach Jamahl Mosley will begin his second season in Orlando as the franchise kicks off its 34th season.

New Faces

The Magic earned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery and selected Duke forward Paolo Banchero. As a freshman last season, Banchero averaged a team-high 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds and led the Blue Devils to the NCAA National Championship Game.

In five preseason starts, the 6-foot-10 Seattle, Washington, native led Orlando with 14 points per game. Orlando general manager John Hammond discussed how the team plans to manage Banhcero’s expectations during his rookie season.

“I know [Banchero] wants excellence and I hope he can achieve that,” Hammond said. “When he doesn’t, we have to be patient with him and help him and support him.”

In the second round, the Magic drafted Michigan forward Caleb Houston. The 6-foot-8-inch Canadian averaged 10.1 points in 34 games for the Wolverines last year as a freshman.

Orlando re-signed Sudanese center Bol Bol — who the team acquired via trade last February — this offseason. The 7-foot-2 Oregon alum did not play for the Magic last year due to a foot surgery that kept him sidelined. Hammond recalls watching Bol play in college and how Jeff Weltman, Magic President of Basketball Operations, was mesmerized.

“[Bol’s] always been a talent,” Hammond said. “I remember Jeff [Weltman] saying [Bol] could be the No. 1 pick in the [NBA] Draft.”

In five preseason appearances, Bol dropped five points and collected six boards per game off the bench.

Starting Five for Magic

The Magic will return four of their five starters from last season barring the addition of Banchero.

Point guard Cole Anthony and shooting guard Jalen Suggs will lead the Orlando backcourt. Anthony averaged a team-high 16.3 points per game last year but shot under 40% from the field. Mosley praised Anthony’s work ethic this offseason both on and off the court.

“Cole [Anthony] has been working his tail off, not just in the weight room, but obviously the habits that he has off the court as well,” Mosley said. “His ability to get to the rim and attack, you know, that’s going to continue to show the work that he’s put in this summer.”

Last season as a rookie, Suggs averaged over 11 points and four assists per game, but the 2021 fifth overall pick made just 36.1% of his field-goal attempts.

In the frontcourt, Orlando will start Banchero and German forward Franz Wagner. Wagner will look to improve upon last year’s rookie season in which he averaged over 15 points per game. The former top-10 overall draft pick expects the Magic to feed off its defense.

“I think where we’re going to be really good is on defense . . . we’ve got a lot of guys who can guard multiple positions” Wagner said. “Being a really good defensive team, and then from there, I think we can get a lot of easy baskets and score a lot of easy points.”

Center Wendell Carter Jr. will start at the five. Carter led Orlando with 10.5 rebounds per game last season and averaged 15 points on 52.5% shooting.

Looking Ahead

Following Wednesday’s season-opener, the Magic will stop in Atlanta to face the Hawks Friday before they return to the Sunshine State for Saturday’s home opener against the Boston Celtics.

Ultimately, Hammond will consider the season successful if the Magic are able to outperforms expectations.

“I am just hoping to see at the end of the season, too, that you and everyone else will say those guys turned out to be even better than we thought this year. That’s a good year for us,” Hammond said.

About Griffin Foll

Hi, my name is Griffin Foll and I am currently a senior at UF studying journalism with a focus on sports and media and an outside concentration in political science. In addition to covering the 2023 UF men's and women's golf beats, I contribute weekly web and radio content for WRUF ESPN Gainesville. Be sure to check out some of my recent articles!

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